Since the beginning of the pandemic, the world has been impacted significantly, and not necessarily for the best. One of the most concerning effects it had? Food shortages. While a lot of companies have landed on their feet and have continued to produce food, there are others that might be in deeper trouble. Here are 10 Upcoming Food Shortages You Need To Know About.
10. Let’s Get Baking!
Since lockdowns have become the new normal, people have had to find new ways to pass the time at home alone or with their families. Video games and television have all been popular ways to stay busy, but the true newly found hobby has been baking. Thanks to social media, people have been able to share their most recent sweet successes and bitter failures in their kitchens. It’s all fun and games, but baking also means using a lot of necessary ingredients, like flour and yeast. Wheat flour, of course, is the basic ingredient in most baked goods, from bread to cookies to pie crust. And what happens when a lot of people all need the same thing? A shortage. Since at least April of 2020, news outlets have been reporting on shortages of baking flour across the United States. A lot of people would find empty shelves at the supermarket when they went looking for some other basic baking things like sugar and vanilla. This mostly happened due to people hoarding supplies because of the general panic the beginning of the lockdowns created. Some stores, such as Costco, had no choice but implement rationing, such as allowing only one bag of flour per customer, until supplies could catch up with the demand. Some suppliers experienced huge demands for these products that they scrambled to fill, only to experience severe drop-offs in demand. This uncertainty led some producers to be a bit circumspect about ramping up production too fast, which could lead to an eventual real shortage. As we slide into 2021, the pandemic continues, but most if we can slow down our homemade bakery factory, we should be able to though it out with just enough flour.
9. A Can Of Corn
The expression “a can of corn” means a very easy task, but over the past year, getting your hands on an actual can of corn has not been an easy task. Most canned corn sold in grocery stores is made from sweet corn that is, unfortunately, only harvested once every year. This means that once it’s gone, it’s gone for the year. You see where this is going, right? A lot of canned food items, in general, have been harder to come by because, well, everyone is at home cooking. Things like canned corn, peas, beans are staples used in a lot of recipes from chowders and casseroles to enchiladas and Shepard’s Pie. But it isn’t just for recipes, it is also often a side dish accompanying many traditional American meals and was normally found in everyone’s pantry kitchen cabinet. The pandemic changed all this at least for a time. So, even if you had no trouble finding a can of your favorite corn before, things are about to change. Fortunately, canned corn is not a necessity like toilet paper or even flour, so you still be able to cook somewhat normally, but it does show just how much people didn’t really have the opportunity to cook for themselves before all of this happened.
8. Soups Off
Soup is classic comfort food, especially during months of cold weather, when a bowl of steaming soup can warm you up like nothing else. But, as it did with many other things, the pandemic affected the availability of caned soups. Campbell’s brand soup and its related canned products saw an unprecedented demand at the beginning of 2020 and were not able to keep up with it until they ramped up production after a few months. Many businesses and even entire industries have been damaged by the state and local governments in the United States because of the prolonged stay at home orders, but since canned soup is something we eat at home, companies like Campbell’s saw big profits. The Campbell Soup Company reported exceptional earnings for 2020 and said it made big inroads with Millennials. The older generations were already sold on the value of canned soups but younger people needed a bit of prodding. Being stuck at home is a lot easier for the stomach when you have a shelf full of canned soups you can rely on in a pinch. Our culture had been pushing the value of fresh and even farm to table foods, which are great under normal circumstances, but the circumstances have not been normal and people have had to go back to the basics of canned soup.
7. Meatless Months?
Wealthy societies in the West have gotten used to having abundant supplies of a wide range of meats. Beef, chicken, turkey, pork, and fish are usually in plentiful supply when visiting the supermarket. But during the pandemic, a number of concerns caused some temporary shortages. These shortages weren’t due to increased demand, but rather from meat processing plants having to cut production, and in some cases, shut down production completely. The media has reported on several cases of the virus spreading through meat processing plants in the United States, most notably, at some of the Tyson Foods facilities. Tyson Foods is Americas’ biggest meat processor, so if they have a problem, pretty much every American meat-eater will have a problem. The shortages were short-lived, partially because the Federal Government insisted the plants reopen to meet the demand, but it could always happen again. Some areas of the country saw an increase in prices as supplies dropped, but this too temporary. While consumers and the meat industry dodged the permanent shortage bullet, the last year has shown how vulnerable the food supply can be when an unexpected strain is placed on it. Hopefully, this will serve as a wake-up call to politicians and the industry to prepare contingencies so if something similar happens again, we will all be better prepared for it.
6. Day Drinking
With millions of people staying at home instead of going to work, it shouldn’t be surprising that many of them started drinking a little more than they would normally. Just like food companies, breweries were not prepared for the sudden surge in worldwide demand. More demand and the same supply inevitably means there will be shortages of your favorite beer. And sometimes, it isn’t even the beer itself that is lacking, but the aluminum cans. With people staying home, cans of beer became a very hot commodity indeed. The big breweries like Coors and Anheuser-Busch were able to exert their power in the beer market to scoop up most of the available cans. The small breweries had to scramble for what was left and some were left with beer to sell without cans to fill. Some breweries have been able to use glass and metal containers to fill their orders, but aluminum cans remain the most coveted containers during the pandemic. The beer industry had to adapt to the new reality and produce more products and find ways to get them to their customers. Who would have thought that aluminum would have been a good investment back at the beginning of 2020? If lockdowns keep happening, perhaps aluminum will be in short supply right alongside beer. Maybe brewers can go back to the old days when beer was stored and shipped, not in aluminum kegs, but ones made out of wood?
5. Save Your Seeds
A few hundred years ago, a lot of people grew their own food on large farms or just a small patch of land. Corn, potatoes, tomatoes, and carrots were common homegrown foods used for both commercial sales and personal consumption. Today, many people have vegetable and fruit gardens, but used more as a hobby than as a way to feed their families. With the arrival of the virus, food security had become a big concern. People have witnessed empty shelves and endless grocery store lines, and suddenly, having a garden seemed like a smart idea. But, having a garden also means buying seeds, so the run on seeds of all types led to shortages. The gardening community had ways around this because many of them had already been saving and trading some seeds on the side for a long time. These people are usually called “seed swappers” and there is a network call Seed Savers Exchange where these people can search for seeds and trade them with others through social media. A growing number of public libraries have also stepped up and started seed programs to help people connect with others. The basic advice new gardeners receive is to save their seeds so they’ll have some for the next growing season, but this isn’t always sufficient. Growing a garden seemed like a good way to spend some extra time, but with the shortages we’ve seen, having your own personal garden could also mean important self-sustainability.
4. Snack Pack
For most people, a “snack pack” may conjure images of little cans of chocolate pudding. However, snacking has come a long way since then. In fact, snacking is now a pretty big part of our culture. We can snack all day long, every day, instead of eating regular meals if we want. Snack foods are almost as diverse as our imaginations will allow. But what would happen if snacks became almost impossible to find? Everything from chips, nuts candies, and fruits are considered snacks by many of us. The food industry has gone to a lot of trouble and expense to develop and market “snack foods” for you to indulge in at a moment’s notice. Little 100 calorie bags of cookies and pretzels beckon to us from the cupboard. Or at least, they did until the virus spread across the globe. People were forced to stay mostly at home for months at a time and this put a severe strain on the food industry and the supply chain that it relies on to get products to the grocery store in a reliable manner. Suddenly, this process was disrupted and our little packages of trail mix and crackers were disappearing from store shelves. One answer to this was for people to bake their own cookies and the baked goods but as we saw earlier, this created another set of shortages.
3. Crying Over Spilled Milk
Milk is normally one of those things we take for granted. It seems to always be there, in the fridge, whether it’s for our cereal or our coffee. The problems milk producers had was somewhat unique during the pandemic. While most shortages have been caused by a surge in demand, dairy farmers have had to dump millions of gallons of milk because of challenges faced by the trucking and logistics companies that transport it. This caused some shortages in regular milk, but there is another milk shortage in the offing. Canned milk and Ultra High Temperature processed milk can be stored for relatively long periods without refrigeration. The continued shut downs have caused people to stock up on staples if not outright hoard certain items. Canned milk has experienced shortages and likely will continue to be an item of concern. Another option for people who want to have milk on hand is dried or powdered milk that can be mixed with water. Although powdered milk is not known for its taste, it has decent nutritional value and can also be added to regular milk for extra protein and other nutrients. While supply chains have been able to adjust and people have access to milk without interruptions, regular dairy products are very perishable so given all the disruptions we’ve experienced over the last year, you should probably make preparations because more shortages are likely coming.
2. H2 Woe!
Water is of course necessary for life, so technically, you could say it is a staple though it is not a food. It shouldn’t be surprising that in the first uncertain days of the virus becoming worldwide, many people made a run to their local grocery stores. One of the products they grabbed first was bottled water. This is a product we should all keep extra supplies of anyway because, in the case of an earthquake, hurricane, or other unforeseen emergencies, the availability of freshwater from your taps will not always be guaranteed. Most of the bottled water shortages were a supply chain issue of keeping store shelves stocked – there was never an actual shortage of it. It is important to remember that clean water was always available from our faucets during these times. Perhaps the only products more in demand than bottled water have been toilet paper and Clorox wipes. The government of the United States has told people that there was no need to stockpile bottled water, but you really can’t blame some people for being a little skeptical of some of their pronouncements. The pandemic may not have caused a serious shortage, but if there is an unforeseen disaster, the regular municipal water supply could very quickly lead to empty store shelves.
A lot of people make fun of SPAM, but it is actually a popular food. SPAM is a fully cooked meat, so it can be eaten directly from the can without any heating. This canned pork product debuted in 1937 but really gained notoriety a few years later due to the demand posed by World War II. SPAM is particularly popular in certain tropical areas such as Hawaii, Guam, and Puerto Rico. Honolulu even has a SPAM day with a parade. When the pandemic hit and many governments reacted with a stay at home order, people began to experience food shortages. SPAM experienced a 70% jump in sales in the winter and spring of 2020. This kind of increased demand is nearly impossible to keep up with, at least not in the short term. Hormel, the company that makes SPAM, put out a news release in September saying customers could possibly experience shortages. The company explained that some of the meat processing plants where Hormel gets its pork had to shut down for various amounts of time because of health concerns related to the virus. The company has promised its customers to look into ways to increase the production of SPAM and prevent any future shortages. Let’s hope that the lockdowns don’t last very far into 2021 and further shortages don’t materialize so that people can eat SPAM whenever they want.