Hey Tampa Bay, where are our Uncrustables? And other snacks gone AWOL

We all know about large consumer items that have been hard to get in the COVID-19 crisis, such as cars and furniture. But what about our grocery store favorites?
Where have all the Uncrustables gone?
Where have all the Uncrustables gone? [ SUE CARLTON/Times ]
Published Oct. 6, 2021|Updated Oct. 6, 2021

There’s a particularly plaintive pandemic-related consumer complaint currently playing out on Facebook and Twitter:

Oh, Uncrustables. Where have you gone?

If you are unfamiliar, Uncrustables are crustless sandwiches made by Smucker’s, crimped at the edges and filled with peanut butter and jelly, jam or honey. (Other varieties exist, but diehards will tell you these are the ones that matter.) Uncrustables have amassed what appears to be a cult following of voracious teenagers, busy parents and devotees of easy comfort foods.

Some who, according to social media posts, stand in frozen food aisles staring at emptied shelves.

“Little did I know these little pockets of goodness would become so valuable and so elusive,” local fan Angela Soiferman told me via email.

“This is the last thing parents of picky eaters need to hear right now,” recently wrote under the headline: Is There an Uncrustables Shortage?

Okay, so not everyone gets the angst. “If only a peanut butter and jelly sandwich weren’t such a complicated recipe,” someone responded dryly on Facebook.

And yes, there are bigger things to worry about. (Way bigger.) But that isn’t really the point, is it? Everyone’s craving normalcy these days, even if it’s just a familiar snack.

And it’s certainly not just Uncrustables. Tampa Bay Times readers report not being able to find their favorite color sports drink, variety of frozen waffle or carb-smart ice cream bars, to name only a few.

Blame supply, demand and the pandemic, which caused a huge spike in people eating at home. Last year, CNN Business was reporting on brands like Oreo cutting back on their wackiest flavors and food businesses temporarily whittling down product offerings to speed up production of their most popular ones.

Like everyone else, they’re working to get back to normal, but grocery stores still don’t seem as steadfastly stocked as in The Before Times.

A J.M. Smucker Co. representative told me via email that they have “largely” been able to meet increased demand by adding capacity and improving efficiency. A lot of factors can affect distribution, and some locations may see “varying levels of availability for certain products in the short-term,” the email said. In a recent Twitter response to a bereft customer, Smucker’s said the company hoped to have the most popular varieties of Uncrustables “back on shelves soon” and suggested “speaking with the manager at your retailer for the best availability information locally!”

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And here’s belVita responding on Facebook to a consumer lamenting a lack of a certain flavor of its breakfast biscuits: “Our team is working hard to make sure your favorites are back on your local shelves soon! In the meantime, try checking with online retailers such as Target, Walmart or Amazon.”

Me, I had no luck finding PB&J Uncrustables at four local grocery stores, then located a stash at a South Tampa Winn Dixie. (Score!) So for now, we forage on for these small bites of normalcy.

“Be patient,” advises Robert Hooker, an associate professor who teaches courses in supply chain management, market research and marketing strategy at the Muma College of Business at the University of South Florida. “We’re living in unprecedented times.”