Are you a fan of oyster crackers?
Do you love to add them to your soup or enjoy them as a snack?
Well, you might have noticed that they are becoming increasingly difficult to find on grocery store shelves.
And it’s not just oyster crackers – many other food items are experiencing shortages due to labor shortages and supply chain issues.
In this article, we’ll explore the reasons behind the shortage of oyster crackers and what you can do about it.
So, grab a cup of soup and let’s dive in!
Is There A Shortage Of Oyster Crackers?
Yes, there is a shortage of oyster crackers in many grocery stores across the country. This shortage is not limited to oyster crackers alone, as many other food items are also experiencing supply chain issues and labor shortages.
The recent invasion of Ukraine by Russia has disrupted supply chains from Europe, and labor shortages continue due to COVID-19 and low wages. Additionally, more people are cooking and eating at home, which has increased demand for certain food items.
These factors have led to limited supplies of food products, including oyster crackers. Some suppliers have had to wait their turn to purchase limited supplies of food, leading to shortages in grocery stores.
The History Of Oyster Crackers
Oyster crackers have been a popular accompaniment to seafood dishes for over a century. The origins of oyster crackers are a point of contention, with different sources claiming different inventors. According to the Westminster Cracker Company, they have been making oyster crackers since 1828. However, Adam Exton, a baker in Trenton, New Jersey, is also credited with inventing the oyster cracker. Exton invented a machine that rolled and docked pastry, which solved the sanitary problems of hand-rolling crackers. His nephew related the history of the oyster cracker in the Trenton Evening Times newspaper on May 31, 1917.
Regardless of their origins, oyster crackers are suspected to have gotten their name due to their association with oyster stew, which used to be a cheap meal available in taverns along the East Coast. Others have mused that their name comes from their round, white, oyster-like appearance. Oyster crackers are made of wheat flour, salt, and butter and do not contain any actual oysters.
The popularity of oyster crackers grew as a craze for oysters developed in the 1860s and 1870s. During the Civil War, the Exton company supplied its crackers to the Union army. In 1887, Christopher Cartlidge bought the Pullen Cracker Company and renamed it Original Trenton Cracker Company. In 1962, after 115 years of rivalry, the Cartlidge family bought the Exton company, making it at last the one and only “Original Trenton Cracker.”
Today, oyster crackers are still a popular accompaniment to seafood dishes and soups. They are also used as a snack and in recipes such as stuffing and meatloaf. Despite their popularity, oyster crackers are currently experiencing supply chain issues and shortages in some grocery stores due to various factors affecting the food industry.
The Current Shortage: What’s Causing It?
The current shortage of oyster crackers, as well as other food items, can be attributed to a combination of supply chain issues and labor shortages. The recent Russian invasion of Ukraine has severely disrupted supply networks from Europe, which has affected the availability of certain food products in the United States.
Moreover, labor shortages due to COVID-19 and low wages have made it difficult for suppliers to produce and move goods. According to Jim Dudlicek, a representative for the National Grocers Association, there simply aren’t enough people to “produce the goods, move the goods, and sell the goods.”
Furthermore, more people are cooking and dining at home due to the pandemic, which has increased demand for certain food items. This has put additional strain on the already limited supplies of food products.
In addition, some suppliers have had to wait their turn to purchase limited supplies of food, leading to shortages in grocery stores. This has been the case with oyster crackers, as well as other food items such as Nabisco saltine crackers.
The Impact On The Food Industry
The shortage of oyster crackers and other food products is having a significant impact on the food industry. Grocers are bracing for potential disruptions, and some are stocking up on alternative products in case production slows down. This disruption is not limited to oyster crackers or Mondelez International Inc. products but extends to other food items as well.
The shortage of oyster crackers has also affected restaurants, particularly seafood houses, where these crackers have been a staple for decades. The disappearance of OTC oyster crackers from many Philadelphia-area seafood houses has forced restaurants to make do with substitute brands. This has led to a search for a bakery that can replicate the original recipe and get the hard, biscuit-like crackers back into production.
The shortage of oyster crackers and other food products is also affecting suppliers and manufacturers. Panorama Foods, which now owns OTC, is looking for a new bakery that can use the original equipment to make the crackers in the classic style. The company is striving for a perfect match with regard to taste and texture, but any minor change in environment, water quality, equipment, or process can have an impact on the finished product.
Moreover, cannibalization is a big problem when working with fresh products and especially products that have a limited number of direct substitutes. Forecasting systems must consider the impact of cannibalization to avoid excess stock and spoilage. Machine learning algorithms’ ability to automatically identify patterns and adjust forecasts accordingly adds enormous value when addressing sales cannibalization.
Alternatives To Oyster Crackers
If you can’t find oyster crackers in your local grocery store, don’t worry! There are several alternatives you can use to substitute for this savory snack. Here are a few options:
1. Premium Saltine Crackers: These mini square crackers are a great substitute for oyster crackers. They have a similar texture and can be used in the same way, especially in dishes like oyster stew and clam chowder.
2. Homemade Crackers: If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try making your own crackers at home. There are several recipes available online that use simple ingredients like flour, butter, and salt. You can even add your own flavors like herbs or spices to make them more interesting.
3. Melba Toast: Melba toast is a type of dry, crisp toast that is often used as a base for appetizers or toppings. It has a similar texture to oyster crackers and can be used as a substitute in dishes like oyster stuffing or seafood dips.
4. Rice Crackers: If you’re looking for a gluten-free option, rice crackers are a great choice. They have a light and crispy texture and can be used in the same way as oyster crackers.
5. Croutons: If you have leftover bread, you can easily turn it into croutons by cutting it into small cubes and toasting them in the oven. They have a similar texture to oyster crackers and can be used as a crunchy topping for soups and salads.
What Can Consumers Do To Help?
As a consumer, there are a few things you can do to help alleviate the shortage of oyster crackers and other food items. One option is to be flexible with your shopping habits and try different brands or substitutes for oyster crackers. You can also consider shopping at different stores or online retailers to find available supplies.
Another way to help is to avoid panic buying and hoarding food items. This behavior only exacerbates the supply chain issues and makes it harder for others to find the products they need. Instead, try to plan your meals and shop for only what you need.
Finally, it’s important to be patient and understanding. The supply chain issues and labor shortages are beyond our control, and it may take some time for them to subside. By being patient and understanding, we can all do our part to help mitigate the effects of this shortage on our grocery stores and communities.