Bubble tea drinkers could be out of luck as a shortage of boba and other products may make the sweet drink hard to find

bubble tea
Bubble tea. bebe14/Shutterstock

  • Bubble tea supplies are running low amid a shortage caused by backed-up US ports.
  • Tapioca pearls, popping bobas, and flavored powders and syrups are stuck in transit.
  • The products are the latest among many that have faced a shortage during the pandemic.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Your favorite bubble tea shop may not be serving its signature drink for a while as shipping delays are keeping some retailers from getting the supplies to make the sweet beverage.

The shortage started about a month ago, according to Oliver Yoon, the vice president of sales and global marketing for Boba Direct, a Chicago-based nationwide supplier of bubble tea products.

US ports on the East and West Coasts have been overwhelmed for months as consumer spending has increased along with a bevy of logistical issues amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Boats, carrying tens of thousands of shipping containers, are waiting outside ports.

“It’s a perfect storm really,” Yoon said.

Bubble tea, which has exploded in popularity in recent years, is a Taiwanese milk tea drink with a variety of flavors that features chewy pearls of tapioca. Supply has been tightened for the last month, Yoon said, and it’s not likely to let up until the end of April at the earliest.

Bubble tea products like tapioca pearls, popping bobas, flavored powders and syrups, and disposables, are all stuck in a “huge bottleneck,” said Yoon.

But it’s not just bubble tea. “It’s pretty much any kind of consumer product,” Yoon said.

Starbucks franchises, for example, aren’t able to fulfill customer orders of the new oat milk drink offerings and baristas are even reporting shortages of cups and syrups. Fitness gear, roller skates, and furniture, among other products also have been hampered.

Read more: Apple’s reportedly delaying its next Macs and iPads thanks to a global parts shortage, and it’s a bad sign for the whole tech industry

One bubble tea shop owner named Alex Ou told The San Francisco Chronicle, which first reported on the shortage, that some consumers won’t buy a drink if there’s no boba. “They’re literally here for the boba,” he told the publication.

But consumers just need to be patient, said Yoon. “This is temporary, not forever.”

For retailers selling bubble tea, they’re frustrated, too, said Yoon.

“I get it; they’re a small business, and they’re trying to survive. We’re all in the same situation – just trying to survive,” he said. “COVID really affected the situation with importing. No one anticipated what happened last year; it’s one of these domino effects later on in the future.”

Have you tried to order a food or drink item but were told it was sold out for the time being? Email the reporter of this article at ndailey@businessinsider.com.

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A looming shortage of bacon and hot dogs could leave big cookout plans up in smoke for July Fourth when most Americans are vaccinated

grill dogs
  • Hogs are in short supply ahead of this summer’s pent-up demand for products like bacon and hot dogs.
  • That means hog-meat prices might be higher, and consumers will see fewer discounts.
  • “The whole supply chain has really been squeezed,” said ArrowStream’s Isaac Olvera.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Summer barbecues may taste a little different this year.

Hogs have been in short supply since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic more than a year ago. Now analysts are predicting higher prices and a short supply of pork for foods like hot dogs and bacon as restaurants re-open and summer barbecues resume as vaccinations in the US pick up pace.

The problems are “after-effects of last-year’s disruption,” said Christine McCracken, Rabobank executive director for animal protein.

“This goes all the way back to the start of COVID,” said Isaac Olvera, food and agriculture economist at ArrowStream.

Most Americans will have been able to get the COVID-19 vaccine by July Fourth. But “many consumers still feel more comfortable with outside dining and gatherings, so I suspect grilling out is going to be a very popular activity this summer,” said Anne-Marie Roerink, principal and founder of 210analytics.

With that, McCracken said there’s likely pent-up demand for meat. “BBQs and family gatherings are going to be a nice way of reconnecting and will be a big driver of meat demand in the coming months,” she said.

But because of lower production last year and higher disease losses this past winter, the hog supply has taken a hit, she said, and that’s going to drive prices higher amid the increased demand.

“The whole supply chain has really been squeezed, and unfortunately it does not look like this is going to be something that improves between here and early summer,” Olvera said.

Read more: Experts say brick-and-mortar retailers could rebound post-pandemic – but only if they channel the e-commerce boom back to their physical outposts

The numer of market hogs, piglets, and future piglets, dropped 1.8%, 1.4% and 2.5%, respectively, from March 1 2020 to March 1, 2021, according to Olvera.

The decline means retailers are likely to “price-ration supply” of hog meat, he said, so consumers will see higher prices and fewer discounts to keep stores from running out of stock.

“Bargains on meat might be tough for consumers to find this summer,” McCracken said. “So my advice to consumers would be to stock up when you find a good deal.”

But consumers generally shift their preferences, and retailers change up their promotional strategies, accordingly, said Roerink.

“While prices may be a bit higher, consumers are typically very creative in making adjustments in other areas to host family and friends,” Roerink said.

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Your morning coffee is about to get more expensive

coffee shortage
There’s a coffee shortage.

When it rains, it pours, and when there’s a drought, prices go up.

In this case, the drought is in Brazil and it has the US running low on coffee. That means your morning cup of joe is about to get more expensive.

The drought has decreased crop production just as congested shipping ports have caused US coffee stockpiles to hit the lowest they’ve been in six years, Bloomberg reported. So far, roasters have been relying on their inventories instead of hiking prices, but that will only last so long and wholesale prices have climbed.

Potential losses from the drought could affect half of Brazil’s coffee crops next year, soft commodities expert Judith Ganes told Reuters in December. She said it was hard to determine how badly Brazil’s Arabica beans were hit, but “there will be major failure,” she said. “I saw areas with 100% losses, 50% losses, 30% losses.”

Arabica-coffee futures in New York have increased by nearly a quarter since the end of October, per Bloomberg. And Marex Spectron recently upgraded its global coffee deficit forecast from 8 million bags to 10.7 million bags, citing the drought.

Logistic problems have only compounded the shortage brought on by declining crops. Some facilities in Dinamo, Brazil, told Bloomberg don’t have enough containers to ship out coffee. Some containers and charter vessels aren’t currently available, causing back ups and delays at shipping ports.

David Rennie, head of Nestle’s coffee brands, told Bloomberg it could take two to three years for take-away coffee to return to pre-Covid levels.

But coffee isn’t the only goods shortage hitting the global economy as it reopens this year.

US shipping ports have become unusually congested as imports pick up speed due to surging and unpredictable consumer demand, delaying shipments of all types, from sneakers to meat. Companies struggled to estimate demand correctly, partly explaining the pileup, while factory production was halted off and on during the work-from-home economy of 2020.

The shortage is particularly acute in certain spaces, such as in the semiconductor chips needed to make personal electronics and products with electronic components such as cars. Finally, February’s Texas Freeze suspended much of the US oil sector and the manufacturers who rely on it, making gas harder to come by and things refineries produce, like plastics, more expensive.

That’s not to mention the shortage of things like bikes, fitness equipment, and even lumber, the latter of which has added to already high housing prices. As supply dwindles, all of these things become things Americans could end up paying more for.

But you know what they say, when it rains, it pours.

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