Skip to content

Why So Many of Your Favorite Foods Are Quietly Vanishing from Shelves

These groceries were sparse during coronavirus, and now we know that some will never return to grocery store shelves.
Empty shelves in supermarket

Progresso, Amy's Kitchen, Frito-Lay, Campbell Soup, Kraft Heinz, Coca-Cola, Hershey… the list goes on. These are just a few of the big food businesses to announce that they would be cutting back on their product offerings—and discontinuing many items for good.

It all started—as many things now have—with coronavirus. Whether it was due to social distancing guidelines or supply chain issues, countless manufacturers were forced to halt production on a significant chunk of their product offerings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, they focused on producing only the most popular, easiest-to-produce, and fastest-moving items.

As a result, you may have noticed that your favorite products, like Amy's Kitchen Roasted Vegetable Pizza, quietly vanished from grocery store shelves over the past few months. And the veggie pizza wasn't its only product to disappear. In total, Amy's Kitchen had to reduce its offerings from 228 to just 71 products during the pandemic, according to Bloomberg. (Luckily, the vegetable pizza is now back on the menu after the company rejiggered its manufacturing line to ensure proper social distancing protocols could be followed.)

STAY INFORMED: Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest food news delivered straight to your inbox.

Now, manufacturers are saying that these changes won't be temporary. The Wall Street Journal reports that many big food brands are making these cuts permanent in a bid to streamline their offerings, trim the fat, and because producing many of these grocery items just isn't feasible while adhering to social distancing guidelines in manufacturing facilities.

For example, PepsiCo stopped producing 20% of its products during the COVID-19 crisis, according to the WSJ. Steven Williams, CEO of PepsiCo, told the WSJ that Frito-Lay will likely emerge from the pandemic with 3% to 5% fewer products. The WSJ reports that PepsiCo "is taking the opportunity to discontinue some items that have few fans or are complicated to produce […] making its factories and distribution network more efficient." (Speaking of discontinuing items, remember these 33 Super Popular Snacks From Your Childhood That Are Discontinued?)

While coronavirus spurred this massive pruning of grocery items, there may be another reason why manufacturers are coming to terms with discontinuing a large chunk of their products: "The Paradox of Choice." Commonly used by consumer psychologists, "The Paradox of Choice" is where shoppers become paralyzed when they have dozens of similar options to choose from. (That was actually our inspiration for going through Progresso's 89 soups to pick the 10 worth buying.) How do you know whether you should buy the chunky, hearty, heart-healthy, or homestyle chicken noodle soup? Is one truly better than the other?

Because of this, executives said the pandemic "forced them to reconsider whether American consumers need such vast choices that sometimes overburden factories and stores," according to the WSJ. Something tells us that consumers don't really need the option to have buttermilk, homestyle, thick and fluffy, or original waffles…

Food manufacturers aren't the only companies cutting back. We've also seen this trend in the restaurant industry, with chains like McDonald's, IHOP, and Subway axing anywhere from two to multiple dozens of menu items. So in addition to never seeing your favorite foods on grocery store shelves, you should also prepare yourself for disappointment by finding out the 15 Fast-Food Menu Items You Might Never See Again.

Eat This, Not That! is constantly monitoring the latest food news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed (and answer your most urgent questions). Here are the precautions you should be taking at the grocery store, the foods you should have on hand, the meal delivery services and restaurant chains offering takeout you need to know about, and ways you can help support those in need. We will continue to update these as new information develops. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date.
Olivia Tarantino
Olivia Tarantino is a senior editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in nutrition, health, and food product coverage. Read more