By Thomas Adams
In response to the recent run on grocery stores, please pay attention: Things WILL normalize. It will happen a lot faster if people pull back on the panic-purchase syndrome. I’m in the wine industry… came up through the ranks in restaurants and retail grocery for many years and currently make my living calling on these entities as my clients. As a professional in the food & wine industry, I have some insight into the grocery supply chain. My message… the message I have been sharing for weeks: STOP PANICKING!
- We, as a country, have a lot more food than most people realize. In California, Safeway alone (includes Vons, Pavilions & Albertsons) has over a dozen warehouse complexes packed with food. Just one warehouse complex is larger than many towns in the west. Millions upon millions of cubic feet of food. Pallets stacked on pallets stacked 30 feet high. Similar storage exists for Kroger (Ralphs), Wallmart and all the other major grocers. The shortage that has occurred is in the number of trucks & drivers available to compensate for panic purchasing.
- Every market settles into a steady pulse for business as usual. The typical store gets 1 truck of General Merchandise or “GM” products 4 times per week. (GM= Canned & dry food categories, water, cleaners, paper goods…most of the “middles isles” that do not need temperature control.) Corporate offices have adjusted to the pulse and flow, which has determined how many tucks they own and how many drivers they employ. When a store gets cleaned out, it is going to take time to fully replenish. Ever seen a new grocery store being stocked? It takes over a dozen trucks that hold around 2000 cubic feet each just for GM, and that’s without people depleting any products through daily shopping. So PLEASE do NOT panic when the store isn’t fully packed the following day… it’s going to take a few trips.
- Zoom out…look at a bigger picture. Open your mind and look at the signs. When you have restaurants begging you to buy their food for take-out, that means we have enough food. When Grocery stores are postings signs saying “ALL SALES ARE FINAL” there isn’t a shortage of food; there’s a shortage of sanity. Currently, there are a billion pounds of frozen beef in storage, as well as a billion pounds of frozen chicken, a billion pounds of frozen fruit and TWO billion pounds of frozen vegetables. (Side note: Eat more vegetables!) Grocery stores are posting signs saying “ALL SALES ARE FINAL”. So, if you bought 20 cans of green beans when you only needed 2, don’t expect to return the other 18 cans, because the response will be “Hope ya really like green beans. Our website has some great casserole recipes!”
- We are built for abundance. McDonald’s alone goes through 3.4 BILLION pounds of potatoes annually just to make fries. Now start pondering how many BILLIONS of pounds of potatoes it takes to fill the pipelines of all other fast-food chains, all the fine-food restaurants, makers of premade potato products, and so on. Yet, you & I can still buy a sack of spuds at the local grocer for a couple bucks. That does not spell shortage. Now stretch your mind out to encompass corn. Wheat. Meat. Apples. Not only do we produce enough to consume billions of pounds for ourselves, but we are net exporters of nearly every major foodstuff production. We are not going to run out of food. I repeat, WE ARE NOT GOING TO RUN OUT OF FOOD!
- When you hoard, you hurt the neediest among us. People of reasonable affluence can afford to purchase a month’s worth of food. However, PLEASE remember there are millions of Americans who can’t afford to buy that much food at a time… they are budgeted to buy for a week at a time. Now they can’t do that because of the number of people are panicked into uber-prepper mode which is monumentally selfish.
Please inhale deeply, exhale slowly, and take an objective look at your surroundings. America really is the land of plenty. The only reason there is a shortage of anything is because people panicked and bought more than they needed. Reminiscent of the first Men in Black movie bench scene, when Tommy Lee says “A person is smart. People (as a group) are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and YOU know it.” In the coming days, let’s try not to prove him right.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.
Thomas Adams has been in the food and beverage industry for 30 years; has held managerial positions in restaurants and retail establishments; currently Western States Manager for a Wine Marketing Company covering California, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico.