Cancel OK

A firsthand look at supply chain pain points

What happened to all the carrots? Was there some kind of TikTok fad diet I don’t know about?

CEDAR PARK, TX – Is it just me, or did people start panic buying again?

I’ve seen some persistent out of stocks over the past year, most notably in things like pet food and chips, but the other day at my local grocer, H-E-B, there were entire categories wiped out.

Ok, a disclaimer: I was there at 5 p.m. on a Monday – prime wipeout time. Monday is a busy time at the grocery store, and I could tell the produce clerks were hustling to get everything restocked.

But this wasn’t our average wipeout. Entire categories – like the “fun” tomato table with all the “fancy” varieties (anything but a TOV or field-grown roma) – were gone.

And there was this:

Woahhhh, what’s up with the single carrot down there on the floor?

Where are the carrots?! There were a few bags of shreds and one, single, solitary carrot on the floor in front of the wet rack. Were they doing cleaning and maintenance? That would explain it. No one had an answer for me.

So I posted the photo on LinkedIn, asking if there was a carrot fad diet or supply apocalypse I was unaware of.

We’ve been covering supply chain problems since, well, there’s always some kind of supply chain issue, but the COVID-19 pandemic wrought havoc on an already strained system.

A lot of folks on my LinkedIn post pointed to inbound freight as a problem, and it is. Freight has been hitting unprecedented highs, with unprecedented shortages over the past two years.

That piece of the puzzle completely makes sense. But why is nearly every media outlet chasing this story?


While people were commenting on my post, I started to get off-the-record texts from people at retail saying that it’s not just the trucks that aren’t getting there on time, or loads that are short. It’s the astronomical number of people sick right now.

Show of hands: who DOESN’T know someone currently sick with COVID? I don’t expect to see too many hands. My sons’ school district stopped notifying close contacts because all the people that do that recordkeeping are out sick.

My neighborhood’s social media pages are full of people looking for tests.

Friends who homeschooled their kids for the past two years and just sent them back already have covid, five days into the new semester.

I went back to the same store and, thankfully, everything (but the chips) were back in stock.

And this is hitting the supply chain – hard. Retailers are having to triage what they can send out to stores based on highest need, availability of logistics, and perishability.

Is this an opportunity for wholesalers to step in? Absolutely – if they have the staff to do so. Wholesalers: now’s the time to work those connections.

From what I’m hearing, this could continue for at least a few more weeks.

In the mean time, I’m trying not to panic, and mayyyybe stocked up on a few things, but I did stop back by the same store and found carrots back in stock.


Pamela Riemenschneider is the Retail Editor for Blue Book Services.