Tuesday, August 24, 2021

A Whipped Up Crisis Revealed

 COVID-19 Delta variant consumes the unvaccinated, mostly in Southern states. Wild fires torch the West. Floods swamp the Eastern seaboard. Undocumenteds stream across the Southwestern border. Half a world away the Taliban triumphed, traumatizing our allies in Afghanistan.

We desperately need a soothing moment, but I’m here to tell you another crisis exists you might not even be aware of—there is a canned whipped cream shortage.

Trust me on this. As someone who intakes whipped cream several times a day, who models his trips to Costco based on his home inventory of Land O’Lakes cans sitting in his refrigerator, I can tell you that this ambrosia of the gods is in short supply for all brands but Reddi-wip.

Now, the red and white Reddi-wip canister is the gold standard to many. It was the whipped cream of my childhood, enjoyed on ice cream and My-T-Fine chocolate pudding that my mother prepared on our stovetop (licking the chocolate streaks left on the inside of the pot was an added treat). 

But as I grew older, I rarely enjoyed whipped cream. Until 1998. As Gilda and I were flying to Prague in  late January for a speech I was to deliver to a conference produced by the Economics Department of the University of Prague, she informed me we would immediately begin adhering to the Atkins high protein, no carbohydrates diet as a means of controlling my high cholesterol and triglycerides. 

We would abstain from bread, pasta, potatoes and especially cakes and cookies. Instead I would eat nuts, eggs, cheese, chicken, fish and meat. 

Now, Prague is known for its pastry delights. I would be less than honest if I related we did not partake of some local delicacies during our week in the Czech Republic. Once home, however, we followed Atkins in earnest, at least as far as cakes, bread and pastries went. As I wasn’t on the diet to lose weight, I soon added fruit and vegetables to my diet. 

My breakfast for the last near quarter century consists of a  piece of cheese or hard boiled egg along with a mixture of nuts and fruit slathered in gobs and gobs of whipped cream, one of the few indulgences Atkins permits. Costco’s three-pack of Land O’Lakes whipped cream became a staple of my purchases.

Until a month ago. On repeated trips to several Costco units the refrigerator cases were devoid of whipped cream. When I sought an alternative in local supermarkets, no private label brand was available, only the higher priced Reddi-wip. 

The reporter in me smelled a story here. I googled if there was a whipped cream shortage. Nothing current, but several articles from 2016 popped up when a shortage in the supply of nitrous oxide caused an industrywide production cutback (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/12/21/the-real-reason-you-cant-buy-whipped-cream-this-christmas/).

Late Friday afternoon I sent an inquiry directly to Land O’Lakes, asking if their sourcing to Costco had been ended. To my surprise, a response came back just before 6 pm Central time: “Land O’ Lakes Whipped Cream has not been discontinued, but due to production delays, we have not been able to deliver this item to your local retailers recently. However, this item will be back in stores sometime soon.”

Unspecified “production delays,” which I suspect can be traced to nitrous oxide supply problems not just at Land O’Lakes but at other producers except industry leader Reddi-wip. 

If you’ve read this far in my whipped cream saga you should by now fully appreciate, and perhaps deprecate, my obsession with whipped cream. But keep this in mind—whipped cream has helped me reduce my cholesterol and triglyceride levels to acceptable, I might even say, excellent levels.