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6 Things That Are Hard to Get Right Now (and Why)

Surging demand and climate change are driving some supply chain woes

spinner image empty shelves and yellow out of stock sign
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At grocery stores and drugstores, some shelves are empty. Waiting lists for other items can drag on for months. And some things are just not available for purchase at all. ​

Everything from climate change to supply chain snarls have created disruptions and left customers searching. Since the start of the pandemic, consumers have seen shortages of eggs, toilet paper, bikes and more. While many supply issues have resolved over time, ongoing or new disruptions are frustrating retailers and consumers.

​Here’s a look at some of the items that are difficult to find right now.

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1. Adderall

Millions of Americans are struggling to fill prescriptions for Adderall, the popular stimulant used to treat conditions including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy. 

In October, the Food and Drug Administration announced a shortage of amphetamine mixed salts, which is a component of Adderall. Seven common Adderall ingredients are on back order, according to the drug shortages page of the FDA website. 

Manufacturing delays developed after Teva Pharmaceuticals, one of the largest Adderall producers, encountered worker shortages in 2021. Labor problems have largely subsided, but increased popularity of the drug has made it difficult for manufacturers to keep pace with new orders. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health found that between 2006 and 2016, prescription stimulant use more than doubled in the United States and 41.4 million Adderall prescriptions were issued in 2021. That's a 10 percent increase from 2020, according to data from IQVIA, a health research firm. 

Experts say the growing popularity can be attributed to a sharp increase in ADHD diagnoses. Maggie Sibley, an associate professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine who studies ADHD, said the shortage has made life difficult for many Adderall users. “There's some evidence suggesting there can be certain withdrawal effects for certain people,” Sibley said in a statement. “Treatment in the field of ADHD is greatly shifting right now.” 

James McKinney, an FDA spokesperson, said that although many Teva-produced doses are on back order, customers are still able to purchase amphetamine mixed salts from other manufacturers. The FDA website predicts some shortages could be resolved within the next month while others may persist until January 2023. ​

spinner image Bottles of Huy Fong Foods Sriracha sauce are displayed on a supermarket shelf
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​2. Sriracha

For months it’s been a challenge to track down that bright red hot sauce known as sriracha, and the scarcity hasn’t abated. Climate change-induced crop shortages crippled northern Mexico’s harvest of chili peppers, which sriracha’s producers use to make their distinctive and much-loved hot sauce.

Restaurants, grocery stores and consumers have had a hard time getting their hands on the addictive condiment. In an April letter sent to customers from the leading sriracha production company, Huy Fong Foods, executives said that drought conditions affecting the quality of chili peppers had made it impossible to produce its products. The company said many purchase orders would be on hold and did not accept any new orders over the summer. When reached by phone, a Huy Fong Foods representative confirmed there is still a shortage of sriracha.

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Jason Marston, a commerce manager at Sonoran Spice in Scottsdale, Arizona, a company that sells sriracha to retail and wholesale customers, says he is still receiving out-of-stock notifications for many sriracha products. The shortage has had a ripple effect, he says.

“Shortages have had flow-on effects beyond the original sriracha brand,” Marston says. “It caused an increase in demand for alternative brands and products.”

Droughts in Mexico early this year lowered the yields of red jalapeño chili harvests there, according to Guillermo N. Murray-Tortarolo, who studies climate and ecosystems at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Red jalapeño chili peppers are a featured ingredient in sriracha.

Murray-Tortarolo says Mexico is likely to face more severe droughts through early 2023, which could create a longer-term sriracha scarcity. “If Huy Fong foods still relies its sriracha production on jalapeños from the region, it is likely we will see a new shortage by the end of the year,” he said in an email.

spinner image A box of Tampax Pearl tampons are seen on a shelf at a store

3. Tampons

Pictures of empty feminine product shelves across the United States have gone viral in recent months as consumers struggle to find tampons. ​

Social media users have taken to Reddit, Twitter and internet LISTSERVs to discuss the shortage, citing out-of-stock signs, long wait times for new supplies and rising prices. ​

Walgreens stores are still “experiencing some temporary brand-specific tampon shortages in certain geographies,” according to a company spokesperson who added that “while we will continue to have products at shelf and online, it may only be in specific brands while we navigate the supply disruption.”​

CVS reserves the right to impose quantity limitations on select products in the event of tampon shortages, according to a spokesperson. ​

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Tampon industry executives have told media outlets that the shortages are due to high demand coupled with inflation and rising production costs. Demand for tampons increased sharply at the beginning of the pandemic as customers bought in bulk. Meanwhile, broader supply chain disruptions — including shipping delays, factory closures and labor shortages — have made it harder, and more expensive, to procure the materials necessary for manufacturing tampons

spinner image Kendamil Baby Formula shortage sign due to supply chain issues
UCG/Getty Images

4. Baby formula​

​Baby formula shortages have persisted throughout 2022 after initial supply problems emerged at the beginning of the year. Those early disruptions came after health care manufacturer Abbott Nutrition recalled formula produced in Michigan factories that had been linked to bacterial infections in infants. This left parents and grandparents hunting for needed formula. ​

At the start of October, about 59 percent of baby formula products were still out of stock nationwide, according to Datasembly, a firm that tracks product pricing and supplies. Baby formula hit a peak of 86 percent out-of-stock levels in late May, according to Datasembly CEO Ben Reich. ​

“The inventory situation is still in a difficult position, but our data demonstrates that the manufacturers and the full supply chain are hard at work to restore inventory levels,” Reich says. ​

The government implemented a range of reforms to help alleviate severe formula shortages over the summer. The Biden administration invoked the Defense Production Act to give formula makers more access to ingredients and packaging to increase production, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture adapted its program for low-income mothers to allow purchases of a wider range of formula brands. ​

5. Beer

An extinct underground volcano in Mississippi is one of the main culprits behind a beer brewing supply chain crisis that threatens to disrupt the industry. In August, officials from the Jackson Dome — a defunct volcano and one of the main sources of carbon dioxide for breweries — announced that a contamination issue was affecting supply.​

CO2 is used to carbonate beer and clean brewery tanks. As it has become scarce, beer production costs have risen dramatically. ​

Bart Watson, the chief economist for the Brewers Association, noted that “none of these factors are really limiting production as much as they’re causing disruptions or delays or increasing costs.”​

Customers should be able to find beer on shelves but may notice increased prices or limited supplies due to shortages, Watson says. In addition to CO2 problems, Watson says breweries are still struggling with a shortage of aluminum cans and disruptions to grain exports stemming from the war in Ukraine. ​

6. Cars

Persistent semiconductor chip shortages continue to affect the new and used car markets. The onset of the pandemic in March 2020 shuttered many car factories, but demand for semiconductors skyrocketed as millions of people purchased personal electronics to work from home.​

Since then, auto sales have increased dramatically, but carmakers still can’t find enough semiconductor chips to install in new cars, says Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at Edmunds, a firm that tracks the auto industry.​

“It just takes time for [supply] to build because dealers, from what I hear, are just selling cars as soon as they arrive,” Caldwell says. “I think inventory should improve, but it’s still going to be tough. There’s just so much demand.”​

In August, the average new car price was $48,301, a 10.8 percent increase from the same time in 2021, according to Kelley Blue Book. ​

Both Toyota and Honda have announced they will not be able to meet production goals for late 2022 because of chip shortages. Semiconductor chips are crucial to the functioning of many electronic features in cars, such as automatic braking and dashboard touchscreens. ​

These trends have affected the used car market as well. Used car prices decreased in the last two months but continue to far exceed prepandemic levels, according to the consumer price index. ​

Kelly Anderson is a contributing writer who covers features and political issues. He has written for DCist, the Society for Human Resource Management and Georgetown Magazine. ​

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