Dissatisfied shoppers have unleashed their frustration on social media over the past few days and have posted pictures on Twitter of naked shelves at Trader Joe’s locations, Giant Foods and Publix stores, among many others.
As the highly contagious variant of the Covid-19 virus continues to plague sick workers, it is creating a shortage of staff for critical functions such as transport and logistics, which in turn is affecting product delivery and rebuilding store shelves across the country.
Albertsons’ CEO Vivek Sankaran acknowledged that the products are in tight supply during the company’s earnings interview with analysts on Tuesday.
“I think we as a company have all learned to manage it. We have all learned to ensure that stores are still very presentable, giving consumers as many choices as we can get,” Sankaran said during the call.
Still, he added, Omicron has put “a bit of” on the effort to improve the supply chain. “We would expect more supply challenges over the next four to six weeks,” Sankaran said.
Grocery stores operate with less than their normal workforce, according to the National Grocers Association, and many of its members have less than 50% of their normal workforce.
“While there is plenty of food in the supply chain, we expect consumers to continue to experience sporadic disruptions in certain product categories that we have seen over the last year and a half due to the continuing supply and labor challenges,” said Greg. Ferrara, Group CEO.
“From farms to food producers to grocery stores, it’s everywhere,” Lempert said. “During the pandemic, these operations have had to implement protocols on social distancing, and they are not really built for it, and it has affected production.”
“The truck industry has an aging workforce on top of a shortage,” Lempert said. “It’s really been a problem for the last many years.”
In Trader Joe’s stores, shoppers over the weekend saw messages attached to empty shelves that owe the weather emergencies for delivery delays.
Not to mention climate change, which is a persistent serious and long-term threat to food supplies. “Fires and droughts damage crops such as wheat, corn and soybeans in the United States and coffee crops in Brazil,” he said. “We can not ignore it.”
Pandemic changed our eating habits
More and more of us have taken to cooking and eating at home through the pandemic that also contributes to the grocery supply, Lempert said.
Grocery stores are certainly aware of the empty shelves, Lempert said, and they are trying to alleviate panic buying, which only exacerbates the situation.
One strategy: Extraction of products. They do this by sending out both limited varieties and limited quantities of each product in an attempt to prevent hoarding and stretch their supplies out between deliveries.
“Before the pandemic, you may have seen five different varieties of milk across the front row and 10 cartons deep. Now it will be five across and maybe two rows deep,” Lempert said.
– CNN’s Nathaniel Meyersohn and Danielle Wiener-Bronner contributed to this story
– An earlier version of this story incorrectly indicated the year of a Trader Joe’s picture. It’s taken in 2022.