Whole Foods shoppers report food shortages and empty shelves at some stores as the company faces supplier issue

A Whole Foods store in Richmond, Virginia.

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A Whole Foods store in Richmond, Virginia.
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Hayley Peterson/Business Insider
  • Whole Foods said Wednesday that its supplier of private-label beans, grains, lentils, and rice unexpectedly closed, leading to shortages of those items nationwide.
  • The company also said it recently faced some weather-related issues that temporarily impacted its supply of lettuce from California.
  • The shortages are irking some customers. “I cut down on how much I shop there because it’s a really frustrating experience,” one shopper said.
  • Whole Foods said it’s working to find a new supplier for those products. The process of finding a new supplier could take months, the company said.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Whole Foods shoppers are reporting food shortages and empty shelves at some stores, as the company faces some unexpected supplier issues.

Photos shared with Business Insider and on social media over the past several weeks show barren or sparsely stocked displays of food in some Whole Foods departments, including produce, dairy, bulk foods, and packaged foods like lentils and rice.

In response to Business Insider’s outreach on these reports, Whole Foods said Wednesday that its supplier of private-label beans, grains, lentils, and rice unexpectedly closed, leading to shortages of those items nationwide. The Amazon-owned company also said it recently faced some weather-related issues that temporarily impacted the availability of lettuce from California.

A Whole Foods store in Richmond, Virginia.

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A Whole Foods store in Richmond, Virginia.
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Hayley Peterson/Business Insider

This could explain many of the recent complaints coming from Whole Foods customers.

Shoppers in Washington, DC, and New York told Business Insider that some types of rice and lentils disappeared from Whole Foods’ shelves more than a month ago.

“If you look on the shelves where the rice is kept, it is bare,” said Michon Boston, who shops at two Whole Foods stores in Washington, DC.

Whole Foods said it’s working to find a new supplier for those products. The process of finding a new supplier could take months, the company said.

A Whole Foods store in Richmond, Virginia.

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A Whole Foods store in Richmond, Virginia.
source
Hayley Peterson/Business Insider

In the meantime, Whole Foods said it’s working to stock its shelves with branded alternatives that should become available in stores in the coming weeks.

“We work hard in partnership with all of our suppliers to ensure that customers find the products they are looking for when shopping our stores,” a Whole Foods spokesperson said. “Unfortunately, weather and other supply factors outside of our control occasionally impact product availability. When this happens, we work as quickly as possible to find solutions and provide alternative options that meet our unparalleled quality standards.”

The problems are irking some customers, like Joni Sweet, who said she has recently experienced shortages of tofu, soy milk, and eggs at her local Whole Foods store.

“I cut down on how much I shop there because it’s a really frustrating experience,” Sweet said. “They are frequently out of the items I like to buy.”

A Whole Foods store in Richmond, Virginia.

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A Whole Foods store in Richmond, Virginia.
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Hayley Peterson/Business Insider

She said problems with out-of-stock items at the Whole Foods store on New York City’s Upper East Side have persisted for months and seem to have recently worsened. On a recent trip to buy eggs, “there was almost nothing on the shelves, and even the eggs that were there were broken and smashed,” she said.

Brad Thompson said food shortages have been a consistent and ongoing problem at his local Whole Foods store in San Francisco.

“Most of the problem seems to be around produce but I was there yesterday and half the spice rack was gone as well,” Thompson said on Wednesday.

Some shoppers are venting their frustration on social media.

A Whole Foods store in Richmond, Virginia.

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A Whole Foods store in Richmond, Virginia.
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Hayley Peterson/Business Insider

Jeff Tetrault tweeted on Wednesday, “In all the years I have been a @WholeFoods customer, I can never remember shelves being so consistently bare & products perpetually out of stock until post @amazon acquisition. Has demand for food rapidly increased or is AMZN supply chain actually just brutal?”

User @AnnFairview tweeted Tuesday, “In recent weeks the Spring House, PA location has many empty shelves which is becoming increasingly disappointing. What’s going on @WholeFoods?”

Business Insider visited a Whole Foods store in Richmond, Virginia, this week and found holes in inventory in multiple departments, including prepared foods, dairy, produce, juices, and soup broths.

A Whole Foods store in Richmond, Virginia.

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A Whole Foods store in Richmond, Virginia.
source
Hayley Peterson/Business Insider

Got a tip? Contact this reporter via encrypted messaging app Signal at +1 (646) 768-4757 using a non-work phone, email at hpeterson@businessinsider.com, or Twitter DM at @hcpeterson.

Here’s what some people are saying on social media: