NYC's Bagel Crisis: 'This Is Very Bad'

Supply chain issues are causing a cream cheese shortage, affecting bagel shops throughout the city
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 7, 2021 9:09 AM CST
NYC's Bagel Crisis: 'This Is Very Bad'
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/bigacis)

(Newser) – The Guardian is calling it a "supply chain nightmare," while Grub Street has deemed it a "harrowing" new bump in the road—"it" being the fact that there's a cream cheese shortage, and all of the bagel shops in New York City are freaking out. The New York Times reports on this "sudden and surprising" development, which has left bagel makers around the city scrambling to find enough of the spreadable stuff to keep business humming. "This is bad. This is very bad," says a manager at one of the city's Pick-a-Bagel sites, noting that he only had a couple of days' supply of cream cheese left.

Nearly two dozen other bagel shops and delis around the Big Apple have been having the same issue, with local dairy suppliers noting that getting new orders in from manufacturers has been tough for several weeks now. Other items found in such shops started becoming scarce months ago, including Gatorade and coffee cup lids. As for why cream cheese has now vanished, the trail most often leads back to Kraft Heinz, the company that churns out a raw form of its Philadelphia Cream Cheese brand and ships it to many regional bagel stores, which in turn use it as a base to create their own final product.

Kraft Heinz spokeswoman Jenna Thornton tells the Times there's been "elevated and sustained demand" for many of the company's products, cream cheese included, and that more people eating breakfast and baking at home means the shortage may continue for a while. A sales rep at food distributor Fischer Foods also points to a lack of packaging supplies and problems with staffing, both on the manufacturing end and within truck driver circles, where many are leaving their jobs rather than adhere to vaccine mandates.

Writing for Grub Street, Alan Sytsma tries to come up with alternative bagel toppings—butter, a tofu spread, and Neufchatel cheese all come to mind—and explores the idea of simply eating one's bagels plain, but he ultimately comes to this conclusion: "Without cream cheese, there is little reason to eat a bagel." Others in New York City agree. "I don't think anyone should go without cream cheese," one connoisseur tells NBC New York. Another, asked by the Times if he'd still pick up a bagel at one of NYC's bagel shops, replies, "Probably not, no. That's an essential part of the bagel." (Read more New York City stories.)

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