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Bagels with cream cheese
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Here's how NYC bagel shops are dealing with the cream cheese shortage

The situation is dire.

Anna Rahmanan
Written by
Anna Rahmanan

In case you haven't heard of the awful news: New York is dealing with a major cream cheese shortage at the moment.

As reported by The New York Times, bagel shops in New York usually go through thousands of pounds of cream cheese every few weeks but, given the supply chain issues that have affected basically every industry in the United States over the past few months, the purveyors of the state's iconic food have had to face cancelled orders for weeks now. 

"I have been in the business for 25 years and this has never happened," says Frankie Assad, the owner of Olde Brooklyn Bagel Shoppe in Prospect Heights.

Given the shortage of what he says are the most popular varieties ordered with bagels, Assad has had to cut down on flavors like strawberry, blueberry, walnut, raisin and cannoli, instead only offering more traditional cream cheese options (plain, olive, scallion).

"We also told customers that we won't be putting a lot of cream cheese on the bagels, just a smear, so we have enough for others," explains Assad. 

Given the scarcity of the food, the price of the cream cheese that is available has skyrocketed. "I just spent $726 for four cases of 50 pounds of cream cheese each," says Assad. "I usually spend $90 per case."

Although most bagel shops in New York use unprocessed and unwhipped Philadelphia cream cheese as their base product (not exactly the sort of stuff you buy from your neighborhood grocery store), it seems like all sorts of cream cheese brands have been in shortage for the past few weeks.

The scarcity has been documented by several shop owners but not many seem to know what's caused the shortage. 

"Philadelphia cream cheese is not made overseas," says Assad, arguing that products made outside of the United States have been hard to find in recent months. "I don't know what's going on here."

Speaking to the The New York Times, Phil Pizzano, a sales representative at food distribution company Fischer Foods, explains that "problems have popped up at every point along the supply chain that brings cream cheese from factories to the morning bagel." Those issues include a labor shortage in the manufacturing sector caused by COVID-19 followed by a dearth of truck drivers (who seem resistant to getting vaccinated and therefore being able to work) and a scarcity of packaging supplies.

Clearly, there are several problems that need to be resolved in order for us to be able to enjoy our Sunday morning bagels without worry again. Please, someone, find a solution immediately.

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