Velveeta shortage, If this story wasn’t about the Velveeta cheese shortage, you could say it was full of holes.
No holes in the orange-colored, highly-processed cheese food, of course. But, perhaps, some holes in the Kraft Foods explanation about why some stores are running out of the stuff known as Liquid Gold to Velveeta lovers but widely lampooned by some food aficionados.
It all began with an enterprizing report in Advertising Age, the trade publication, that noted some East Coast grocery stores were running out of Velveeta cheese — and didn’t know why.
Kraft declines to discuss the specific reasons for the shortage. It did, however, email USA TODAY this explanation from spokesperson Jody Moore “This is really a short-term issue that’s more noticeable right now given the increased seasonal demand.”
Seasonal demand? For Velveeta?
“It’s not a seasonal product,” says Ken Albala, a culinary historian who teaches a class on “History of Food” at University of the Pacific in Stockton, Ca. “There is no dish served between Thanksgiving and Christmas that is quintessentially Velveeta.”
What’s more, says Albala, if there’s one cheese product on the planet that should never run out, it’s Velveeta. “The whole point of Velveeta is you keep it on the shelf indefinitely. It’s the cheese for people who don’t know how to cook.”
Maybe so. But the 86-year-old processed cheese product, commonly melted into mac & cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches and casseroles, remains a $500 million-plus brand for Kraft. Never mind that in 1931, no less than the American Medical Association granted Velveeta its seal of approval.
But why today’s shortage? Sure, Velveeta costs a lot less than real cheese, but Albala doesn’t think this shortage is some statement about the still-wobbly economy. Nor does he think it was a staple for New Year’s Eve dips. Velveeta may see a spike in interest around Super Bowl time, he says, but that’s nearly a month away.
Albala thinks, perhaps, some very popular cooking TV show, website or magazine recently posted a recipe — or recipes — that called for Velveeta as an ingredient. “That’s all I can think of,” he says.
“It is possible consumers may not be able to find some Velveeta products on store shelves over the next couple of week,” says Kraft’s Moore, in the release. But, the release notes, “we have not heard many complaints from consumers so far.”
Albala says he certainly has no complaints about the Velveeta shortage. “I prefer real cheese,” he says. Even at 49-years-old, he notes, “I’ve never bought it in my life.”
Velveeta shortage: Fans of warm, cheesy dips are getting some curdling news: There’s a shortage of Kraft (KRFT) Velveeta cheese.
Some customers may not be able to find the product over the next few weeks, according to a Kraft statement sent to CBS MoneyWatch. “Any issues with availability are much more noticeable given the seasonal demand,” the statement noted. “However, we have not heard from many consumers that they are having issues locating the product and we expect this to be a short term situation.”
Advertising Age earlier reported shortages at some East Coast grocery stores, with one Brooklyn-area grocery noting that it wasn’t expecting deliveries of the cheese until February. Kraft told AdAge that “combinations of factors” were involved, including demands on drivers.
Some consumers expressed alarm on Twitter. “Whatever will we do for dip!” one Twitter user wrote.
Of course, the shortage could lead to new-found demand for Velveeta. In fact, some cynics might accuse Kraft of staging a “shortage” just as the season for cheesy dips warms up. There’s nothing like a scarcity to make consumers who might otherwise have turned up their noses suddenly feel nostalgic for the 86-year-old brand.
While it’s unclear how widespread the shortage is, Kraft is risking losing out on sales during prime chips-and-dip season, as the NFL playoffs continue and lead up to the Feb. 2 Super Bowl.
Velveeta isn’t just an icon of American food-processing ingenuity. The brand has been showing growth, according to Kraft’s third-quarter earnings release. Velveeta slices — thin slices of the cheese — have boosted sales, while Velveeta dinner kits are continuing to win over consumers, the company said in its earnings release.
While it’s not clear if the shortage is just for classic Velveeta or if it includes spin-off products like the Velveeta dinners, some fans may view the development as welcome as a hunk of Limburger cheese at a Super Bowl party.
First the Srirachapocalypse. Now the Velveetapocalypse.
Just in time for Super Bowl, fans could be hard pressed to find their favorite gooey dip ingredient.
According to Ad Age, Kraft Foods Group is “grappling with a Velveeta shortage just as the dip season kicks into full gear.” They cite reports of a shortage at a few East Coast grocery stores, although it’s unclear if the shortage goes beyond that area.
“Given the incredible popularity of Velveeta this time of year, it is possible consumers may not be able to find their favorite product on store shelves over the next couple of weeks,” Kraft spokeswoman Jody Moore told Ad Age. “Our retail customers are aware of the situation and we expect it to be a short-term issue.”
Representatives for supermarket chain operators Kroger and Safeway were not immediately available to comment on whether they were having difficulty stocking Velveeta cheeses. The shortage affects only the Velveeta hard cheese products, but was not limited to a specific area.
“It is possible consumers in any part of the country may not be able to find some Velveeta products,” Moore said in an email, Velveeta shortage.