Candy shortage? Stark shops say not here, but buy early for holiday-branded packaging

Is there a shortage of candy?

Hershey’s started causing panic when he hinted at a candy shortage for Halloween in July.

Michael Buck, Hershey’s CEO, said in July in a quarterly call with investors that the Pennsylvania-based chocolate company faces “capacity constraints.”

But then the chocolate company switched gears, stating that consumers shouldn’t worry about empty shelves.

“…we will all still be able to enjoy our favorite Hershey’s treat this Halloween; these candies may be dressed up in everyday packaging in exchange for Halloween-inspired or seasonal designs,” Hershey spokesperson Ashley Pollart told USA TODAY in an email.

Enough back and forth to confuse consumers, who hope to stock up on sweets for Halloween and the upcoming holiday season.

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Labor shortage is the real problem

Locally, chocolate makers and grocers seem to have problems with labor shortages rather than an actual shortage of ingredients.

“The #1 problem I hear from many sellers and businesses all over the country is with a lack of labor to produce the goods and services needed,” Joe Wagner, owner and president of Wagoner Chocolates in North Canton, told E-mail.

Jason Hostettler, a grocery buyer at Buehler’s Fresh Foods, which has two locations in Stark County, agreed that the problem was a labor shortage.

“Essentially, it’s just about transportation and manpower to actually load the product onto the trailers to get to us. I don’t think it’s a shortage of ingredients and an actual lack of product. It’s just the resources to make that happen,” Hostettler said.

Hostettler said Buehler’s had some tough times keeping shelves stocked, with tough weeks here and there, especially when its supplier warehouse has cancellations. He also stated that not always the same items are out of stock.

“It’s like rotating stock. Sometimes it’s cat food. Sometimes it’s dessert sometimes it’s ramen noodles. It never ends, it seems,” said Hostetler.

But he stated that he did not panic, and that things were getting better.

“I really don’t feel - no matter what the food category - I don’t panic. I know you hear that, and it’s probably because a customer may not be able to get exactly what they want, but the fill rates from our supplier, are steadily improving every week,” Hostettler said. “Basic groceries, we’re probably getting 80% of what we order. During the pandemic, it was low in the 1940s. So it’s been greatly improved. There might not be a particular flavor to something that doesn’t come occasionally.”

“I don’t panic. I feel really good about what we have on hand.”

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Prepare groceries and chocolates in Stark County for delays and shortages

Over the past two years, Wagoner has struggled to secure supplies as well, noting that “supply chain lead times have been dangerously extended in many cases.”

He prepared for the busy season by thinking ahead and expecting these supplier delays to continue.

“Fortunately, we anticipated and secured our needs for this season nine to 18 months in advance,” Wagner said.

Daily supplies are scarce, he said, but most arrive on time. The biggest uncertainties relate to the repair of machine parts.

“Usually, parts that were zero to 14 days see a lead time of three to six to nine months in some cases, with almost no next day services from around the world due to unavailability,” Wagner said.

But this has not discouraged the chocolate industry.

“We expect to make more chocolate this season,” Wagner said. “We have invested heavily in new equipment from our vendor partners around the world, which allows us to manufacture the desired quantity and quality of chocolate.”

Hostettler also doesn’t expect to run out of Buehler’s holiday candy, but has a backup plan if it does.

“Holiday candy is a little different because seasonality changes a lot. I don’t think running out of seasonal candy is a bad thing, but even if we run out of Halloween Kit-Kats, we’ll have Kit-Kats regularly,” Hostettler said. “There would never be a complete lack of candy, if that made sense.”