The past year has led to supply chain issues for boba and other restaurant staples.
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While various bubble tea companies are offering promotionals in honor of National Bubble Tea Day, some establishments are starting to worry about future supply.
Boba pearls, the chewy tapioca balls commonly used for bubble tea, have become one of the latest of many shortages blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic. Delays in exports from Asia have been cited as one of the main reasons, as cargo ships are unable to dock due to logistical issues.
In states like California and Michigan, where bubble tea is the most popular delivery order, the lack of boba is concerning for some storeowners. According to NPR, the shortage could even stretch into the summer.
“Some boba shops are already out. Others will run out in the next few weeks. 99% of boba comes from overseas,” bubble tea company Boba Guys wrote in an Instagram post on April 8.
Boba isn’t the only item in short supply due to the pandemic. Perhaps due to a 287% increase in popularity from last year, restaurants are struggling to meet chicken wing demand with supply. A February article from Restaurant Business Online found that the average price for a pound of chicken wings was $2.65, whereas the price was $1.81 the year prior.
Restaurants are also suffering from ketchup-packet shortages, as The Wall Street Journal reported that packet prices have increased 13% since last January. To keep up with such heavy demand, ketchup supplier Heinz promised to increase production by 25%. But the packets have been so sought-after that some people have turned to ecommerce platforms like eBay to sell them.
Beyond food items, some establishments are struggling to find material such as glass and plastic as pandemic habits have upended pre-COVID supply-and-demand levels. Marketwatch reports that plastic product prices have reached their highest levels in years in the U.S. as supplies tighten. In West Michigan, a shortage of glass pickle containers even delayed the release of Burger King’s chicken sandwiches.
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