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    CM.com Alert: Food Storage Shortage Risk Emerging

    by Adam Taggart

    Friday, December 10, 2010, 3:47 PM

After hearing reports of depleting inventories of pre-packaged, ready-to-purchase stored food, CM.com did a little investigating. It turns out there’s truth behind the rumor.

Yesterday, Zero Hedge observed:

It appears that Mountain House, which is one of the better purveyors of freeze dried food and holds over 30 servings and last for 20 years because they are packed with nitrogen rather than oxygen, is now sold out of all #10 cans. And for those who go to NitroPak, which sells these products, they have the following message:

***CURRENT INVENTORY UPDATE***

There is currently EXTREMELY high demand for all of our Mountain House foods nationwide due to current economic uncertainty and inflation fears. With this increase in demand, our food order processing times have increased also. As Mountain House’s leading distributor, we are receiving huge shipments weekly to fill our customer orders. We are shipping as quickly as we can. Your charge card will not be charged-up until we are ready to process your order. Thank you for your understanding and patience! Harry R Weyandt President

Nitro-Pak is one of the distributors we often recommend to our readers, so we started there. Sure enough, the above inventory update is prominently posted.

I then placed a call to The Ready Store, whose products we link to from the Storing Food section of our ‘What Should I Do?’ guide. They also include a lot of Mountain House products in their food packages. They, too, are seeing high demand, which is affecting their promised shipping times.

In fact, last month had the most demand they’ve seen in their ten years of business. They’re doing their best to fill stored food orders, but are concerned that higher prices and longer wait times are ahead for customers if demand continues rising. 

Next, I called Mountain House. They report this current level of demand is ‘unprecedented’ in their history. On top of that, they feel they usually can anticipate spikes like this given macro events, but this time the arrival and intensity of the demand caught them by surprise. They’ve already stopped selling #10 cans on their own site, and are limiting inventory to their top dealers (like The Ready Store and Nitro-Pak). They’re working overtime to meet demand as best they can, but I sensed they are concerned about their ability to do so if this spike doesn’t abate soon.

I asked both Mountain House and The Ready Store if the new demand was coming from a particular sector or new buyer (e.g. a military contract). Their answer was no; both observe that it’s caused by a groundswell among general consumers who are increasingly concerned about the economy and future stability. Nitro-Pak’s website statement appears to corroborate this.

So what does this mean? First off, what this is *not* is an all-out shortage. No one is thinks it’s time to panic here. Perhaps this demand spike will dissipate soon. Unexpected surges in orders have happened before (though not of this magnitude), and things eventually returned to normal. Orders are still being filled, just more slowly than before.

But the combined suddenness, intensity, and unforeseen nature of the demand is unique and worth noting by the prudent individual. And if it persists – or increases – current prices and availability may be at risk. Hence this alert: if you’ve been planning to start or add to your food stores with pre-packaged offerings, you should consider accelerating your timeline.

And we want to be crystal-clear here: This only affects freeze dried food. There’s nothing to suggest that people who are willing to undergo the time and effort of storing their own food (you know, plastic buckets, Mylar bags, desiccants, etc.) will encounter any problems or delays. But for those who were hoping to simply cut a check and have the big brown truck of happiness come rollup their driveway and take their food storage concerns away, then this news concerns you. For certain there are minor delays afoot, and there will probably be price hikes along the way if the market tightness continues. If things grow even tighter, you may not be able to fulfill your wish lists.

We’ve seen one prior bout of tightness in the freeze dried food market, about a year ago, but this one seems to be slightly more severe. Such things tend to come and go, and it’s entirely reasonable to suspect that this one too will blow over. However we would be remiss in not bringing it to your attention.

We’ll keep our readers abreast of this situation as it resolves or otherwise changes. In the interim, take this alert as a chance to evaluate your own personal level of preparedness around food. How much do you have in supply? What are the most important gaps to address? It’s worth reviewing the Storing Food section of our free ‘What Should I Do?’ guide, if you haven’t recently.

If any of you have any additional insight to offer into the availability of pre-packaged stored food, in your areas or otherwise, please contribute your comments below.

cheers,
Adam

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