Shoppers bemoan empty supermarket shelves

A common sight at U.S. supermarkets these days: a lack of milk, pasta, berries and more – as supply chain issues leave store shelves empty.

CYNTHIA SPENCER, GROCERY STORE CUSTOMER: "There's no meat, no toilet paper. It's crazy.”

High demand for groceries combined with soaring freight costs and Omicron-related labor shortages are creating a new round of backlogs.

Katie Denis is VP of Communications and Research at The Consumer Brands Association, a trade group for packaged goods.

"What we're dealing with right now is that we already had a supply chain that was kind of already at its breaking point, and the Omicron wave has been really devastating in terms of a labor impact. We don't have a food shortage - we do have a labor shortage.”

The consumer-packaged goods industry is missing around 120,000 workers out of which only 1,500 jobs were added last month, Denis said.

And the National Grocer’s Association said that many of its grocery store members were operating with less than 50% of their workforce capacity.

Meanwhile, experts say demand over the last five months has been as high or higher than it had been in March 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic.

Growers of perishable produce across the West Coast say they are paying nearly triple pre-pandemic trucking rates to ship things like lettuce and berries before they spoil.

Warren Briggs left his market just outside of Washington, D.C. with far less than what was on his shopping list.

"I wanted to get some bananas and there are just four or five bananas. There's been no salad for two weeks. And so, you know, you look around and you go to places and there's nothing there - we've just never had this before."

The CEO of Conagra Brands - maker of Birds Eye frozen vegetables - told investors last week that supplies from its U.S. plants could be constrained for at least the next month…while Albertsons’ CEO said he expects the supermarket chain to confront more supply chain challenges over the next four to six weeks.

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