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Last week's storms only added to strain on area grocery store supply chain issues

Empty grocery store shelves
Posted at 5:30 PM, Feb 07, 2022

CLEVELAND — Grocery shoppers like Craig Smith of Cleveland have something in common with his counterparts in the south, west or even overseas—they’ve all gotten used to grocery supply shortages.

"I'm telling you I'm going in for those three items, one or two of those items ain't going to be in here, guarantee you,” Smith said before heading into a supermarket in the city’s Buckeye neighborhood, adding “you can follow me I'll show you."

Audra Roberts can relate.

“It's a big headache, it's a big headache. There's certain things that I like, certain things I come and look for and it's not there anymore," Roberts said.

The Ohio Grocers Association said the items that are either missing or scarce varies these days.

“For awhile there it was poultry, I'm not sure that we've completely recovered back from poultry, and then bananas kind of came up and snuck up on us,” said Kristin Mullins, President and CEO.

Yes, bananas are a relatively new one, she added, “I definitely heard about bananas, experienced it personally myself unfortunately.”

Beyond that she said there are the shortages caused by the manufacturers who choose to deal with manpower issues by limiting what they make.

“Where maybe they had five varieties of cookies, shall we say, maybe they're concentrating at producing only three kinds. And so you might find it hard to find a certain kind of cookie that you were always having but it's not there anymore," Mullins said.

Last week's storm only made things worse in two ways. First, Northeast Ohioans did what they are trained to do in advance of a big storm—they stocked up which depleted the shelves and then the goods coming in to replenish them were delayed during the storm,

“A lot of times when these storms hit, they're very regional so should there be a shortage, we can work from other areas of the state and help out our fellow grocers, but this kind of hit everybody,” Mullins said.

Looking ahead, Mullins said a return to grocery normalcy will be slow.

“I do think we're seeing the light at the end of the tunnel but I think it's pretty far down the road," Mullins said. "Until people are completely back to work and we are "back to normal," I'm not sure that we're going to come completely out of this until that happens and so do I think we'll probably adjust our way of grocery shopping and adjust our way of supplying? Probably, and so what I think what will happen is you'll just see an adjustment by today's Ohio consumer and what they expect from their grocery store."

Yes, the one thing grocers have found is consumers have adjusted if you can’t find what you want right now you find something similar in the meantime.

So what about Craig? Was this day he would find all three of the items he came for?

No.

"One item missing, I told you man,” he said with a smile as he came out of the market.