The latest coronavirus related shortage: pepperoni. Higher prices are impacting small pizza shops and potentially your pepperoni pizza habit.
Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse there appears to be a shortage of pepperoni in the U.S. (Can we have nothing?). Bloomberg first reported the shortage of pizza’s most famous topping as prices for the spicy cured meat began to spike.
One of New York’s most popular pizza joints, Emily, revealed it is now paying $6 per pound for pepperoni—up from $4 earlier this year. The same goes for Charlie’s, a popular pizza spot in South Dakota who is also paying roughly twice as much as normal for the topper. These pizza purveyors may eventually have to pass the expense onto customers in many cases, though for now both Charlie’s and Emily’s are taking the hit so as not to risk aggravating customers.
What’s Causing the Pepperoni Shortage?
The reason for the shortage appears to be two-fold. There has been, perhaps unsurprisingly, a major boom in pizza delivery and takeout orders while in-restaurant dining is either suspended or severely hindered due to the pandemic. As proof, Domino’s and Papa John’s both reported significant bumps in sales versus the same period last year, and smaller pizza chains are equally busy slinging pies to hungry community members.
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The other cause appears to be snags and slowdowns in production. Bloomberg also reported that, due to slim profit margins and an involved manufacturing process coupled with many factories not operating at full capacity, pepperoni production has slowed contributing to the shortage. Per the original piece, “Barry Friends, a partner at foodservice consultant Pentallect, said the ingredient’s [pepperoni] labor-intensive process and low-profit margins have made some producers say ‘screw it’ as they streamline operations amid the coronavirus.”
How Long Will It Last?
It’s unclear how long it will take producers to catch up to demand but if factories can begin to restaff at normal pre-pandemic levels that should certainly help. While the pepperoni shortage and spike in prices isn’t great news for ‘roni lovers like myself, it is almost certainly temporary. Other products have similarly fallen victim to shortages during the pandemic due to high demand, including frozen pizza, ground beef, toilet paper, and baking ingredients, but all eventually normalized.
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What About Cheese?
In an interview with a CBS affiliate in Pittsburgh, Rocco Pifferetti, owner of Rocco’s Pizza in Youngwood, PA noted that the price of cheese has also “gone way up.” The causes—high demand, slowed-down production, and the resulting decreased supply—are the same.
Small Pizzerias vs Large Pizza Chains
It is worth noting that large chains like Domino’s and Papa John’s are mostly immune to price hikes thanks to contracts with purveyors negotiated years in advance. Knowing this, you might consider supporting the mom and pop pizza shops whenever possible, which are at much higher risk of folding during an economic downturn such as the one we’re in.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for an alternative topping for your homemade pie, you might try scooping up some other cured meats like dry salami or thick-cut bacon that aren’t facing the same extreme demand. And as long as you can find whole milk and vegetable rennet, you can even make mozzarella at home. It’s a process, but a true pizza lover will always find a way.
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Header image courtesy of Todd Maughan / Getty Images.