Britain’s beloved crisps disappear from shelves as 1 in 3 shops run low on supplies

·Freelance Writer
·4-min read
Crisps have been noticeably absent from supermarket shelves in recent weeks. (Natalie Marchant)
Crisps have been noticeably absent from supermarket shelves in recent weeks. (Natalie Marchant)

Shops are running out of one of the UK's favourite snacks.

According to government statistics, one in three shops in the UK are now either low on stocks of multipacks of crisps or have none on their shelves whatsoever.

The figures come amid continuing supply chain issues across the country, with warnings that shoppers face shortages in the run-up to Christmas.

Collectors from Kantar Public gathered information on baskets of goods from up to three different stores across 126 locations between 12 and 15 November.

These individual collectors recorded availability across four categories – none, low, medium and high – before reporting their findings.

Item availability of products in UK stores between 12 and 15 November. (ONS)
Item availability of products in UK stores between 12 and 15 November. (ONS)

They found that 4% of stores had no multipacks of crisps at all, while over a quarter (26%) had low stocks.

Just under a third (31%) had high availability, according to the data.

Why crisps?

The issue around crisp availability was sparked when Walkers revealed earlier this month that an IT glitch was impacting supplies and could continue to do so for a number of weeks. 

The company said in a statement last week: "We’re doing everything we can to increase production and get people’s favourites back on shelves. We’re very sorry for the inconvenience caused.”

However, it is not thought the company will be back up to full capacity until the end of the month.

What else is affected?

The stats also reveal more everyday items that shoppers are struggling to get hold of.

After crisps, paracetamol and ibuprofen were the second and third lowest items across the stores.

Some 5% of stores reported they had no stock of paracetamol – with 12% having a low stock – while 7% had no ibuprofen and 9% had a low stock.

Sparkling water was not available in 2% of stores, while 14% had low stock and 10% of stores had no stocks of frozen turkey, with 5% having a low stock.

Watch: Presents could be in short supply this Christmas

On the other end of the chart, beer had the largest proportion of high availability (71%), with no shortages reported in any stores.

The data comes as many businesses in the UK warn they have been suffering from “acute” staff shortages and counting the cost of the rising cost of fuel and energy – and are increasing their prices as a result.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said its study of 1,000 firms indicated that nine out of 10 manufacturers and three quarters of businesses with more than 50 employees had a shortage of skilled workers in their own business or those in their supply chain.

HGV drivers, engineers, warehouse staff, accountants, chefs and IT technicians were among the skilled staff said to be in short supply – having a knock-on effect on product availability in stores.

Shevaun Haviland, director general of the BCC, said: “These figures present a deeply worrying picture of the difficulties that businesses are currently facing across multiple fronts as supply chain disruption persists.

“Firms are facing huge pressures as they battle to keep on track for Christmas and provide the goods and services the UK needs, but we have yet to see any concrete steps to address these issues.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 19: A sign on empty shelves informs customers of a lack of products at Sainsbury's supermarket, Greenwich Peninsular, on September 19, 2021 in London, England. Gaps in supermarket shelves have appeared more frequently as a shortage of lorry drivers disrupted supply chains. Now, rising energy prices have disrupted the production of C02, a gas critical to the production and transport of meat, bread, beer and more. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images )
A sign on empty shelves informs customers of a lack of products at Sainsbury's supermarket in London. (Getty)

“Unless action is taken soon, firms could be forced to cut back on their capacity or limit the range of products they offer.”

Haviland said the pandemic had also played a part in shortages, with more than 30,000 people having to isolate after testing positive for COVID.

However, shadow treasury minister Bridget Phillipson said the shortages were down to the government, rather than COVID or global problems.

She added: “Despite having years to prepare for Brexit, the Conservatives have no plan to boost skills and jobs for workers in Britain, or to deal with bottlenecks at our borders.”

Empty shelves with no stock on them in a Tesco on 22nd July, 2021 in Leeds, United Kingdom. Several supermarkets in the UK have closed branches temporarily as tens of thousands of staff self isolate after being notified by the British NHS app of close Covid-19 contact, impacting staff and supply chains across the nation in what headlines are calling
Empty shelves with no stock on them in a Tesco in Leeds. (Getty)

A shortage of HGV drivers, that sparked a petrol crisis last month, has caused chaos to supply chains, with supermarkets shelves left bare and fears that Christmas could be impacted for millions of families.

Following reports of potential shortages around, among other things, pigs in blankets and turkeys, shoppers have been warned that Christmas presents could get caught up in the mess.

With a surge in toy-buying in the months leading up to Christmas, shortages are likely to become more acute.

Electrical and homeware goods may be affected as they are shipped in containers from abroad because they are non-perishable and are cheaper to arrive by boat than by plane – meaning they may face being stuck in container jams at UK ports.

Watch: New government supply chain guru dismisses fear of bleak winter

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