If you're planning to double up on your grocery haul or stock up on holiday essentials extra early this year, you're not alone. Many Americans are looking to avoid being caught by surprise should another wave of shortages hit grocery stores in the coming months. Based on recent infection numbers—Oct. 2 saw the highest number of cases across America in almost two months—the country is bracing for another wave of the pandemic that could disrupt the supply chain and cause popular items to fly off the shelves at unprecedented speed.
According to a recent poll conducted by Sports and Leisure Research Group, more than half of Americans already have or are planning on stockpiling food and other essentials. About 52% of those polled said they worry about spikes in COVID cases, as well as potential civil unrest surrounding the presidential election which may lead to more looting and shuttered stores. However, the other half, or 48%, painted the opposite picture of a nation going through COVID fatigue, with no changes to their shopping habits.
While the general public is worried, the industry seems to be bolstered by the hard-earned lessons from March and April, which makes it less likely that the country will experience similar shortages again. This time around, grocery chains and food producers are better aware of the demand they can expect in case of another lockdown, and have been preparing their inventory for months.
For example, grocery chains are building long-term stockpiles of items that have proven to be most in demand in the spring: toilet paper, cleaning and sanitizing products, and baking supplies. Anticipating an exceptionally busy holiday season, chains like BI-LO, Harveys, Winn-Dixie, and Fresco y Más have secured holiday staples like Thanksgiving turkeys and holiday hams much earlier this year, while grocery wholesaler United Natural Foods Inc. loaded up on extra stock of seasonal items like cranberry sauce, herbal tea, and cold remedies.
Meat shortages are also unlikely to happen again, according to Andre Nogueira, CEO of major beef and pork producer JBS USA. While meat companies faced major delays in production this spring due to rampant infections among their employees, new industry-wide protocols should prevent similar issues in the future. They include taking workers' temperatures and supplying them with enough proper safety gear in order to catch any COVID-19 cases early and stop them from spreading.
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