Supply Chain Struggles

Empty shelves at a grocery store.

The store has no food, no power, and you’re fresh out of luck! That sinking feeling lives fresh in the minds of way too many people across Texas and the American Southwest. Many of you are likely affected by the uncommonly cold and snowy southern weather. I have friends and family in Texas who have told me about the empty shelves in dark stores. It’s a frightening thought, let alone living through such a disruption!


Supply chains are robust but fragile. The incredible efficiency of modern logistics seems impossible most days. Food supply infrastructure is astoundingly efficient! When was the last time you noticed the different parts of the food production and distribution industry in action during your daily life? You only ever notice when something isn’t there.


The efficiency of the supply chain results in its downfall. The closer the system comes to 100% efficiency the lower prices become but at the same time disruptions are far more evident.


Two significant disruptions exist in the food supply chain right now, especially for the Southwest region. The most obvious is the wintery weather. When snow, ice, and brutal cold combine they shut down traffic, destroy infrastructure, and damage buildings. The weather also causes uncertainty making people buy more than they need “just in case!”


When the electricity goes out at the grocery store, consumers notice. Consumers don’t often think about the next step in the supply chain. The manufacturers are the critical next level.


To all the food manufacturers, thank you for what you do every day! As the weather passes and grocers work overtime to repair damaged stores and restock shelves, we know that you’re working 2 and 3 shifts to produce enough for demand. Keep up the incredible work and know that you are appreciated!


Food manufacturers are also facing another unruly challenge. Ports are deadlocked. Food ingredients are imported from across the globe for use in the prepared meals that make modern life so very convenient. Unfortunately, a global pandemic has reduced the workforce at many ports forcing them to work harder while still falling short of demand. Lead times grew as the ports slowly backed up over the last year, sometimes more than doubling.


Even the best manufacturer can’t make food from thin air. Port backups make the manufacturing business difficult in the best of times. Port backups, during a pandemic, during a once or twice in a lifetime southern winter storm make business nearly impossible!


Even still, food manufacturers go to work. What would you do if the odds were stacked so badly against your business? I’m short for words. One of my colleagues put it this way “Coupled with ever-growing logistical delays, an emphasis on freight for big-box grocers, and widespread power outages causing food to spoil and [go] rancid, I predict that the next few weeks in the food industry, specifically the Southwest, will be ‘exciting’ to say the least.”


If I know anything about the spirit that drives the food industry, I know that food manufacturers won’t quit over logistical delays. They definitely won’t quit because demand is “too high.” There’s no such thing as too much demand, only a challenge that needs conquering!


To all the food manufacturers in Texas, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Tennessee, and the rest of the southern US, suppliers are having a difficult time meeting demand for crucial ingredients. When your suppliers can’t or won’t help you find substitutions or quote excessively long lead times, we’re here to help!


My colleague Alec said it best! “As your company produces to re-stock the shelves, please keep St. Charles Trading in mind. …the entire St. Charles team will do our best to continue to provide excellent customer service so that YOU and YOUR TEAM can turn these chaotic next few weeks into a major win for your company.”


The challenges you’re facing are massive, but you will overcome this. A pandemic hasn’t stopped you yet. The worst winter storm system in decades is a setback but not the end. Logistical delays will pass, and the right supplier partner will help you through till then. On the other side of this struggle there is a new tomorrow. Demand is high and consumers are more willing than ever to try new foods. Take a different perspective on the situation at hand and see the opportunity that waits just beneath the surface of the chaos. Without you, there is no us. Let’s work together to make it out the other side stronger.

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