How Food Shortages Could Change The Ingredients Of Your Favorite Foods

As any terri-fried egg will tell you, you have to break a few of them to make an omelet. But what if you also had to break the bank to make that omelet with your favorite aged cheddar and bacon? Maybe your terrified wallet would tell you to buy cheaper cheese. Perhaps you'd scrap the pig strips or replace them.

That wasn't just a mental eggs-ercise about making compromises. As you've probably been told by countless articles and your trembling omelet wallet, food is getting increasingly expensive and, in some cases, decreasingly available. In the age of COVID, cracks in the supply chain forced businesses to shell out more money for harder-to-get ingredients or forgo getting them at all. For instance, Jennie Mitchell, owner of the Maine-based Brady's Restaurant, told Insider in 2021 that suppliers sent meat patties that were a quarter of the size of what she ordered. Supplier swaps compromised the quality of Brady's salad dressings as well.

Food manufacturers have made less-dramatic adjustments. In May 2020, The Washington Post explained that food shortages had grown so onerous up to that point in the pandemic that the FDA relaxed labeling regulations five times, permitting – among other things – "minor" ingredient substitutions or removals that wouldn't have to be reflected on labels. Fast-forward to 2022, and it seems that food shortages are still impacting how products are made.

Food formulas get rewritten or re-rewritten

During a March 23 earnings call for General Mills, North America Retail President Jon Nudi dropped some naked truths about the company has adapted to supply limitations. Per a transcript published by Seeking Alpha, Nudi revealed, "We've adjusted formulations. In some of our products, we've reformulated over 20 times year-to-date. Every time you make an ingredient change, you have to change the formulation, which is obviously a lot of work ..." The executive highlighted that during the third quarter, things were "particularly challenging" as they pertained to "RBG, pizza, and hot snacks, so things like fats and oils and starch and packaging." (Supply Chain Dive points out that "RBG" refers to baked and refrigerated items.)

General Mills boasts a smorgasbord of brands, including Totino's, Bisquik, Pillsbury, and about a billion and one different kinds of cereal, to name a few. So good luck trying to suss out which particular items got modified or will be. It's interesting to note, though, that back in May 2020, Redditors wondered whether the recipe for Totino's pizza rolls had changed – and not for the better. "100% they changed the recipe. They aren't as flavorful as they were back in the day, kind of bland to be honest," remarked a commenter. Whether this perceived change actually occurred or was driven by ingredient shortages we can't say. But as companies struggle to fill ingredient voids, it seems that adjustments are unavoidable.