Workers within the food supply chain industry say delays continue to affect product availability and are unable to meet consumers’ demands.
As home delivery has spiked due to pandemic restrictions, manufacturers still struggle to meet customer demands at a quicker pace.
Some of the biggest challenges that manufacturers continue to face include oversea shipping, increased shipping prices, shortages in shipping containers and overall congestion at ports.
The pandemic has directly affected the food industry and the supply and demand across the nation.
Before the pandemic struck in early 2020, consumer food spending in the U.S. had been increasing 4% over the course of five years. The increase was split evenly between food services and food retail according to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The report also revealed that numbers changed drastically in March 2020, when the grocery sales increased by 29% and sales at restaurants and other areas of food services decreased by 27%.
The demand for condiments changes based on the time of year. Since the pandemic, shipping the ingredients and products have been delayed. The distribution of alcohol has a similar story, with the demand being high, but delivery also being slower.
Consumers have experienced many problems getting certain products as a result of supply chain issues.
Purchasing and Distributing Condiments
Since February 2017, Kevin’s Fire Sauce, has been a small business creating its own hot sauces. While the sauce supplier has only one main carrier, the business sells its products at local farmers’ markets and other marketing events.
Kevin Gorum Sr., the owner, said the Head Nut, a business that sells nuts, blended teas and coffees and also the business’s carrier, was slow at the start of the pandemic.
Gorum said because all the ingredients used to make his sauces are fresh the business both grows and buys its ingredients. He purchases items like fruits, garlic, ginger and spices from T. M. Kovacevich Wholesale Fruit and Produce and has not had many issues obtaining those products.
However, Gorum has experienced transportation issues with one of his main ingredients – peppers.
He said the business grows its peppers, but when they are unable to during the colder months, they have two main pepper suppliers, Pepper Joe and Pepper Head.
Because peppers are in high demand, Gorum has seen some delays with his orders.
“Both companies are located down south in North Carolina, and they are having a hard time getting things up North,” said Gorum. “The demand for peppers has risen because this is the time of year where the majority of hot sauce producers are getting ready for the upcoming season.”
Gorum said despite a slow period due to the pandemic and slow months for hot sauce sales in general, 2020 has been a successful year for the business. He plans to feature a new hot sauce flavor in May.
Alcohol and Distillery Distribution
Dani Smith, a market manager at Samson and Surrey, works with distributors to appropriately price products in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey regions.
Smith said she has not seen much change in the prices and demand for alcohols. However, she said local distilleries have put some products on sale to help their businesses. Smith said the biggest issue she has seen is keeping products in stock.
“One of the things that’s been happening right now is a lot of pay-to play in the supply chain world, Smith said. “If you’re coming out of a warehouse on a national level and a bigger company is also being shipped out and distributed from that same location, they will pay more to get their product prioritized.”
Smith said for smaller brands who cannot afford to pay additional shipping costs being kicked off a truck delays the product from making it to the shelf. As a result, not only do these smaller brands lose business, but warehouses and bars cannot purchase these items.
“One of my brands has been out of stock since the beginning of November, so we’re going on almost 6 months of not being able to sell it, literally because of supply chain and trucking issues,” said Smith.
Although customers do not deal directly with suppliers, they see the noticeable difference, from product availability to price increase.
The USDA’s report stated that the general inflation on food during 2020 was much higher than 2018 and prices for meat, poultry, fish and dairy increased between 4.4% and 9.6% for meats like beef and veal.
Winzy Benoit, a customer who orders Jamaican food often, recognized price increases in particular menu items.
Benoit said Jamaican oxtails have become a delicacy and have also become one of the more expensive meat dishes, being in the same price range with steak and salmon.
Benoit said he recalls when the price of oxtails before the 2008 recession were $8 for a large platter. A year later, he said that price was $11 for a large platter. Now amid the pandemic, he said the price is $22 for a large oxtail platter.
“You also have to look at the percentage. It went up from 3% to 50% over the last 10 years,” said Benoit.
As every level of the supply chain is being affected, experts plan to discuss the future of the industry at FreightWaves’ Global Supply Chain Week virtual conference. The conference will stream live from Feb. 22 through March 3.