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Why You're Seeing Less of Your Favorite Foods on Grocery Store Shelves

Food producers and grocers are being more selective with their offerings—here's why.
supermarket aisle

At the beginning of the pandemic, people were flocking to grocery stores to stock up, largely, on non-perishables. With restaurants mostly closed—except for those that remained open for takeout and/or delivery—consumers were spending more on groceries than they ever had before.

In fact, at the end of March, grocery shoppers exceeded their previous week's household spend by an average of 33%, according to the FMI-The Food Industry Association's annual U.S. Grocery Shoppers Trends study. The weekly grocery bill per household surged from an average of $120 to $161 between March 21 and April 2.

Weekly grocery trips by household also increased from an average of 2.7 trips per week pre-pandemic to 3.6 trips during it, the study found. However, 40% of shoppers said they were visiting fewer grocery stores, indicating they were prioritizing convenience over finding a variation of groceries. At the same time, grocers have adopted a similar mindset: less is more efficient. 

With a surge in grocery shopping, food manufacturers have been working around the clock to make sure they're producing enough of the foods that have been flying off shelves. On the other hand, less popular, more obscure options from brands haven't been prioritized in terms of production, and therefore, are not being replenished on grocery store shelves. For example, Mondelez, the maker of Oreos, noticed a surge in sales for regular Oreos compared to some of its nontraditional flavors, such as red velvet and birthday cake. It then makes sense why they would cool off on pumping out these less popular products.

As food brands have scaled back on producing multiple options of the same food (think: a family size of Oreos versus a single-serve pack), stores have also been more selective about which items they're restocking their shelves with.

Having an array of options to choose from, it seems, can make the grocery shopping experience longer for shoppers. And for workers, having to restock the shelves with so many different kinds of the same products takes time away from disinfecting surfaces and other common touchpoints in the store.

By removing less popular (and less profitable) foods from shelves, retailers are able to order more of the items that have been consistently favored among consumers.

John Ross, CEO of IGA stores, explains this in an interview with Food Dive, "We all did great with less, so now it's time to think about how we move forward."

So, if you notice your local grocer hasn't been as fully stocked as it once was with every kind of product under the sun, this may be the reason.

For more, check out All of the Beloved Grocery Items That Are Secretly Being Discontinued.

Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the news editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and drink coverage, and breaking down the science behind the latest health studies and information. Read more