Why Everyone’s Suddenly Hoarding Mason Jars
How the must-have hipster vessel of DIY authenticity also became a foreboding signal of the economy.
Late this summer, after the pandemic turned everyone into an amateur gardener and home cook, a frenzy erupted on Facebook. Food historian Sarah Wassberg Johnson first spotted it while perusing a private Facebook group called Recipes of North Dakota — everyone was talking about mason jars. “For many of them, food preservation is a part of their daily life,” says Wassberg Johnson, who grew up in Fargo. They were keeping tabs on where they saw canning jars and lids, trying to nail down a fast-moving target. “It was this live tracking of them — this store in this town, this hardware store had them — where can you get them?”
In Brooklyn, Ashley Rouse, founder and CEO of Trade Street Jam, was frantically searching for mason jars, too, so she could sell her jams, which come in flavors like strawberry chipotle fig and blueberry lemon basil. “I need 30,000 small jars, and I can’t find them,” she says. “We’d normally get them from huge manufacturers, pallets at a time, but those places ran out. I’ve never seen that happen.”
At the same time, mason jar sellers were watching them fly off the shelves. Keela Buford, a representative of The Jar Store, a national distributor of glass jars and lids, said her company had seen enormous spikes in sales in mason and canning jars starting in March, with mason jar revenue, in particular, climbing 46 times over what it was in 2019.
Meanwhile, over on the Ball Preserving & Recipes Facebook page — Ball is arguably the most famous brand, with its signature script logo emblazoned on its folksy glass jars — people were downright panicking. On October 1, Ball’s social media team posted a seemingly innocuous conversation starter (“It’s time to show off your canning haul! Whether you made just a handful of jars or a whole shelf, share a picture of your accomplishment with us!”), only to be greeted with jarring rage. “EXACTLY HOW DO WE DO THAT WITH NO SUPPLIES?????” one woman responded. “I have been canning for 40 years and have NEVER had to buy early, never had to hoard, just went out and bought flats, rings and jars in August when the crops were ready. So are you actually going to get any…