Why your favorite bottle of ‘holiday spirit’ might not be on the shelf

Demand for alcohol continues to be up during the pandemic. However, sometimes the demand is outpacing supply, which, in a cruelly twisted full circle, is being constrained by the pandemic.

The same problems other imported goods are having getting on store shelves are also impacting imported alcohols. But even finding that domestically made bottle of alcohol isn’t always easy — because the maker of your favorite spirit is having trouble finding the bottle to put it into.

“Bottles and raw materials are in short supplies,” said Valerie Hubbard, a senior public relations specialist for Virginia’s Alcohol Beverage Control Authority. “Many of our suppliers have indicated glass and key raw materials for plastic closures are scarce.”

Literally every aspect of making the bottle, much less getting your drink of choice into the bottle, is harder than it used to be.

“Raw materials are also experiencing labor shortages, putting additional pressures on their ability to produce a finished product,” said Hubbard. Manufacturers around the world are also dealing with rising COVID cases, impacting their factories and the ability to make things.

But even after all of that gets sorted out, getting the product to the stores is harder than it used to be, too.

“The trucking industry is also experiencing its own set of challenges due to the pandemic,” said Hubbard. “There are more loads than available trucks to haul the freight.”

The number of available drivers is being impacted by quarantines and illness, she said.

Now, the ability of stores to keep inventory stocked varies over time. Virginia had more product out of stock in its stores back in January (250 out-of-stock products) than it did as of last week (184 out-of-stock products).

“Supply chain disruptions are expected to continue throughout the holiday season,” said Hubbard. “We are cautiously optimistic that customers will find what they need in our stores. If consumer demand is much higher than a supplier anticipated for certain products, you may have to purchase a different sized bottle, select a different variety or try a different brand.”

If there’s one brand in particular you like that isn’t in stock, Hubbard said experimenting could be fun.

In Virginia, you can go online to see if what you’re looking for is in stock. You can also call the store you’re going to ahead of time to see if they have what you want.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow WTOP on Twitter and Instagram to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2021 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up