As a small business owner, I find it is very important to understand the costs and trends that will affect my business and my bottom line. With the ever-increasing turbulence in the world causing new stresses (weather, energy, economic) and more people becoming informed of our predicaments, I routinely reach out to my suppliers to get their feedback on their production status and future outlook.
Here is my perspective on current trends relating to food products for shelf-stable food reserves and resiliency provisions in general. In the 37 years that I have been in the natural foods, outdoor recreation, and emergency preparedness industries as a retailer and manufacturer, I have experienced a number of fluctuations and factors that have influenced the availability and pricing of foods and supplies for preparedness. A number of current factors and converging events are affecting the preparedness marketplace today and potentially in the near future.
In addition to my own present-day observations and experience as a retailer of food reserves and preparedness products, I have very recently surveyed a number of suppliers, processors and manufacturers for their assessment of current conditions in the marketplace and wish to share the results with you here.
Appraisals, reports, and insights regarding the state of the industry
- The numerous and diverse potential scenarios associated with emergency and disaster preparedness is so pervasive in contemporary culture that a broad spectrum of citizens have begun to take some form of action. Others are acutely aware of the probable dangers and are waiting for a significant triggering event to act.
- If a serious event were to occur, fence-sitters and those who have done nothing to prepare would overwhelm preparedness suppliers, manufacturers, and normal retail outlets. Products will be sold out or long lead times will prevail. The nature of the triggering events will determine the availability of preparedness supplies for both the short and long terms.
- Preparedness niche companies and their suppliers have a limited supply of goods on hand during normal business activity. At all levels of the supply chain there is a restricted amount of products available. Y2K, hurricanes, and international disasters have all been testaments to disruptions in certain product availability. A widespread and prolonged emergency will have a devastating effect on the availability of goods and services. This is especially true of specialty food processors.
- The mainstream media will not accurately depict the real state of affairs regarding the current conditions in our society. This relates to politics, the economy, financial issues, government action and inaction, weather effects, and anything that would be valuable for citizens to know so that they can prepare in advance for shortages. Information is significantly manipulated, controlled, and fabricated. This includes what you hear and what you don’t hear.
- The current drought has had some effect on food prices and availability, but not catastrophically. The increases in costs have already been factored in as they relate to commodity futures. Corn, soybeans, and wheat were the crops most affected by the drought, as were potatoes and to a smaller extent other vegetables and fruits.
- A record corn crop was initially anticipated, so the effect of the drought could have been worse. NOTE: 40% of the U.S. corn crop goes for ethanol.
- Currently the price of most beans has dropped some due to good yields in North Dakota, where 2/3 of the nation’s beans are grown. Availability of beans and other grains is good.
- Rice prices and availability are stable.
- Freeze-dried food processors are very busy and are experiencing an increasing demand for fruit and vegetables from non-preparedness manufacturers. This is causing shortages in some products. The drought has not substantially affected fruit and vegetables.
- There has been a shortage in some “ready” or “no-cooking-required” ingredients that are necessary for entrée and blended recipes. Many of these ingredients use non-freeze-drying technology to enable a no-cooking requirement.
- Quality domestic food ingredients are becoming more difficult to source. It is essential that consumers do diligent research to establish trust with reputable manufacturers. Many current preparedness food packers have succumbed to using lower-quality imported and processed foods.
- Currently, other vital preparedness provisions – electronics, medical, tools, water filters, and such, are in adequate supply. Last year at this time there were shortages.
- Prices have risen in many sectors due to a multitude of factors such as transportation, packaging (paper prices have seen a steep increase), cost of benefits to employees, fuel, raw materials, regulations unfavorable to small business, and lack of credit. Prices are expected to continue to rise, and with any new detrimental financial event they will rise dramatically.
- As shortages begin to appear, lead times for fulfillment will increase. There are examples of shortages and back orders piling up that caused 16-week delays in delivery.
- The current debilitating state of our nation and the attitudes of despair of our citizens are unprecedented in my lifetime.
- I and others see a substantial spike in demand for preparedness food and supplies from possibly right before to definitely after the November election. Negative reaction to the outcome of the election will be momentous – no matter who wins. We will soon know how serious the reaction will be, what form it will take, and what governmental actions will be executed.
Currently food products and other supplies are available. However, there are a multitude of very volatile factors that could trigger a substantial increase in demand of preparedness supplies. A very difficult question to answer, although it is discussed frequently is: How will a crisis effect fulfillment of essential goods and services?
During Y2K, there were specific dates as to a potential problem and specific remedies that could be addressed and possibly implemented. When citizens realized that problems had been addressed, demand for preparedness goods subsided. It was the unknown consequences of a potential computer calamity and the perceived resolution of those problems that triggered the fluctuations in demand and supply.
The unknown consequences of the myriad of potentially devastating scenarios being discussed currently are not so easily resolved, nor are the timing markers so easily recognized. There is so much uncertainty associated with current events that folks are either in denial or on edge waiting for a significant triggering event before they act. And when they do, preparedness suppliers, warehouse retailers, and numerous provision dealers will be inundated.
I and numerous other observers of current events don’t ask if a catastrophe will happen – but when. Then we ask: How long will it last? How devastating will it be? How will the population cope with a dramatic lifestyle change? How many will be prepared? What will those who are not prepared do, and who will they rely upon? All are important questions to consider and think about.
Now is the time to get off the fence. As Chris would say: Better to be a year early than a day late. Get peace of mind with having preparations in place now so you can weather the storms on the horizon.
~ Denis Korn
Since 1975, Denis Korn has been a leader and trendsetter in the natural foods, outdoor recreation, and emergency preparedness industries. He has founded and developed companies involved in manufacturing, distributing, and retailing. Mr. Korn is an acknowledged authority on food and water emergency planning and his knowledge of specialty foods and preparedness resources is extensive. Currently he devotes his energies to PrepareDirect, which specializes in essential emergency and outdoor adventure supplies, and Learn To Prepare, his blog of important and crucial information and guidance.