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Stateside Podcast: Kettlebells, coffee, and other supply chain woes

a blue and red tug boat is attached by rope to a large green cargo ship loaded with colorful shipping containers
Mika Baumeister
/
Unsplash
Pandemic booms in online shopping and labor shortages have led to back ups for many ports and trucking companies in the U.S.

You know it’s going to be tough to get a Ford truck right now. But there are plenty of shortages and price hikes on more mundane items, too. 

Like exercise equipment, ketchup, and worst of all: coffee.

“Coffee gonna go up. It's gonna be expensive...I mean literally coffee is going to get to the point where countries will turn off to it," said Sonari Glinton, host of the podcast Now, What’s Next from Morgan Stanley.

While the supply chain has been a constant refrain in pandemic era news, Glinton has been working on a series about the global supply chain that dropped during the climax of consumerism: the holidays.

“And as a matter of fact, I had just recorded an episode and I went on a boat trip out to Catalina Island, going through the ships that were waiting to get into Los Angeles, and it was literally like I can imagine what the Spanish Armada looked like or D-day.”

Glinton said the pandemic has driven home the idea that there is a fragility in the global supply chain that might not exist if we manufactured some items closer to home. But it's not as easy as just deciding to make something in Michigan instead of China.

Take kettlebells and dumbbells, for instance. As gyms shut down or people chose to work out at home to avoid crowds, demand for exercise equipment went way up. Glinton said a few U.S. companies did try to get into the market, but they ran into the issue of finding foundries that could produce the items. Whereas in China, he added, there are entire regions of the country dedicated to different industries, which makes connecting the dots of a supply chain a little easier.

"You almost have to be scrappier here in the U.S. to get these big contracts or to get a contract for something as basic as a kettlebell."

When it comes to coffee, there are forces beyond the pandemic driving up the price of your morning latte. Drought in major coffee-producing countries like Brazil have reduced the supply of coffee beans, driving up prices in the grocery aisle and your local café. It's one sign that climate change is going to radically reshape the global supply chain in coming years.

"Pretty soon, we're going to be growing grapes in northern Scotland. And that's not even a joke. That seems ridiculous, but it's not because climate change is here, and we're going to see it. And one of the places we will see it...is in coffee."

While large companies like Starbucks typically buy far enough in advance to ride out price fluctuations, Glinton said even the ubiquitous coffee chain is planning to bump up its prices for a cup of joe.

Looking for more conversations from Stateside? Right this way.

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Stateside’s theme music is by 14KT.

Additional music by Blue Dot Sessions.

April Van Buren
April Van Buren is a producer for Stateside. She produces interviews for air as well as web and social media content for the show.