Sriracha sauce and tampons are going missing from store shelves as shortages of raw materials such as chili peppers and cotton push manufacturers to downsize products without raising prices.
Hot sauce maker Huy Fong Foods recently warned customers that a months-long shortage of chili peppers will make Sriracha unavailable in many places throughout the summer. Procter & Gamble, which owns Tampax and Always, reported similar issues with tampons and feminine pads.
Staffing shortages at factories, transportation delays and the rising cost of materials like plastics and cotton already have forced tampon prices higher. The cost of tampons has risen 10% in price nationally, according to Bloomberg.
Financial adviser Bill Dendy, president of Alicorn Investment Management in Texas, says there’s no end in sight to product shortages.
“We’re having a tremendous ripple effect because of the COVID shutdowns we’ve experienced over the past two years, not just because of the Ukraine war,” Mr. Dendy said. “There’s a high demand meeting higher competition from countries like China.”
He said “shrinkflation” — the practice of downsizing products to sell at the same price — will be increasingly useful to keep some items in stock as companies sell packages with 10% to 25% less quantity.
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“You will find many consumers that would rather keep the prices the same to fit their budget even if it means consuming less of the product,” said Mr. Dendy, who is also an independent adviser with Raymond James Financial Services. “If they know that each week the family needs cereal and toilet paper, they would rather buy the product at the same budgeted amount of money and ration the product during the week.”
Edgar Dworsky, founder and editor of the Consumer World website, says he has tracked product downsizing since 1995 by posting images of items online before and after companies trim them.
His website reported Monday that Angel Soft toilet paper, Post Honey Bunches of Oats cereal, Kleenex tissues, Miracle-Gro plant food and several brands of candy, crackers and detergent are the latest products to downsize.
In the case of the toilet paper, Georgia-Pacific recently lopped off more than 100 sheets from each roll.
“Shrinkflation tends to come in waves, and we are in the middle of a tidal wave of products downsizing now because of inflation. I cannot remember a time when so many new smaller items have been hitting store shelves,” Mr. Dworsky said.
As an alternative to paying more for less, he recommends that consumers buy other brands that haven’t downsized yet.
“Store brands tend to be the last to go down,” he said in an email. “And use unit pricing — the price per ounce or hundred count disclosure that is right on store shelves — will help you find the best value.”
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a network of conservative state legislators and entrepreneurs, expects increased fuel and transportation costs coupled with raw material shortages will continue to hamper U.S. product distribution throughout the year.
“As the summer heats up, products such as cotton and hot peppers will continue to be less available, and we will continue to experience tampon and hot sauce shortages,” said Joe Trotter, director of ALEC’s Task Force on Energy, Environment and Agriculture.
Michael Warder, principal at the Warder Consultancy financial services firm in California, said shoppers will just have to be patient as supply catches up with demand.
“It isn’t just hot sauce and tampons. Americans tend to take plentiful supplies, even gas or electricity, for granted,” Mr. Warder said. “We should not.”