Canning supplies become the latest unexpected shortage this year

Stores in Minneapolis are low on inventory for canning supplies amid the pandemic.

First it was toilet paper, then a coin shortage. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a lot of unexpected shortages. The latest one? Canning supplies.

“I think the supply is way outreaching the demand and I don’t think anyone was ready for it,” said Jimmy Layer, the general manager at Wise Acre Eatery.

At the south Minneapolis restaurant, workers not only serve produce from their own farm - they sell it, which means a lot of jars and lids.

“I’m hoping to do 1,000 to 1,500 cans of different things,” said Layer.

Layer is also the canning supply buyer at Wise Acre. He says this year has been a challenge.

“Yes, I’m not just doing a couple cases, so I’ve bought out I think six different stores at times here, so I’m also causing some of the problems, but I think we’re going to give a lot back with what we’re making,” said Layer.

To get the supply of jars and especially the lids, which in many ways are a tougher commodity in a normal year and normal time, Layer says he would just walk down to the Ace Hardware on the corner.  When he did that this spring, he realized there was an issue.

“We’re out and we’re probably not going to have anything for at least a month,” said Diamond Lake Ace Hardware Owner Dave Svobodny.

At Diamond Lake Ace Hardware, the shelves have been bare of most canning jars and lids for a while. Svobodny says other stores and their warehouses are the same.

“The demand is so high, our supplier, Ace Hardware, doesn’t have anything in stock in their 14 warehouses,” said Svobodny.

He says he knew it might be a problem when this spring during stay-home orders, seed sales went through the roof.

“We sold probably a three-year supply of garden seeds,” said Svobodny.

So, he ordered three times the amount of their yearly canning stock and sold it in a week.

The maker of Ball jars says demand skyrocketed because of the pandemic, as far more people started growing gardens. They’re now upping production.

In the meantime, buyers are facing huge mark-ups online and potential rip-offs. One viewer told FOX 9 she ordered $200 worth of lids only to discover she’d been scammed.

“Call around, pay for it over the phone, and go get it immediately, whoever’s got it, drive and go get it,” said Svobodny.

For now, it’s a lot of hunting. At Wise Acre, Layer doesn’t want to spill where he’s found a supply, but he does offer this advice. 

“Talk to the manager of the place you’re at, find out when they come in,” said Layer.