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Pizza threatened again: Pepperoni is getting expensive and scarce as COVID-19 continues to ruin everything


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Photo by Shannon O'Hara/Getty Images for Pizza Hut

In April, on the heels of toilet paper and hand-sanitizer storages, the nation went into panic mode when there was a critical scarcity of frozen pizzas.

That fear over a lack of one of the nation's most loved (and needed) foods — combined with projected disruptions in the availability of beer and soda — nearly made Americans apoplectic.

Thankfully, that threat has since abated.

But our country's beloved hot pies are now facing an existential threat on another front — a serious shortage of the most popular topping: pepperoni.

Say it ain't so

Bloomberg News reported this weekend that a combination of increased demand for pizza and "production snags" at plants are making the beloved cured meat scarce and therefore more expensive.

According to Bloomberg, Domino's Pizza has seen a "tailwind" as a massive chunk of the American populace continues to spend much of its time at home and ordering pizza delivery and takeout.

Domino's isn't alone, the outlet noted. Papa John's reported record-high sales in its North American stores.

The advantage these larger chains have over smaller, independent pizza shops, which have seen pepperoni prices jump 50% in some cases, is long-term contracts. The big guys have multi-year deals that set prices and delivery at pre-negotiated levels that cannot be impacted by the market.

Exacerbating the problem is the fact that creating the topping requires a lot of man hours, but the meat plants, thanks to the coronavirus, don't have the labor force to create the product.

More from Bloomberg:

Barry Friends, a partner at foodservice consultant Pentallect, said the ingredient's labor-intensive process and low profit margins have made some producers say "screw it" as they streamline operations amid the coronavirus.

Pork processors "are basically just shipping out large pieces of meat for further processing," Friends said. "They're not doing as much because they don't have the people to do the work."

Matthew Hyland, chef and co-owner of the Emily pizza shop in New York City, told Bloomberg his place was just going to eat the cost of the higher pepperoni prices, knowing his customers would notice if he jacked his prices.

"It's an American right to have pepperoni on pizza," he told the outlet. "Pepperoni is such a huge part of pizza it's important to us that we keep it accessible."

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