If you're having trouble finding your favorite cheese at Costco, you're not alone. The store has had trouble keeping certain imported cheese in stock and the reason behind the low supply is somewhat surprising. It turns out that a lack of shipping containers has resulted in the delay of many imported products. As the pandemic continues, and Americans are buying more goods than usual as they stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19, suppliers have had trouble keeping up with demand.
It makes sense that our need for cheese has increased as we spend more time at home and cook more meals in our own kitchens. Unfortunately, bottlenecks at West Coast ports have made it harder for suppliers to get their fancy fromage into the mouths of hungry Americans.
“With a record 2020 holiday season and expectations for continued growth into this year, retailers are importing substantial amounts of merchandise to meet this unprecedented level of consumer demand," Jonathan Gold, vice president, supply chain and customs policy, National Retail Federation told TODAY Food. "This surge in demand, combined with the lack of empty shipping containers and congestion at ports, has resulted in a significant stress on the supply chain, particularly for the retail industry. With these added transportation costs, the last thing retailers want to do is raise prices for consumers, but some may be left with no choice.”
Port delays and container shortages are to blame for the shipping delays many retailers, including Costco, are experiencing. TODAY Food reached out to Costco but they declined to comment on the situation.
CNN reported that Costco chief financial officer Richard Galanti said on a call with analysts last week that the problem isn't just limited to cheese, but also seafood, olive oil, furniture, sporting goods and lawn and garden equipment. He said he expects the "pressures to ease in the coming months, but it's impacting everyone."
This isn't the first time the US has experienced these types of supply chain shortages during the pandemic. At Christmastime, holiday hams were harder to find on grocery store shelves. As people began to panic shop, many of us turned to the pantry to find comfort in the likes of canned soup. Even refrigerators were in short supply due to the affects of COVID.
In the meantime, we can still take comfort in the joy of a good old fashioned grilled cheese sandwich — made with yellow American, of course.