In early 2020, one thing that was in abundant supply was stress as COVID-19 ravaged the globe. That is likely still the case for many now that we’re over two full years and several variants deep into a global pandemic. Several things that were in short supply—or astronomically expensive because of price gouging—due to supply chain issues and worldwide shipping delays included household basics like toilet paper and disinfecting wipes, and other items such as hand sanitizer, lumber, and even pool chlorine.
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Nearly two years later, some items are still difficult to find, and more items have joined this list, such as carbon dioxide for beer, Sriracha, and tampons. If you do find what you need, chances are you’re restricted to purchasing a limited quantity at a higher price. Here are several other items that we’ve noticed have fallen victim to COVID shortages.
Your beer could be in short supply this fall, or become more pricey. Supplies of carbon dioxide, an integral ingredient in the beverage, are experiencing steeper cost hikes than any other beer-making component, according to this Brewers Association chart.
Otherwise undetectable to our noses and tongues, the colorless gas is what gives beer its characteristic fizz, and it also stops oxidation that would make beer go stale. “We’ve talked to our supplier, and our supplier basically told us they were not taking on any new clients to make sure that their long-term clients have a steady supply of CO2,” Bryan Van Den Oever of Red Bear Brewing in Washington, D.C., told NPR’s Morning Edition.
Beer makers have been dealing with covid shortages (such as cans) all through the pandemic. But they worry a carbon dioxide shortage could cause production cuts and price hikes. To blame are three major factors: ammonia and ethanol production facilities, which make CO2 byproduct, are undergoing maintenance; Jackson Dome, part of an extinct volcano far below Jackson, Mississippi, is another typical supply of carbon dioxide, but it is contaminated; and summer demand for cold carbonated beverages has already made a hefty dent in dwindling supplies, according to NPR. Shortages are hitting craft beer brewers too, because they regularly need carbon dioxide tanks.
Prepare to experience a much more bland summer. The Huy Fong company that makes the beloved hot sauce Sriracha announced in June that chili peppers not only continue to be in very short supply since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that droughts in Mexico and in West Coast chili-growing regions are making the shortage more severe.
Some bottles are flying off shelves, as hot-sauce lovers are stocking up before the shortage becomes a complete lack. We don’t recommend panic buying, though. Upset consumers posting on social media say this may only exacerbate the problem, as hoarding supplies like toilet paper did at the beginning of the pandemic.
Maybe now’s the time to try a different hot sauce? May we recommend this spicy, yet fruity habanero Mule Sauce?
Oh, the horror. Shortages now include tampons, a staple whose price is inflating even as the product becomes scarcer on shelves. TIME reported a tampon shortage in early June, and the problem appears to be worsening, as users on Reddit report.
The root cause is a shortage of raw materials needed to make tampons, such as cotton and plastic, the New York Times reports in a recent story. Shoppers who opt for alternative menstrual products are having to put up with higher prices. Pads now cost 8 percent more. Tampons are up 10 percent compared to their regular cost.
In early 2022, home builders are facing massive delays thanks to backed up supply chains and shipping delays. In fact, The New York Times reports that the home building industry “is having the most difficult time in decades meeting demand.”
One source told the NYT that, “garage doors are a nightmare ... [they] are the worst right now.” To make matters worse, prices have doubled and tripled in the past year, and where it might take a contractor 20 weeks to build a home from start to finish, it’s taking that long to get necessities (such as garage doors) delivered.
Computers make the world go ’round—whether it be the chips that help power our phones and tablets or the chips in our cars, they’ve become an essential part of our daily lives. So what happens when a global pandemic leads to a computer chip shortage? Absolute chaos. (Well, not really, but it’s not good.) The chip shortage has especially affected the car industry as manufacturers have found themselves removing some of the features we love in our cars (we’re looking at you, heated seats and steering wheels.)
Much to the detriment of DIYers everywhere, lumber prices skyrocketed back in early 2021. In fact, Forbes reported that between April 2020 and April 2021, lumber futures increased 375 percent. Luckily, a few months later, lumber prices began to fall but average prices still remain higher than those from the pre-pandemic days.
The overwhelming sense of stress brought on by the pandemic led to a curious response en masse: panic buying. One of the first things to disappear from store shelves all over the nation was toilet paper. People were buying TP in such large quantities that most stores had to implement a limit per purchase, but that did little to keep shelves stocked. The issue seems to have leveled off since the onset of the pandemic, but in case you were wondering what else you could use in lieu of TP, here’s a comprehensive guide to help you figure it out. (P.S.: a bidet may not replace toilet paper, but it’s a great option to help you get that extra clean feeling.)
If you tried to pick up cycling as a new hobby during the pandemic but had a hard time finding a bike, know that it wasn’t just you. Interest in bikes boomed during the pandemic and production/supply has had a tough time keeping up with the demand. In addition to low or no in-store inventory, orders also got delayed because of supply chain problems.
The COVID-related baby formula shortages have been operating a little differently than other items on this list. For one, baby formula has been intermittently unavailable and this largely depends on where you’re located. The main cause is—you guessed it—supply chain issues at both the production and shipping levels.
In May 2022, the baby formula shortage became so dire in San Antonio, Texas, the city with the highest rate of formula shortages, that its supplies dropped 56 percent compared to average levels.
The pandemic also messed with the availability of another two-wheeled wonder: the motorcycle. Not only was availability low, but the shortage also affected aftermarket and repair parts. Our friends at Autoweek reported that the low inventory of motorcycles will persist through Q1 and possibly even Q2 of this year.
The mighty potato, one of the most versatile foods ever, is yet another item in short supply. The Washington Post reports that in addition to potatoes, two popular spreads—Marmite, a U.K. favorite, and cream cheese—have also been ravaged by COVID-related supply chain disruptions and bad weather. This shortage has caused several international fast food chains like McDonald’s to pause sales of large and medium french fries in an effort to keep the product from selling out.
Oddly enough, the cream cheese shortage that hit just before the holiday 2021 season was largely due to a cyberattack. It’s reported that one of the largest producers of dairy products in the U.S. was hacked and unable to operate their business for “several days.” This, coupled with supply chain issues and a mass labor shortage, made it difficult to find cream cheese in several areas.
We can thank (read: blame) ourselves for this one. The part of our brains that makes us panic and buy items in bulk the second we get a whiff of a possible shortage is what caused the decreased supply of gas in May 2021. Gasoline supply is back to normal now—gas prices, however, are another thing entirely.
If you’ve been asked to have exact change—or pay with a card—when paying for almost anything in the past two years, it’s because of the national coin shortage spurred on by the pandemic. But what does a pandemic have to do with coins? For one, social distancing and other safety measures have forced U.S. Mint employees to slow down production on new money. And two, because many people have been spending less physical cash over the last several months, money hasn’t been able to make its way back to the bank.
A.K.A. champagne. In October 2021, The Washington Post reported that those wanting to imbibe champers during their holiday celebrations should stock up ahead of time. Both supply chain issues and low yields only helped make the champagne shortage worse.
Another unexpected shortage victim was chlorine. This may—or may not have—affected your summer 2021 plans. This time, it wasn’t just COVID that caused the shortage. There was also a fire at a chlorine plant in Louisiana that didn’t help. The good news here is that there are alternatives, such as using bromine instead of chlorine or making the switch to a saltwater pool.
Whether you prefer your maple syrup in a cocktail or on top of pancakes, you can’t deny that it’s a staple ingredient. If you found yourself unable to get maple syrup, you’re not alone—in November of 2021, Canada announced that it would be releasing around 50 million pounds of what NPR called the country’s “strategic reserves.”
On January 11, the American Red Cross said the U.S. is facing the worst blood shortage it’s seen in over a decade partly because of a decrease in blood drives. This is in addition to staffing shortages and bad weather causing donors and even entire blood drives to be canceled. The need for donations is so great, that the Red Cross has even partnered with the NFL to raffle two 2022 Super Bowl tickets to a lucky donor in addition to other prizes.
Supply chain issues didn’t relent when it came to the holidays—Christmas trees were in short supply during the 2021 holiday season. Each year, I usually purchase a 6-7- foot tall tree that runs me somewhere between $65-$90. This past year, a smaller tree just under 6 feet cost me $72. Not only were there less trees available at my local farm, but the shortage caused prices to skyrocket.