Your favorite pasta sauce could cost more. Blame it on a surprise shortage of glass

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The price of glass jars to hold pasta sauce and other products has soared during the pandemic. Sauce maker Paul Guglielmo in Rochester, N.Y. has absorbed some of the increase, but he’s also raised prices for consumers.

Photos courtesy of Paul Guglielmo


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Photos courtesy of Paul Guglielmo


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Businesses like Lindera Farms in Delaplane, Va. have struggled to find bottles at any price.

This has been a banner season for the artisanal vinegar maker, but owner Daniel Liberson worries that unless an overdue shipment of glass bottles arrives from Italy in the next few weeks, he won’t be able to package his product in time for the all-important Christmas season.

«There’s a captain of a shipping vessel who holds my life in his hands,» Liberson says. «Basically, if anything goes wrong with this shipment, I’m screwed.»

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Daniel Liberson makes specialty vinegar through his business, Lindera Farms, in Delaplane, Va. But his key holiday season is at risk as he nervously awaits an overdue shipment of glass bottles from Italy.

Courtesy of Daniel Liberson and Lindera Farms


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Courtesy of Daniel Liberson and Lindera Farms


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What’s more, since domestic glass plants are already running at full steam, customers whose imported bottles are delayed may have a hard time finding substitutes.

It’s frustrating for Liberson, whose vinegar is made with hand-foraged wild onions and other fickle ingredients that have still proven easier to find this year than glass bottles.

«The whims of nature are less daunting than the whims of what is supposed to be an organized, structured supply chain,» Liberson says with a rueful chuckle. «But here we are.»

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Fearful of running short of pasta sauce jars, Paul Guglielmo has been forced to stockpile, tying up more cash than he’d like.

Courtesy of Paul Guglielmo


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Courtesy of Paul Guglielmo


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Thanks to a more efficient bottling process, Guglielmo was able to absorb some of that higher cost. But he also raised his own prices in the grocery store.

«I think the whole way down the supply chain, everyone makes that decision and they decide, are we going to eat all of this? Are we going to eat some of it? Are we going to pass all of it?» Guglielmo says.

As a «co-packer,» Guglielmo not only makes his own pasta sauce, but also makes and bottles products for others. This gives him a bit more scale and bargaining power with suppliers.

Today his 6,000 square foot warehouse holds far more empty jars than he ever would have purchased in the past. It’s a kind of insurance policy that helps him sleep better at night, but it also ties up a lot of capital.

«I walk by pallets and pallets and pallets of unused glass,» Guglielmo says. «We’re going to use it. And I want it here. And it should be here. But I look at it and it’s just a big pile of cash sitting there.»

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Paul Guglielmo makes his signature pasta sauce in Rochester, N.Y. He also makes and bottles products for others.

Courtesy of Paul Guglielmo


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Courtesy of Paul Guglielmo

Paul Guglielmo makes his signature pasta sauce in Rochester, N.Y. He also makes and bottles products for others.

Courtesy of Paul Guglielmo

Buy early – if you even can

Given the uncertainty surrounding bottle supplies and the possibility of bare store shelves, shoppers are being warned not to wait until the last minute.

«We encourage anybody that wants a special bottle for Christmas to start shopping for it now, because you might have to make two or three trips to your local retailer,» says David Ozgo, chief economist at the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

Still, shoppers seeking some products could go empty-handed, no matter how early they show up.

Liberson, the small-scale vinegar maker, still hopes his shipment of bottles from Italy arrives in late October or early November. That would leave him just enough time to package his product before the holidays, which typically account for about half of his annual sales.

For now, he’s storing his vinegar in stainless steel vats, and keeping his fingers crossed.

«Listen, I’m a neurotic Jewish guy,» he says. «And I’ve got to tell you, heart-attack inducing is the word that comes to mind.»

  • glass bottles
  • CPI
  • supply chain bottlenecks
  • coronavirus pandemic
  • consumer price index
  • consumer prices
  • inflation

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