Finding workers in some tight-labor markets has gotten so tough that some convenience store operators are reportedly poaching workers from their competitors.

“Handing out business cards to swipe the best people is real,” noted Jeff Lenard, vice president, strategic industry initiatives for the National Association of Convenience Stores.

With the supply chain disruptions, he added, even some of the biggest and best c-stores had significant out of stocks at one point or another. One chain even posted signs that said, “Sorry we don’t have your favorite product. Maybe you can find a new favorite product.”

In some cases, Mr. Lenard said, bakers and snack makers who have capacity might find opportunities for growth in their backyards.

“That’s where local can play a role,” he said. “As the national and international supply chain is getting repaired, there could be a way to fill in with some local businesses that may not have normally played a role in your stores.”

Henry Lopez, plant manager, United Dairy Farmers (UDF) said the Cincinnati plant for the regional c-store chain had to manage its ingredient and packaging supplies through a variety of delays and shortages over the past year.

“We had to increase the number and identify new supply chain partners because existing ones aren’t able to meet our requirements and needs because they are having a lot of labor issues and supply chain challenges with their raw materials,” he explained.

The Cincinnati-based company has also invested in labor-saving equipment, such as new positive-pump donut fillers, which are faster and more accurate than previous equipment. In addition to new, larger trucks to add distribution efficiencies, UDF is adding voice-picking technology and getting away from paper to enhance the accuracy of deliveries.

Nick Sayegh, managing director, International Delights, noted the Clifton, NJ-based pastry and sweet goods producer has been contacted by several retailers and foodservice operators to serve as a second supplier for certain bakery items.

“Even if we didn’t have the business ourselves, because of all of the labor shortages, the freight issues and supply chain in general, a lot of retailers and foodservice operators are looking for a second supplier,” he said. “Let’s say they’re getting two muffin varieties from the same company. They now want to split the business between two suppliers so that they don’t run out of muffins on any given day. Because of supply chain and pricing, we’re seeing more retailers contacting us so they have another option.”

He added that supply chain disruptions range from ingredients to packaging with all kinds of shortages with film and paper products like cases and cartons.

“It has been a never-ending problem in the past two years, and it hasn’t fully resolved itself,” Mr. Sayegh said. “We still get back-ordered on almost every delivery with shortages and delays in packaging supplies.

This article is an excerpt from the November 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Convenience Stores, click here.