If Nobody Loves Grape-Nuts, Why Is It Sold Out Everywhere?
How a shortage of the most boring cereal turned it into a pandemic sensation
Object of the Week is a column exploring the objects a culture obsesses over and what that reveals about us.
Of all the shortages the country has endured in the pandemic era, surely the scarcity of Grape-Nuts is among the least important. No lives are at stake; it is not even a particularly popular cereal. In fact, it’s probably more familiar as a punchline than as a part of your complete, nutritious breakfast. But Grape-Nuts fans are passionate and evidently punch well above their market share because their suffering as supplies of the cereal started to run short over the past couple of months was covered by the New York Times, USA Today, CBS, and many others.
The good news (for fans of the cereal) is the word this week that the crisis is ending. Grape-Nuts maker Post Consumer Brands has announced that the product will be back in stock next month. And perhaps the even better news (for Post) is that this shortage and the attention it attracted surely add up to the cereal’s most significant cultural star turn in at least a generation. It’s another curious chapter in the history of a curious product.
People were using eBay and Amazon to try to sell Grape-Nuts packages at 10 times their retail price.
Reports say anecdotal complaints about shortages cropped late last year. As fans inevitably took their gripes and fears to social media, Post openly acknowledged the problem in January. By then, people were using eBay and Amazon to try to sell Grape-Nuts packages at 10 times their retail price. (Others were chiming in to the online discussion to opine that Grape-Nuts are gross.)
The problem was a mix of increased demand and limitations to the supply side. Grape-Nuts are made “using a proprietary technology and a production process that isn’t easily replicated,” the company explained.