Supplies of toilet paper, the No. 1 item American consumers decided they could not live without in a world turned to No. 2, thanks to the arrival of COVID-19, have mercifully returned to near pre-pandemic levels.
Disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer and effective, non-counterfeit face masks also have returned to retail outlet shelves in adequate numbers.
But there is no shortage of other unlikely consumer products now in scant supply as the global pandemic continues.
America now faces a pickle shortage severe enough to delay the rollout of Burger King’s new chicken sandwich, which apparently relies on the crunch of marinated cucumber slices to make it all that it can be. But it’s not a shortage of cucumbers, vinegar or dill weed that’s causing the supply of pickles to trickle. It’s a drop in the production of the glass jars in which they are stored.
According to Supply Chain Management Review, the glass jar shortage is due mainly to municipalities dropping their glass recycling programs to cut costs, paired with an increase in demand for glass jars for home canning — and pickling.
It has only been within the past few weeks that a four-month global shortage of Post Grape Nuts has ended, to the relief of millions of fans of the grape-less, nut-free cereal with the texture reminiscent of highway berms.
Post officials attributed that shortage to supply chain problems involving the product’s proprietary ingredients and production issues.
More recently, another product that’s even less tasty and harder to chew — the microchip — has been in short supply, causing assembly lines in some car and truck manufacturing plants to shut down temporarily to allow chip supplies to approach demand.
Unexpectedly high sales of laptops, gaming consoles and other consumer electronics to accommodate stay-at-home workers and students to help them deal with stay-at-home boredom are at least partially to blame for the microchip shortage.
Finally, a jump in takeout dining and a reliance on single-use condiment containers at sit-down restaurants has created a ketchup packet shortage so severe that it has given birth to a black market for Heinz packets found languishing in car consoles and desk drawers.
Bids of up to $11.50 for three packets of the Heinz red stuff were seen on eBay by Wednesday, according to published reports, and by the end of the week, copy editors across America were producing headlines about Heinz “putting the squeeze on” restaurants and consumers.
I happen to believe that the best things come to those who wait, as Heinz advertising copy put it during the late 1980s. I think I’ll just relish today and ketchup tomorrow.