Ground Reports Requested – How Well Stocked is Your Local Grocery Store?….

Week #3 of the COVID-19 impact continues.  The supply chain is being modified hour-by-hour.  You may not recognize it, but your feedback matters; your feedback shapes decisions…

Several factors have increased retail market demand for fresh food and non-perishables. People stocking up, kids out of school, some panic shopping (example toilet paper) and now curfews & quarantines have people purchasing more for ‘meals prepared at home’.

Add in closed restaurants and the demand on retail food markets is severely stressed. With that in mind what are you experiencing in your city, town or neighborhood market? Use the comment section to share your experience. How is the supply chain responding to the increased demand in your area? Has the panic buying settled down?


The aspect that most models are missing, is the pressure on the supply-chain will not soon end. The restaurant sector (‘food away from home’) appears to be operating at far less than half capacity (perhaps as low as 25%) due to coronavirus restrictions. As long as those food consumers remain shifted into the retail supply chain (food at home), there are going to be long-term shortages due to capacity constraints and distribution limits.

Processing/Manufacturing – – – Distribution – – – Retail Stores

To gain an idea of the scale of the challenge here’s some big picture analytics.  There are approximately 50,000 retail outlets for grocery sales nationwide with about 250 large scale distribution centers (warehouses) regionally placed.

If you take an average across all grocers, a conservative estimate for one product category, hot dogs, each retail store would need roughly 20 cases for a resupply (all brands).  That’s one million cases of hot dogs across all retail outlets.  [50,000 stores at 20 cases each]

However, the distribution centers would also need 1 million cases, for a replenishment average of 2.5 to 3 days later.  Additionally, within 7 days (from the original delivery date) another 1 million cases would have to arrive from the manufacturer(s) to resupply the distribution centers.

That’s a total production demand for ‘hot dogs‘ of 3 million cases per week across all brands.  240 to 360 individual packages selling (twice weekly) at the store level across all grocery outlets; throughout the country.

3 million cases of hot dogs equals 600 semi tractor-trailers with 5,000 cases each, nationwide in the logistical supply chain. [200 trailers per stage: retail (day 1), distribution (day 2.5/3.0), manufacturing (day 7)]  That’s 600 tractor trailer loads, for one product category, nationwide.   [Easter is April 12th, Memorial day May 25th]

That’s a very conservative supply chain estimate in one product category.

That’s just hot dogs.

Now, take the same baselines and consider the logistics of 100 cases of paper goods at the current level of need (retail all outlets), resupply (all distribution), and manufacturing:

100 cases needed per retail outlet (50,000) equals a 5 million case fill on day one.  An additional five million cases on day 3 (from distribution), and an additional five million within seven days from manufacturing.  That’s 15 million cases needed.

LOGISTICS: At 800 cases per trailer, 15 million cases of paper goods means 6,250 semi-trailers (retail), 6,250 trailers all distribution within three days, and 6,250 semi-trailers from manufacturing to distribution within seven days.  A total of 18,750 trailer loads of paper goods (towels and toilet tissue) within one week; nationwide.

♦ It is impossible for the current manufacturing supply chain (all outlets) to start from a ZERO baseline in stores and generate 3,000,000 cases of hot dogs, delivered by 600 tractor trailers, in a week.

♦ It is impossible for the current manufacturing supply chain (all outlets) to start from ZERO baseline in all stores and generate 15,000,000 cases of paper goods, delivered by 18,750 tractor trailers, in a week.

• CEREAL – It also seems impossible for the current retail supply chain (all outlets) to start from ZERO and generate 12,000,000 cases of cereal (all brands), delivered by 6,000 tractor trailers in a week.  (80 cases per store, equals 2,000 trailers/2k per – total supply chain)

• SOUP – It seems impossible for the current retail supply chain (all outlets) to start from ZERO and generate 6,000,000 cases of soup (all brands), delivered by 2,400 tractor trailers in two weeks 14 days. (40 cases per store, equals 800 trailers – total supply chain)

[Note for distribution of non perishable “pasta” and “rice” the sector mirrors soup.]

Bottom Line – There are going to be long term retail supermarket shortages until restaurants re-open.  Yes, the total food supply chain is ok, but the retail sector of the supply chain is grossly overwhelmed.  Math is math and too few are doing it.

Because it’s a proprietary sector with lots of competition and few ways for a big picture overview of the total supply-chain landscape, individual executives are not being forthcoming about the potential for the scale of disruptions.

Easter is April 12th and Memorial Day is May 25th.

Most consumers are not aware food consumption in the U.S. is now a 50/50 proposition. Approximately 50% of all food was consumed “outside the home” (or food away from home), and 50% of all food consumed was food “inside the home” (grocery shoppers).

Food ‘outside the home’ includes: restaurants, fast-food locales, schools, corporate cafeterias, university lunchrooms, manufacturing cafeterias, hotels, food trucks, park and amusement food sellers and many more.  Many of those venues are not thought about when people evaluate the overall U.S. food delivery system; however, this network was approximately 50 percent of all food consumption on a daily basis.

The ‘food away from home‘ sector has its own supply chain.  Very few restaurants and venues (cited above) purchase food products from retail grocery outlets.   As a result of the coronavirus mitigation effort the ‘food away from home’ sector has been reduced by half of daily food delivery operations, possibly more.  However, people still need to eat.

That means retail food outlets, grocers, are seeing sales increases of 25 to 50 percent, depending on the area.  This, along with some panic shopping, is the reason why supermarkets are overwhelmed and their supply chain is out of stock on many items.

There is enough food capacity in the overall food supply chain, and no-one should worry about the U.S. ever running out of the ability to feed itself.  However, the total food supply chain is based on two segments: food at home and food away from home.

The seismic shift toward ‘food at home‘ is what has caused the shortages, and that supply chain is not likely to recover full service of products again until the ‘food away from home’ sector gets back to normal.   No need to panic, but there will be long-term shortages.

At the top of the food supply there is ample product and capacity.  Its the diversion of customers to the retail grocery sector causing the shortages.

Large chain-stores were impacted first and worst as their proprietary supply chain, and their automated replenishment systems, are more vulnerable to such wide-scale disruption. Their resupply is based on eight week averages; all of the technology that builds the technological framework of that resupply-chain is useless now.  However, smaller regional markets, less than 25 stores or mom-and-pops, are/were impacted less due to their use of wholesalers for distribution and a faster response time.

However, in this phase-3 those wholesalers will now enter a period where they are in competition for resupply with the large retail outlets…. so we are entering the phase were smaller stores, and independents, are going to have more trouble getting product.

The fresh-meat, poultry and produce sections are the first disrupted (short term) but least disrupted long-term (recovering now).  The reason is simple, the raw material isn’t needed in the restaurant supply chain; those products are right now in the process of being shifted to manufacturing, protein processing, and eventually into the retail food supply chain to end up in your local supermarket refrigerated store cases.

With the increased diversion, increased production and increased distribution, inside of two weeks we should see fresh meats, chicken, pork etc. (protein sector) return to normal in your area supermarket.

Produce is both nationally and locally sourced, so that supply chain was never as much at risk of disruption; it is, quite simply, just overwhelmed on the distribution side.  With the restaurant sector demand reduced the produce operations will recover quickly as soon as supply chain diversion and distribution increases.  Less than a week and the produce section in your local supermarket should be solid.

However, the frozen foods, frozen pizzas, frozen meals ready to eat (RTE) and specifically processed lunchmeats and cheeses will continue to suffer from supply chain issues.  The reasons are not complex.  Processed food has a production capacity.  Think about Oscar Meyer, Tyson, Hormel, etc. they can only process a maximum amount within their manufacturing facilities.  [China owns Smithfield, so China controls that company]

To the extent that extra shoppers means extra consumers wiping out frozen foods, lunch-meats, bacon and cheeses, the manufacturing side of the retail food system will be limited by their capacity.  That sector is not going to change and long-term supply chain issues will continue.  However, on the good news side, we should be able to buy lunch meats at the in-store deli counters because that bulk delivery processing sector will have more production capacity.

So if you’re looking for bologna (or similar), and the it’s not available pre-packaged in the traditional case, try looking for it in the deli section.  It will be more expensive, but such is life with coronavirus.

In addition to the shortages in frozen foods, processed lunch-meat and dairy items, the non-perishable goods will also have wide-spread outages.  Again, this is a store issue (phase-1), distribution capacity issue (phase-2), and will now become an upstream production capacity issue in phase-3.

Bread, canned goods, rice, cereals, pasta, flour, sugar, bottled water, etc. are selling beyond the capacity of the traditional supply chain to keep up with demand.

Traditional emergency food recovery and distribution models (think hurricanes) are designed for short-term disruptions to the restaurant sector that provides 50% of food outside the home; and, as a result, short-term increases to at home food needs.  Those emergency and recovery models have contingency plans for short-term regional bursts of specific non perishable products into specific areas.  This ain’t that.

The current supply chain disruption is a severe reduction in the availability of ‘food outside the home‘ for a sustained period.  Losing the entire sector is very unusual, unprecedented, unforeseen in scale; and there is no national contingency plan for a nationwide demand on all retail supermarket food products simultaneously.

Once these warehouse fulfillment centers run out, every retail outlet in the country is pulling from the same upstream supplier network.  Again, there’s no need to panic, the total food supply is not short, we all just need to adjust our shopping habits and get a little creative.

What do things look like in your neighborhood?

Are things improving?

This entry was posted in Big Government, Coronavirus, Economy, Legislation, media bias, President Trump, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

499 Responses to Ground Reports Requested – How Well Stocked is Your Local Grocery Store?….

  1. 4gypsybreeze says:

    SE AZ here! First day of Senior shopping at Walmart — and it was Hilarious! They actually had employees inside the store—directing traffic. Of course everyone headed for the toilet paper aisle. Which was stocked. Same with napkins and Kleenex. Saw one youngster try to walk up and get in while we were in line getting in and security turned him away. That was nice to see!

    The guy checking out two ahead of me had two ginormous things of toilet tissue. He had a military hat on with retired. snark here……and you know the base which has a HUGE BX is only 3 miles away from the Walmart. Hey…the check out guy stood his ground and so very nicely told him…sorry sir there is a 1 per person limit….and the military guy had to put it on what I think was the “excess” cart which was in front of the aisle, and that is where the “excess” went. Jeez…how rude.

    It was OK stocked. Milk, Bread and essentials were there but you couldn’t be picky. Only limited chicken, very little beef. And the exact same hamburger patties that I bought last week for 6.34 was 7.32. Imagine that. I passed. Produce was OK. No bags of onions or potatoes. Rice was limited, but that’s OK–I happen to like Jasmine Rice. Only couple of Hams left and they were huge…so I passed. No beans. Lentils were there…but already have some.

    Overall it was ok stocked. Thinking after us Seniors got finished, not too much left. I will definitely go next week….! Everyone seemed to be in a cheerful mood for it being so early in the morning–which is good because who wants to deal with a bunch of grumpy pants that early in the morning!

    Liked by 1 person

    • James Carpenter aka "Felix" says:

      Sierra Vista, Ft Huachuca, Sonoita, all planted firmly in the middle of Mearns Quail hunting Heaven. With a large contingent of Border Patrol to spice things up.
      Muslims do the Hajj.
      I do Patagonia.
      We’ll see who’s got it right a little later.

      Cheerful moods here too as the sun was clearing the horizon. I reckon the sun might dim later on in the day for those picking over the remains of last night’s deliveries.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. avocadodipp says:

    Small town 50 miles north of Tampa, FL – Walmart yesterday empty of paper products and canned goods. Went to Senior Hour this morning (6-7 am) to the same Walmart, and they had stocked both. They were not fully stocked, but a number of folks were able to score toilet paper and canned items. Some people had loaded 3-4 big containers of TP in their carts – they were only allowed one. They were removed from they’re buggies at the front. Ha!

    One semi was visible in the back of the store parking lot and another came rolling in before I left. They are trying to stock the stores. It’s going to take a lot of semi loads to fill up the stores.


  3. Slowkid says:

    Myrtle beach sc. My wife works at wallgreen. My daughter at Wal-Mart. Some bare shelves. Some low stock. Seam to be holding our own. South Carolina has a price freeze. Mostly used during hurr icanes. Found chicken thighs for .99 c a pound. Very limited quantity. Gasoline down to 1.86 a gollon.


  4. Pokey says:

    My wife and I went to our local Walmart and Safeway stores this morning. We left the house at 8:15 and got home after shopping at two stores before 10:00am. We went armed as best we could be to divide up the search for the stuff we need and each of us took a small size cart and went at it. Walmart did not look better than it did when I last went shopping 10 days ago. Seemed there was enough in the produce section for everyone to make their selections. Meat section was a bunch of empty shelving. We did manage to find a couple of 1lb packages of pre-packaged burger meat. No other beef, no pork, no chicken, not even a turkey to be found. I crapped out on the paper goods isle as I expected, but I did find 1 carton of laundry detergent which was our second choice of brands. My list had Pepperidge Farm Stuffing mix on it and there was none, but I was able to find a large quantity of Italian bread crumbs and it was on my list as well. Hit or miss on that isle. We eat a lot of fruits and nuts for snacks and most of the fruit was available, but nuts were scarce and what was left were the expensive brands. I bought pecans and almonds and they were my only choices. The wife found no breakfast sausage but we did find some sausage that we usually get for jambalaya and that will work if I don’t cut myself with the slicing knife each morning. I found the only six pack of low sodium V-8 juice that I usually substitute for soda pop, which I have been advised not to drink anymore. Somehow, both of us had canned clams on our lists and there was plenty, so we ended up with enough for clam chowder for more than two large batches, but canned tuna fish for sandwiches was not found. my wife did find a decent stock of milk and eggs, which were not there 10 days ago, so that was good. The chips and sodas were mostly gone, but we got a couple of Frito/Lay products. I found bottled water by accident, stacked on shelving in the next isle over from where they are usually found. Walmart does that too much, but it worked out in our favor this time. My wife completely crapped out looking for sanitary wipes of any kind over in the Pharmacy area. She was able to find me some of my cheap shampoo, though. I found no household disinfectants, as was expected. Peanut butter was found, but the supply was very limited on choices. Brown sugar was found and there was plenty of granulated sugar that we did not need. There was plenty of bread and buns but no hot dogs. An 80% success rate at Walmart. Spent 100% of the budget.

    After Walmart, we went to Safeway looking for macaroni, disinfectant, meats, and a few other things. We had a little success when we found a large package of chicken thighs, and some deli ham for sandwiches. There was no beef in the butcher area.

    We think we got enough food and supplies to last us another 10-12 days, so it was worth the effort, except for the damned mask and latex gloves I wore just to show solidarity with my wife. The latex gloves were fine until I tried to get them off before putting away the groceries and discovered that is a waste of time. The mask is an ineffective variety that I use only when I don’t want fumes from chemicals or paint to collect in my nose. I also wear them when I have to mow my mostly dusty desert. ( don’t laugh, mowing it helps to keep the snakes and prairie dogs at bay )


  5. Pokey says:

    Oh yea, We are in Pueblo West, Colorado.


  6. Richie says:

    Just got back from Whole Foods in Pasadena, CA. There was a social distancing line outside and as people left the store others went inside. As I anticipated, everything was still overpriced as usual but aside from produce, most common items were out or low in stock while some common items like eggs were well stocked.

    Low or Gone: Breads, Frozen Foods, Canned Foods, Milk products including Almond milk, Nutritional bars, Juices in Jars,

    In Stock: Eggs, Fruits and Vegetables, Refrigerated juices. So Refrigerated Juices were plentiful but juices in jars were gone.

    PS: I saw the guy from Step Brothers, John C. Reilly there with a full cart of groceries.


  7. kayray444 says:

    I live in North East FLORIDA from November to end of March. Still in Florida but leaving Saturday to go up to my small town in Wisconsin with 2 grocery stores. Going to buy some powdered milk here before we leave. Went to ten or more different places looking for hand sanitizer and medical gloves. Couldn’t find either so, in desperation, I went to an Ace Hardware store and they had the gloves I wanted. I prepped food about 8 years ago never thought I might need it for a virus.


  8. TimeIsNow says:

    Live in Chicago Burb, shop at Butera Foods. Tuesday 1PM: Parking lot 35% (totally full 6 days ago).
    Store the same as lot, and most items, except TP and paper paper towels well stocked. Everything chill and calm.


  9. Re-Farmer says:

    I’m in central Canada, in the boonies. The nearest town of any size is a 20 minute drive. An hour to the nearest city. My daughter works in town at a pharmacy. They’re out of toilet paper, masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, aloe gel and isopropyl alcohol. Facial tissues and paper towels are low, but in stock. The last I saw a 12 pack of toilet paper, the customer in front of me bought it even though it cost over $30. !!! They still had some 4 packs, limit 1 per customer, for just under $8.

    At the grocery store, no toilet paper, almost no flour (some small bags left) and no yeast of any kind. Oddly, yesterday, the entire section of potatoes and squash was empty, as was the section of onions and garlic, though some stock of onions showed up later in the day. Pasta and pasta sauces were low, but still in stock. Rice was almost all gone. Plenty of meat, bread, butter, eggs, milk, etc. Just about everything else, fully stocked. The deli counter is empty now, but they pre-cut deli meats and have sealed packages set up instead.

    We normally do a large shop in the city, once a month, to stock up. We typically hit Costco, Walmart and a particular grocery chain that has stuff we can’t find anywhere else. This past month, we split the trip into two, because it was getting difficult to pack the van in one trip. So in the middle of March, we hit Costco. The only thing they were really out of was toilet paper. So was the Walmart. The smaller grocery chain must have just gotten a shipment, because there was a wall of TP in the vestibule – and it was on sale! No mad rush of customers filling their carts. It was a 2-for sale, and people were just buying 2 packs at a time, that’s it.

    I have no idea what we’re going to do for our monthly shop for April. I’m hearing stores are cleaned out in the city, and people are going to smaller towns to buy groceries. I’m hoping things will settle down by the time we need to stock up again. 😦


  10. The Demon Slick says:

    South of Boston. Ordered whole foods delivery from Amazon asked for 3 main courses a steak a piece of fish and some shrimp. No steak no fish and my shrimp were subbed out for some horrid thing called salmon salad. It’s even more gross than it sounds. Anyhow I still had to go to the grocery store. It was awesome. Totally empty except for the shelves. I didn’t look at tp but everything I wanted was there except I had to buy the store brand capellini. Lots of empty pasta spaces. That’s all I saw out. Should have just went there to start with. There’s tall clear plastic windows between you and your cashier. Guy tried to hand money and didn’t see it so that was funny. People staring at the vegetables, looking, looking, just touching one and taking that one. Pretty awesome. People standing back in the checkout line. I like that too.


  11. enduringoak says:

    Monterey, (Peoples Republic of) California – Ventured out today (3/24) to shop for food.
    Safeway shelves were mostly stocked except for TP, sanitizers, eggs, and soups. No limit on people in the large store but it wasn’t crowded. They installed clear plexiglass shields for the checkers which was a good idea. They have been advertising locally and apparently hiring extra staff to clean freezer handles, carts, etc… I saw that in action. A major west coast distribution center for Safeway is 100mi away and the trucks are running.
    Trader Joes had a 30 person max in store. Parking was a breeze. Policy was to let in 5 people at a time from a spaced line in front. Two staff members at the entrance, one to provide hand sanitizer and other wiping cart handles as you entered. Well stocked shelves with normal selection. Both stores had no lines at checkstands. I walked right up to checker at both.


  12. Tuesday night 8 pm in Milwaukee Wisconsin. Parking lot was mostly empty and just a few shoppers inside. Wisconsin goes into stay at home on Wed. BUT!!!!
    PickNSave used to be well stocked but now was obviously shopped to extinction in some areas.
    All the plastic bags were gone at checkouts. Paper bags still there.

    Shoppers with families had obviously ransacked the store earlier in the day as many of the low cost family quick eating items were mostly gone. All of my items were in stock and some fully stocked. I buy more unusual items or cost too much for families. My coconut milk and special bread were fully stocked.

    So the panic shopping finally hit my neighborhood the day before lockdown. I think it will get better in coming days as most seemed to have stocked up for a several weeks now. I am stocked for over a month now as I live alone and our lockdown will last 30 days.

    People can still go outside and walk in my area but the playground for children will now be closed. So I am by myself entirely now and will mow the grass and work in the yard but not go shopping for anything for a month now.


  13. Went to Walmart today. No bathroom Tissue but there was moist wipes. Did have milk, chicken, and produce.


  14. bob says:

    it’s simple economics. when the demand goes up and prices are not allowed to rise you get shortages. if the price of toilet paper was allowed to rise to keep up with the demand there would be toilet paper on the shelves. people may not like paying higher prices but it would prevent shortages. of course there would be idiot politicians screaming about price gouging..


    • bob says:

      either allow prices to rise with demands or put limits on how much you can buy. even with that you would still have shortages, just not as bad.


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