New grocery store limits on certain products as demand spikes set in with pandemic surge

KELLY MCCARTHY and SARAH MESSER
·3 min read

As COVID-19 infections increase in the U.S., experts predict that shoppers will start to stock up on a variety of products that could prompt another round of product limits to avoid mass shortages in stores in the coming months.

"We absolutely are starting to see shortages again," Mike Brackett, founder and CEO of Centricity Incorporated, told "Good Morning America."

Patrick Penfield, a professor of supply chain practice at Syracuse University, said that "the main culprits are still popping out, the disinfecting wipes, the paper towels, the toilet paper."

Earlier this year, during the initial coronavirus outbreak, grocery stores placed product purchase limits on items like toilet paper and disinfectant wipes after demand widely impacted supply chains.

PHOTO: A sign indicates a limit on purchases of paper towels in a Target store, Nov. 10, 2020, in Sheridan, Colo. (David Zalubowski/AP)
PHOTO: A sign indicates a limit on purchases of paper towels in a Target store, Nov. 10, 2020, in Sheridan, Colo. (David Zalubowski/AP)

Kroger announced that it would limit purchases of toilet paper, paper towels, disinfecting wipes and hand soap to two per customer last week.

Kroger told "Good Morning America" in a statement that it has "proactively and temporarily set purchase limits to two per customer on certain products" in order to "ensure all customers have access to what they need."

Another grocery store chain, H-E-B, announced purchasing limits in some stores on similar items, as well as rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, first aid and cleaning gloves.

PHOTO: A customer wearing a mask carries his purchases as he leaves a Target store during the coronavirus pandemic, Brooklyn, N.Y., April 6, 2020. (Mark Lennihan/AP, FILE)
PHOTO: A customer wearing a mask carries his purchases as he leaves a Target store during the coronavirus pandemic, Brooklyn, N.Y., April 6, 2020. (Mark Lennihan/AP, FILE)

Other retailers that have implemented similar policies include Publix and Target.

"We think that there's going to be a lot of limits," Brackett said of the early retail restrictions to "hopefully help mitigate" shortages and prevent "stockpiling that we saw before."

But experts assured this is different than what consumers experienced during the first wave earlier this year.

Penfield told "GMA" that unfortunately, "it might just because people might be hoarding" and reiterated that "we have ample amounts of food. So the food supply chain is intact."

"When people go to the grocery store, they're buying larger amounts. So they're not shopping as frequently," he said.

MORE: How to safely grocery shop during coronavirus

On a quarterly earnings call, Clorox announced that it is "still not at a point where we can fully meet ongoing elevated demand."

The company, whose popular products were wiped out due to high demand throughout the pandemic, predicted that the shortages will continue through the end of the year.

VIDEO: How grocery stores will respond to surge in COVID cases (ABCNews.com)
VIDEO: How grocery stores will respond to surge in COVID cases (ABCNews.com)

Ahead of the winter and holidays, experts have already seen high demand for different products than just those staple items.

"You have this perfect storm now where America's supply chains are still recovering from the first wave of panic buying," Brackett said. "And now you have the largest selling season of the entire year on top of that."

While it's unclear if they'll see shortages, experts have also seen a surge in holiday mainstays and nonperishable items like boxed stuffing and canned goods.

Another category that has seen a sales boom are spices, as more people continue to stay home and cook in their own kitchens.

"The spice category has absolutely gone through the roof. So we believe that during this pandemic, there's been a totally different buying pattern and [a] generation that started to cook a lot more than they used to due to necessity," Brackett explained.

Experts said it's important to focus on nonperishables and frozen items, without panic buying, that will last through the holidays.

Since retailers have prepared this time around, staple items in high demand should be more available during this coronavirus surge.

An earlier version of this story was first published on Nov. 10, 2020.

New grocery store limits on certain products as demand spikes set in with pandemic surge originally appeared on goodmorningamerica.com