supply chain

Supply Chain Issues Impact Availability of Some Pet Food Items

Many pet owners have recently been seeing empty shelves in pet food aisles

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Shelves at the pet food aisle are looking bare recently, leaving some pet owners scrambling to find the foods their animals need.

It's a shortage issue that stems from the global supply chain woes that continues to affect nearly every industry, including pet products.

"It is very unusual," said Debra Pierce as she walked out of a pet store in Waltham, Massachusetts. "The shelves are empty."

Pierce said she hoped to find a certain kind of food for her dogs.

"I could only find one can of this particular food that they like, and one big bag of this. A couple of small bags, but not what they normally have," she said.

Some pet owners are finding it harder to find the variety or the brands they typically shop for.

Laura Axford hasn't had any luck finding the only type of canned food her two cats eat.

"Our cats are very picky, so certain things they like, they just can't get a hold of at the moment. And it's kind of crazy," said Axford.

"Demand for goods started going through the roof," noted Yossi Sheffi, director of the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics and a chain supply professor.

Sheffi said the pandemic has led to an increase in pet adoptions, and therefore an increase in pet spending. Pair those two trends with the disruption of the global supply chain, and the result is a shortage in pet food.

"When this issue starts, people start hoarding, people start buying everything in sight just to make sure they are not going to run short, and this, of course, exacerbates the situation," said Sheffi.

The situation is especially impacting canned foods due to the shortage in aluminum, he added.

Marissa Sheehy opened Busy Paws Pet Supply in Westwood two months ago.

"During COVID, I had time to think, and figured I'd give it a shot," she said.

Her greatest challenge isn't stocking her shelves, but competing with others.

"For me, it has just been price, price increase for customers and for myself," she said.

The hike in pet food prices is also impacting Kenneth Gonsalves' Acushnet Pet Food Pantry.

"Definitely, we've been at a downturn for, I would say, since the fall," said Gonsalves. "There's been less donations."

The pandemic has led more people to lean on his farm-stand-turned-pet-food-pantry, while, at the same time, people are finding it harder to give away their pet food.

The Pet Food Institute, a pet food industry advocate, said earlier this month, "PFI is actively communicating with the federal government about these disruptions and advocating for solutions to address and improve the U.S. supply chain … We encourage shoppers to only purchase the amount of food they would regularly need."

Sheffi believes this shortage could last at least another six months. And even when the supply chain issues are gone, he believes the high prices may stick around.

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