There’s certainly been no shortage of shortages in 2022. In fact, there have been so many shortages that Google’s “Year in Search 2022” web page includes a special “Shortages” category. This category consists of the Top 10 types of shortages that people have been searching for on Google throughout 2022.
Now, this wasn’t a list of the shortages that were necessarily the most severe or had the most impact. Rather, it was only the ones that were searched for the most on Google. Keep in mind that there may have been multiple reasons why someone might have used the word “shortage” combined with the name of a product like “avocado” or “diesel” in a Google search. For example, one may have searched for “an avocado shortage would be terrible” or “there seemed to be a Vin Diesel shortage in this movie.” It’s not clear whether Google included or weeded out such less relevant searches when compiling this Top 10 list. Nevertheless, here are the Top 10 shortages based on what’s been trending on Google over this current but soon to be concluded year:
1. Diesel shortage
Presumably most of the searches here were for diesel fuel shortages. If you are facing a Vin Diesel shortage, you can always order one of his Fast and Furious movies where the actor played the character Dominic Toretto. By contrast, it’s not as easy to compensate for shortages of diesel fuel. This fuel is needed for many truck, train, boat, barge, public bus, school bus, tank, electric generator, farm equipment, construction equipment, and back-up power generator engines in the United States. Diesel has the advantage of being less likely to stall engines, less flammable, and less explosive than other types of fuels. Typically, when given the choice between fuel that’s more explosive and fuel that’s less explosive, it’s a good idea to choose the latter. The shortage has led to, surprise, surprise, higher prices, even going up to a record-high average price of $5.703 a gallon in June. The shortage and elevated prices will likely continue into 2023.
2. Baby formula shortage
Oh, baby, baby. This shortage is still going on as well as the U.S. hasn’t yet come up with the right formula to solve this problem. I covered this shortage for Forbes on May 15 when actress and singer Bette Midler tweeted “Try breastfeeding, it’s free,” and then again on May 21 when news emerged that people were sharing breast milk as a result of the lack of baby formula. Neither Midler’s tweet not sharing breast milk was the best of ideas. Baby formula is needed for many women who can’t breast feed or can’t provide enough breast milk. And simply swapping breast milk could end up swapping unwanted microbes.
3. Tampon shortage
News of this shortage seemed to last for a period in June, which is when I covered this tampon shortage for Forbes. But then soon after that month the flow of such news seemed to tail off, making it unclear whether the shortage has actually been resolved or whether there has since been a shortage of coverage on this shortage. Procter & Gamble (P&G), the makers of Tampax tampons, essentially blamed comedian Amy Schumer’s advertisements for Tampax for the tampon shortage. They said that the ads caused a surge in demand that outpaced P&G’s supplies. Hmm, do people usually think, “Wow, what a great advertisement. I think I am now going to buy twice as many tampons as I normally do?” Meanwhile, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) suggested that somehow the border and tampons being put in some men’s bathrooms were to blame for the shortage. More obvious reasons for the tampon shortage were shortages in raw materials like cotton, rayon, and plastic, manufacturing personnel, and manufacturing capacity.
4. Adderall shortage
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced this shortage on October 12. So the Adderall shortage has only had everyone’s attention for less than three months so far. This medication is actually a combination of two medications amphetamine and dextroamphetamine and typically used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It can also be used to treat narcolepsy, which is a sleeping disorder in which you can spontaneously fall asleep throughout the day. ADHD specialists have raised concerns that stimulants such as Adderall are being overprescribed, as Rolfe Winkler reported for the Wall Street Journal on September 1, 2022. So, it’s not clear what percentage of people currently taking Adderall actually really needs to be on the medication.
5. Sriracha shortage
On April 19, Huy Fong Foods, which makes the hot sauce Sriracha, announced that they would have to have to get less saucy and put production on hold over the next few months as a result of “severe weather conditions affecting the quality of chili peppers.” And chili peppers along with distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt are the major ingredients of Sriracha. That may have led to scenes such as the following with folks hoarding Sriracha as if it were toilet paper:
Of course, the photo above could have been a typical haul for someone who just really, really likes Sriracha.
6. Food shortage
OK, this one was pretty non-specific. In addition to the ones that made this Top 10 list, a variety of other food items were in short supply at some point during 2022. This included butter, milk, hummus, mustard, and Halloween candy. In fact, it’s hard to find month in 2022 when no food shortages were occurring.
7. Cream cheese shortage
This shortage was already present in 2021 and spread into the beginning of 2022 sort of like, well, cream cheese on a bagel. However, there hasn’t been too much news of late about this. By the way, if you Google “Does cream cheese go with everything,” you get an answer that says, “Cream cheese goes with pretty much anything, whether its spicy, sour, sweet, salty, or umami. ANYTHING. There is literally no taste sensation that goes badly with cream cheese.”
8. Avocado shortage
At times in 2022, avocados have seemingly been between a guac and a hard place. For example, in February, the U.S. instituted a ban on Mexican avocado importation after a U.S. inspector of avocado farms in Mexico was threatened while in Michoacan, Mexico. While that ban ended being short-lived, it showed that the Mexico-U.S. avocado supply chain wasn’t exactly super stable. Meanwhile, California farms haven’t been producing as many avocados due to climate change, which leaves the domestic supply more tenuous.
9. Lettuce shortage
In late November, members of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service reported on the website Growing Produce that unseasonably high temperatures and crop disease in Central California had resulted in “severe losses to iceberg and romaine varieties” of lettuce. Thus, they “lettuce” know that shortages may be just around the corner. Since then prices of those lettuces have indeed risen, and there have been anecdotal reports of shortages such as the following:
Did Chris Evans, who’s not the one who played Captain America, end up being able to make his damn chicken Caesar salad? Inquiring minds want to know.
10. Epidural shortage
News of the epidural shortage were injected into headlines during the Summer of 2022. An epidural is an injection via a catheter of either an anesthetic agent or a steroid into a person’s epidural space, the space in the body surrounding the spinal nerves. Such an injection can either reduce pain or remove feeling in the lower part of your body, depending on what medications are used. This procedure is frequently done prior to childbirth or a range of different surgical procedures. Now, the epidural shortage was actually a shortage in the catheters used and not the space. It’s not as if people were running around missing the epidural spaces in their bodies.
That’s quite a list. If in 2022 you had planned a cream cheese, avocado, Sriracha, lettuce, tampon, epidural, and general food party powered by some diesel, chances are you had a tougher time getting at least one of these products. All of these shortages plus the ones that weren’t included in this Top 10 list really highlight what has clearly been a major problem from the U.S.: so many of our supply chains are way too vulnerable. It seems like it doesn’t take much to cause a shortage. So unless some major changes are made, expect the “Shortages” category to appear once again in Google’s “Year in Search 2023” web page.