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Whipped cream shortage grips U.S. ahead of holidays, Canada topped up

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WATCH ABOVE: U.S. consumers should prepare to celebrate the holidays without whipped cream, after a nitrous oxide shortage has left dairy aisle shelves empty of the dessert topping – Dec 15, 2016

A shortage of whipped cream just days before the holidays is creating quite the stir for those with a sweet tooth.

Grocers across the U.S. have posted signs in stores informing customers that they are sold out of versions of the dessert topping that come in aerosol cans.

“All canned whip toppings will be in short supply this season,” a sign inside a Hy-Vee store Nebraska read. “Sorry for the inconvenience.”

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Panic over a lack of the pie topper is due to a shortage of the gas that pushes the cream from the can.

According to Conagra Foods, producers of the popular Reddi-wip brand, the lack of availability of nitrous oxide gas is driving the shortfall.

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“Due to an industry-wide supply issue, there is currently a shortage of some whipped toppings, including Reddi-wip,” Conagra Food spokesperson, Lanie Friedman, told The Washington Post.

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A sign posted at a Hy-Vee store in Omaha, Nebraska informs customers of a scarcity in whipped cream. Photo Credit: Omaha World-Herald/Brianna Lynn Neff. Photo Credit: Omaha World-Herald/Brianna Lynn Neff
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The shortage of nitrous gas in the U.S. has left dairy shelves void of whipped cream across the country, including at this Safeway store in San Francisco. Photo credit: KPIX. KPIX 5
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A sign posted inside a Boston area Market Basket store poke fun at the nation-wide shortage of whipped cream. Photo credit: Universal Hub. Universal Hub

The scarcity of nitrous oxide is due to a fatal accident at an Airgas chemical plant in Florida in August. According to the Airgas website, it’s the largest producer of nitrous gas in North America.

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In a November statement, Conagra announced it halted “all production on Reddi-wip Real Cream Whipped Topping and Non-Dairy Whipped Topping” due to the plant explosion, coupled with a shutdown at Airgas’ Canadian plant in Maitland, Ontario.

A sign posted in a Boston grocer’s dairy aisle suggested Airgas was having issues with production at its Mississippi plant and suggested shipments of the gas were en route from Europe.

Airgas is working to return the supply of nitrous oxide, which is also used for medical purposes in products like “laughing gas,” back to full capacity.

“As nitrous oxide becomes available in the coming months, medical contracted applications will get priority,” the Conagra statement read.

The shortage has sent producers scrambling to find alternative suppliers of the precious gas.

“We did have supply concerns,” said Larry Hook of Gay Lea Foods, which ships its Real Whipped Cream brand to grocers across Canada. “[We] have since secured sourcing and will be OK.”

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As for confection consumers in the U.S., Conagra doesn’t expect to have a fresh shipment of whipped cream on store shelves until early 2017.

“We should have our full supply up and running by February,” Friedman told The Post.

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So, unless Santa’s elves are putting their chemistry skills to work, it appears Christmas could be a little less sweet.

“We encourage shoppers to stock up early on Reddi-wip during our peak holiday season,” Friedman said.

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