Peanut butter, baby formula and the top products that have seen shortages in recent years – Houston Chronicle

Home » Peanut butter, baby formula and the top products that have seen shortages in recent years – Houston Chronicle

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From baby formula and sriracha to toilet paper and Lysol, the ongoing supply chain crisis has plagued manufacturers for more than two years. Here’s a look at which items have been in short supply since the pandemic began.
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Mustard
Some staple pantry items like mustard were at risk of a mass shortage due to climate change affecting key ingredients. Canada, one of the world’s largest mustard seed producers, has seen a 28% drop in yield, with the cost -per-ton nearly doubling to $1,700. Droughts in the Canadian prairies have vastly decreased mustard seed production, reports say, with plants that would typically produce 8-10 seeds a year producing 4-6 seeds annually instead.
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Sriracha
The mustard shortage came a month after Huy Fong Foods Inc. told customers it would be suspending production of Sriracha, its signature hot sauce, and its chili garlic and sambal oelek sauces. A drought in Mexico is causing the production suspension, Business Insider reported, affecting the yield of key chili peppers Huy Fong Foods Inc. uses in its hot sauce.
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Peanut Butter
Although peanut butter has been low in stock, it’s not due to supply chain issues. The peanut butter shortage is largely in part to Jif’s manufacturers, announcing a voluntary recall of some products in May over potential salmonella contamination. The recalls included nearly 50 types of peanut butters, which have been linked to outbreaks across 12 states and have hospitalized two people.
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Mark Lennihan/Associated Press
Tampons
This shortage stems from a combination of staffing challenges at U.S. factories, transportation bottlenecks due to China’s production lockdown, and rising costs of key materials like cotton, rayon and plastic used to make the products, tampon makers say. Meanwhile, the impact of inflation has hit menstrual products in general. Inflation trackers say the price of tampons has surged nearly 10% over the last year, according to NPR.
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Baby Formula
The beginnings of this shortage go back to February 2022, when Abbott Laboratories recalled several defective brands including Similac, Alimentum and EleCare. Abbott Labs also shut down a factory in Michican after at least two babies died and four were hospitalized with bacterial infections.
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Supplies worsened when U.S. health officials warned parents in mid-February not to use three popular powdered infant formulas that investigators linked to bacterial contamination. Despite baby formula’s high out-of-stock rate across the U.S., the overall retail price did not increase, according to Datasembly. Since late last year, the average price remained between $24 and $25.
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Sanitzer and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)
For weeks at the onset of the pandemic in 2020, shoppers had no luck finding hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and other cleaning supplies thought to help ward off the coronavirus. Products like rubbing alcohol, used to make DIY hand sanitizer, also vanished from shelves. At the time, Clorox said its shortage of wipes would spill into 2021.The problem became so severe that the Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau eased regulations for distilleries to produce and sell sanitizer.
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Steve Gonzales/Houston Chronicle
Microchips
A global shortage of microchips has upended manufacturers’ ability to make everything from cars to computers to hearing aides. Sony blamed the shortage of its new PlayStation 5 consoles on the lack of microchips. Whirlpool executives warned the chip shortage would hurt its ability to churn out appliances. Caterpillar officials said it could affect the company’s ability to deliver heavy machinery to customers. And the rapid production of the COVID vaccines only ate more into the global supply of silicon, affecting the supply of chips, an expert said to the Chronicle.
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Michael Wyke/Contributor
Vehicles
The microchip shortage then led to another shortage in cars, both new and used. This brought higher vehicle prices with more consumers paying MSRP or prices well above sticker. Pre-owned vehicle prices jumped up to 40% due to a surge in demand, according to CarsDirect. The inventory shortage also pushed manufacturers to take unprecedented steps, like implementing strict limitations on trading in a leased vehicle or prohibiting third-party buyouts in 2021 to get more cars back to their own dealers.
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Melissa Phillip/Houston Chronicle
Chicken Wings
In Texas, the chicken wing shortage spiked as a result of February 2021’s winter storm which disrupted production and caused prices to skyrocket, according to Business Insider’s Avery Hartman. There were no shortages on chicken breasts, tenders or boneless wings, however.
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Godofredo A. Vásquez/Houston Chronicle
Lumber
Demand for lumber — and prices — rose as the pandemic drove people to seek new homes with backyards and upgrade their outdoor spaces (decks, pergolas, she-sheds). At the same time, the nation’s dwindling sawmill capacity diminished after the housing bust of 2008 held back supply. Between the beginning of March 2020 (before COVID shutdowns) and the beginning of May 2021 (when vaccines became widespread), futures for lumber more than quadrupled, topping $1,670 per thousand board feet.
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Steve Gonzales/Houston Chronicle
Foam
After the pandemic shutdown, supply-chain and manufacturing problems hit the furniture industry. Retailers then faced a serious foam shortage from the 2021 Texas winter freeze. Factories and chemical plants suffered damage from busted pipes, requiring shutdowns and weeks of repairs. Those included chemical plants that make propylene oxide, which is used to make polyurethane foam cushions for furniture, mattresses and even automobile seats. When those chemicals weren’t available, anything that uses foam had to halt production leaving furniture stores and customers waiting weeks for deliveries.
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Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle
Toilet Paper
When the pandemic began, toilet paper was one of the first items to fly off the shelves. Demand shot up 845 percent during the pandemic. It became impossible to find at grocery and drug stores. When it came back in stock, retailers imposed purchase limits.
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Monique Welch, Engagement Reporter
Jordan Ray-Hart, Engagement Editor

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