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Sriracha isn't the only food that's suddenly scarce — these grocery must-haves are spiking in price, if you can find them at all

·6 min read
Sriracha isn't the only food that's suddenly scarce — these grocery must-haves are spiking in price, if you can find them at all
Sriracha isn't the only food that's suddenly scarce — these grocery must-haves are spiking in price, if you can find them at all

You don’t need us to tell you that everything costs more right now.

The eye-watering announcement that inflation had hit 8.6% in May, the highest rate in decades, was hard to take, but anyone who had been to the grocery store or the gas station lately already knew it was bad.

Supply chain issues, labor shortages, drought and the war in Ukraine are affecting some of people’s favorite and most needed items. And it doesn’t look like relief is coming any time soon.

Many experts think prices for necessary items will get worse before they get better, especially food items.

“We're expecting food inflation to peak in Q3 this year. So anywhere between July and September, October, I would say. We haven't peaked yet,” says Prof. Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada.

Charlebois isn’t the only one who thinks food prices will continue to rise in the coming weeks and months.

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Ivory Johnson, a certified financial planner and founder of Delancey Wealth Management, estimates that products could increase in price by another 30% by the fall.

“We're not done with food inflation,” he says. “And so if you think it's bad now, imagine it getting worse.”

Johnson suggests people take a conservative approach to spending, which can be difficult when necessary items become scarce.

To help you plan for your next run to the grocery store, here's a list of popular everyday necessities that have become both hard to find and hard on your wallet.

Sriracha and chili peppers

A collective groan could be heard around the country when Huy Fong Foods sent out notice that they were dealing with a “severe” shortage of chilis thanks to bad weather conditions.

As a result the company says it won’t be accepting orders until after September, creating a shortage of its Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce.

It’s unavailable on Amazon and there are reports that cases have almost doubled in price.

Alternatives: There are plenty of other hot sauces that you could substitute, you could even try making your own sriracha – if you can get your hands on chilis, that is.

Mustard

If you want mustard for your summer barbecues you should probably buy it now.

Some of the biggest producers of mustard seed in the world have faced weather problems which has led to a shortage.

Drought in Canada’s prairie provinces has led to a decrease in production of mustard seed. Supply is down 36% from 2020-2021, says Agriculture Canada.

France has seen similar issues in its Dijon region. The war in Ukraine is compounding the issue as both Russia and Ukraine are big mustard seed producers.

Alternatives: If you can’t find the mustard you’re looking for in the grocery store, it’s possible to make your own.

Cooking oil

It would be hard to miss the steep rise in cooking oil prices, from canola to sunflower oil.

Fats and oils were up 16.9% from May 2021 to May 2022, according to the Consumer Price Index(CPI). The prices of vegetable oils were on the rise even before the war in Ukraine, thanks to drought, labor shortages in Malaysia and a limit of exports in Indonesia.

But the Russian invasion of Ukraine has had a major impact on cooking oils like sunflower oil, causing prices to spike even further.

Alternatives: There are a few different options for substitutes such as margarine, vegetable shortening and bacon grease.

Meat and dairy products

Over the past year, the Consumer Price Index showed meats, poultry, fish, and eggs rose more than 14%, with eggs increasing a whopping 32%.

Outbreaks of avian flu have affected more than 38 million birds causing the production of eggs to plummet, according to multiple media reports.

Meanwhile, the North American Meat Institute reported that cattle prices are at a record high. The United States Department of Agriculture reported that prices for cattle are up 17.5% above prices in 2021. And that’s translating to the grocery store.

“Whenever input costs are a big factor, or transportation is a big factor, you're likely going to see a section heavily impacted by inflation,” Charlebois says.

Baby formula

The baby formula shortage has been ongoing for months. In May, Datasembly reported that more than 40% of the baby formula in the U.S. was out of stock.

Product recalls, a factory shutdown and labor shortages have all affected the production and sales of baby formula. Some drugstore chains have even put limits on how much formula one person can buy.

Many states have gone so far as to put a stop to unfair pricing – Georgia and Colorado instituted States of Emergency so price-gouging laws can take effect.

The shortage is so wide-spread, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to establish consumer protections, preventing the sale of formula at a price more than 10% higher than it was in February.

Alternatives: The government has worked to bring in baby formula from other countries to help ease the shortage.

Tampons

Feel like your period might be costing you a little more these days? You’re not imagining it.

The average price of a package of menstrual pads has gone up 8.3% while tampons have risen nearly 10% in the past year, according to NeilsenIQ.

Shelf availability fell in March to 95.5%, down 1.5% leading to a shortage. California and Utah were hit especially hard. There are a few factors for the shortage, says Neilsen, including a rise in the price of raw materials, labor and supply chain issues.

Alternatives: Try going with the flow and changing up your brand, or try a menstrual cup.

Coffee

Coffee prices hit a 10-year high in 2021 and they haven’t eased in 2022. According to the CPI, the price of ground coffee per pound rose nearly 28% from May 2021 to May 2022.

Bad weather conditions in Brazil over the past couple of years, including drought and frost, and other coffee producing countries have hampered production. The industry is also contending with supply chain issues.

Alternatives: Maybe this is your chance to kick the coffee habit – try tea, apple cider vinegar or matcha.

Pringles and the shrinkflation phenomenon

One way to maintain prices while costs inflate is by just offering less of something while charging the same amount.

The tactic is known as shrinkflation and it’s what a lot of companies are opting for. A quick trip down most any aisle at the grocery store will show you this is taking place. Walmart is selling Pringles for $1.78 at both 5.2 and 5.5 ounces. General Mills also downsized its “family sized” boxes of cereals from 19.3 to 18.1 ounces.

A helpful hint: Pay attention to the weight and compare products by unit price.

What to read next

This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.

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