Inbound Logistics | June 2022

t started with toilet paper. Spurred by the onset of the pandemic, consumers bought toilet paper rolls in droves. Sales of the product rose 60% annually in March 2020, according to the Statista Consumer Market Outlook. On April 19, 2020, toilet paper was out of stock in nearly half of U.S. grocery stores, estimated NCSolutions, the North Carolina state consumer products data tracker. At the time, empty store shelves were a symptom of changes in consumer behavior and drastic new demands on the food supply chain, explains Troy Prothero, senior vice president of product management, supply chain solutions at Symphony RetailAI. But in 2022, food products are once again harder to procure, and financial conditions and world events are to blame. “In terms of supply shortages, the overall picture is pretty grim,” says Joan Driggs, vice president of thought leadership at IRI, a market research firm based in Chicago. “A 95% to 97% in-stock rate is typical. But the edibles category is below 90%.” Product shortages have been a near constant throughout 2022, according to IRI’s CPG Supply Index, which tracks the availability of items throughout the United States. In April, food products averaged an 87% in-stock rate. The in-stock rate for items like refrigerated baked goods and energy drinks dipped into the low 80s, but no products were stocked at a rate higher than 92%. Product shortages have been a worm in the apple for shippers who are trying to avert empty shelves.

Grocery shortages are spoiling 2022. But food retailers can take a bite out of the challenge through advance planning, visibility, and a focus on supplier relationships.

By Helen Mann

88 Inbound Logistics • June 2022

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