For folks looking to ward off the flu, hand sanitizer could become a highly coveted item.
That’s because shipments of hand sanitizer are down by nearly 40 percent when compared with shipments in 2009, when swine flu hit the US hard, said Panjiva Inc., a firm with offices in New York and Cambridge.
Panjiva uses technologies developed under the leadership of company cofounder James Psota, a computer scientist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. With those technologies, Panjiva analyzes bills of lading from ships bringing goods to the United States to track imports coming into the country. Panjiva makes money by selling its data and analysis to manufacturers and suppliers.
Shipments of hand sanitizer are up by 33 percent when compared with last year’s shipments, but there was a 175 percent year-over-year jump in shipments from 2008 to 2009, suggesting this year’s flu season took everyone by surprise, Panjiva said.
“Shipments are down considerably from 2009, and something pretty dramatic would need to happen for hand sanitizers to reach that same level again,’’ Panjiva chief executive Josh Green said in an e-mail. “The flu epidemic this year could be just that, but it’s too late for suppliers to play catch up — even if we’re still in the early stages of the spread, we’re certainly going to find that there aren’t enough hand sanitizers at the ready.’’