ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Move over, New York, schmear enthusiasts in Tampa Bay are having trouble of their own trying to pick up a tub of cream cheese.
The refrigerated staple, like other consumer goods, has been a hit-or-miss product on store shelves in recent weeks. Some grocers may have it, others not, and it could come in a different variety or package than what someone is used to.
That's at least the norm, for now, at Publix. The company has placed limits on cream cheese to two per customer.
"We continue to replenish inventory as quickly as possible and selection will vary by store," spokesperson Maria Brous said in a statement. In many cases, there may be cream cheese, but a different brand, size, or type than a customer traditionally purchases. For instance, the block of cream cheese may be more widely available than whipped."
Southeastern Grocers, the parent company of Winn Dixie, said there are no item limits at its stores.
"Our well-experienced supply chain team is updating our stocking plans throughout each day to ensure that popular products, like cream cheese, are on the shelf," the company said in a statement. "We continue to work closely with our vendor partners and distribution centers to navigate these challenges and operate with precision to deliver shopping experiences our customers can always count on at the right price."
Bagel shop owners in the New York City area told outlets recently that they've had issues trying to secure enough cream cheese for everyone's breakfasts, with one citing a shortage of the plastic tubes used to deliver the product to stores and bakeries.
Even Junior’s had to pause production last week of its signature product, cheesecake, CNN reports. The holidays demand a great deal of cream cheese for desserts and other treats, so it's a problem for owner Alan Rosen. He told CNN December is "our busiest month of the year."
A cyberattack on a big U.S. cheese manufacture isn't helping to increase supply, either, according to Bloomberg. It reports Schreiber Foods in Wisconsin, which has a cream cheese business rivaling Kraft's, closed for several days in October after its systems were compromised.
Andrew Novakovic, an agricultural economist at Cornell University, told Bloomberg that some cream cheese makers have had trouble securing starch — used as a thickening agent — and other packaging materials. And then there are the ongoing labor issues to make the product and ship it across the country.