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Protecting Christmas Commerce During A Supply Chain Crisis

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Protecting Christmas Commerce During A Supply Chain Crisis

Protecting Christmas Commerce During A Supply Chain Crisis
November 16
10:50 2021

The UK – and much of the wider world – is currently feeling the effects of chronic shortages among a wide range of commodities from automotive components, milk and fresh food, to microchips, Christmas trees and even glass for bottling plants. Customers are witnessing gaps on the shelves in retailers and wholesalers of all sizes, and these shortages of familiar brands are encouraging shoppers to pick up different products than they might otherwise have selected in the past.

Graham Coles, Avendra N.E.

Graham Coles provides a few tips to help people to make the most of a challenging global marketplace this Christmas...


The British Poultry Council (BPC) has reported that its members are struggling to produce and process sufficient quantities of birds, with one in six jobs currently unfilled. This shortage means that some producers have reduced their ranges and cut chicken output by as much as 10%. And because the industry relies on seasonal workers, this situation is likely to worsen in the lead up to December. Consequently, it is anticipated that supplies could decline by as much as 20%, or 1.8m birds in the meantime. Similarly, a steady supply of labour is required to slaughter, pluck, pack and deliver birds in time, and producers will not wish to risk the cost of rearing birds if they fear they may be left with unprocessed stock.

So, will there be turkey for Christmas? Probably, but not the wide range of sizes we’ve seen in previous years and it is likely that prices will rise as demand begins to outstrip supply. Unsurprisingly, British stock levels will be limited, so the BPC is advising consumers to be prepared to use EU-sourced birds and suppliers are advising shoppers to place orders early.

Pigs in blankets

With a well-documented backlog of 100,000 pigs on farms as staff shortages hit pork production, the British Meat Processors’ Association (BMPA) has claimed that production of these festive favourites could be cut by a third this year. Pre-prepared lines will likely be in short supply, so shoppers are advised to stock up early.


Slightly better news here, as a steady supply has been harvested over the last few months and so prices have remained stable. Shoppers are nevertheless advised to buy early while prices are relatively low. Whole sides are more cost-effective than fillets, so filling up freezers in advance should ensure sufficient stocks for the coming weeks.


UK potato crops have been strong so far and prices should fall as the season changes. Menus built around ‘a selection of seasonal winter vegetables’ – Brussels sprouts, parsnips, carrots, white cabbage and cauliflower, for example – will allow a certain degree of flexibility. Alternatively, swede, turnips, butternut squash, celeriac and leeks are all great for the Christmas table. Availability should be good, but try to stock up with some decent frozen options, just in case. Potatoes store well in a cool, dark place for up to two months, so buy ahead.


Product shortages span all food categories, including desserts. With that in mind, it’s
worth considering alternatives to traditional sweet courses. Offering cheeseboards as a ‘selection of local cheeses’, for example, rather than naming specific cheeses, will allow operators to vary selections according to what’s available at a given time.

Ultimately, it’ll be the customers who focus on what isn’t on the menu, rather than what is, who will succeed over the festive season. The next few weeks will throw up various supply and availability challenges to businesses and individuals alike but by thinking creatively in advance it should be possible to avoid the worst of any shortages.

Graham Coles is Procurement Director at Avendra Northern Europe.

Pelican Procurement works closely with suppliers to understand where supply problems are likely to arise, and which alternatives are available. If you require procurement or supply chain support, contact 01252 705214 or

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Catering Scotland

Catering Scotland

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