Global supply chain shortages could be coming for your monthly cycle.
If you've had a hard time finding your favorite tampon — or tampons in general — lately, you're not alone. Anecdotal reports of a tampon shortage have been slowly creeping onto social media for months, with many consumers taking to Twitter to express their frustration.
Since the pandemic started, there's been one product shortage after another. From the great toilet paper crisis of 2020 to the current baby formula conundrum, consumers have had to contend with empty shelves and rising prices for over two years.
And now, tampons appear to be the latest victim of an increasingly stressed global supply chain system. Average prices for tampons rose 9.8% in the past year, and prices for menstrual pads rose 8.3%, largely due to the increasing costs of the paper and plastic materials used to make them, according Bloomberg.
TODAY wanted to know how extensive the issue is, so we reached out to several manufacturers of feminine hygiene products to get a sense of how they’re addressing any potential shortages.
A spokesperson for Procter & Gamble — which makes Tampax and Always and claims almost 50% of the menstrual care supply market, per Bloomberg — declined to elaborate on any tampon shortages and didn't address whether its other feminine hygiene products are being affected. They did, however, acknowledge that the company is experiencing increased demand and said they're aware many customers are struggling to find tampons in stores and online.
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“We understand it is frustrating for consumers when they can’t find what they need. Our Tampax team is producing tampons 24/7 to meet the increased demand for our products,” an email statement to TODAY read. (P&G recently made headlines for a statement to Time magazine that said demand for its product has soared since launching its Tampax ad campaign with Amy Schumer in 2020.)
A U by Kotex (owned by Kimberly Clark) spokesperson said in an email that the brand has not actually experienced a product or supply shortage in the U.S. and stressed that the company “works diligently to keep its products readily available for our consumers.”
“We’re working closely with our retail partners to keep shelves stocked, and U by Kotex® remains on-track to donate more than 6 million period supply products to the Alliance for Period Supply this year in efforts to help fight period poverty.”
Edgewell Personal Care, which makes Playtex and OB tampons, did not reply to multiple requests for comment.
What's causing tampons shortages in 2022?
Bindiya Vakil, the CEO of AI-based supply chain data monitoring company Resilinc, told TODAY that there are two primary causes of low product supply on store shelves: ongoing supply chain problems and a shortage of raw materials.
"Key materials used in production and packaging, like plastic and paper, are highly constrained," she said. "In fact, paper shortages are impacting packaging in nearly every industry. Feminine care products appear to be the most recent obvious victim."
Vakil explained that the paper industry has been experiencing supply issues for two years now.
"From being able to source the raw materials used for these products to then getting them to where they need to go for production, and finally loaded onto trucks to get to store shelves - every step of this process is currently experiencing disruption," she said.
Vakil said she anticipates shortages, constraints and higher pricing (on most items, not just tampons) through 2023. In the meantime, if you're having a hard time finding your go-to tampons, there are plenty of alternative options to help you get through your period.
This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY: