For Juniors, the cream cheese shortage couldn’t have come at a worse time.

From its baking facility in Burlington, New Jersey, the company uses about 4 million pounds of the product each year, with demand for their signature cheesecakes reaching its peak during the holiday season. But global supply chain issues have left cream cheese hard to come by, and on Friday, Juniors was forced to close down its cheesecake production, owner Alan Rosen told CNN. 

“We’ve been scraping by [for weeks], getting cream cheese in sporadic supply and praying,” he told reporters. “[December is] our busiest month of the year.”

And while other vendors are tinkering with their recipes to adjust to the cream cheese shortage, Rosen said Juniors’ cheesecake formula isn’t going anywhere. “The recipe has not changed one ounce” since the business began in 1950, he said

Cream Cheese Shortage in Full Swing

Cream cheese is the latest good to be impacted by the ongoing supply chain crisis. From the retail-end bagel shops to wholesalers like Kraft Heinz, the affected portions of the foodservice industry are scrambling to deal with the new reality. 

In New York City, where bagel shops routinely consume thousands of pounds of cream cheese per week, owners told the New York Times they’ve resorted to begging suppliers, driving out of state, and using individually packaged, single-serving pats to plug the gaps created by the shortage. 

“This is bad. This is very bad,” said one restaurant manager, who told reporters he only had enough cream cheese spread to last him another week. 

“We went this week and the shelves were empty,” said another. “If we cannot find cream cheese, I worry now, what are we going to do?” 

It's not just Juniors. Bagel shops across the northeast are feeling scraped by the cream cheese shortage.
It’s not just Juniors. Bagel shops across the northeast are feeling scraped by the cream cheese shortage. Photo credit: Shutterstock

“We’re just having to get the cream cheese from different vendors,” a third owner told CNN.

Kraft Heinz, the food industry powerhouse that owns Philadelphia cream cheese, told reporters they were doing what they could to meet the demand of the nation’s kitchens. 

“We are maximizing our production to meet the unprecedented demand,” the company said in a statement, noting that it has already shipped 30 percent more cream cheese in 2021 than it did the year prior. Retail demand for the spread also increased recently, rising 18 percent in 2020 and staying at that level in 2021, Kraft added. 

As for Juniors, Rosen said he plans to appeal to the suits at Kraft Heinz directly. “We’re getting on the phone with them,” he said. “We’re talking, we’re pleading, we’re moving trucks around where we can.”

Juniors owner Alan Rosen said he plans to appeal directly to Kraft Heinz for help during the cream cheese shortage. Kraft Heinz has said it's doing everything it can to keep the spread in supply.
Juniors owner Alan Rosen said he plans to appeal directly to Kraft Heinz for help during the cream cheese shortage. Kraft Heinz has said it’s doing everything it can to keep the spread in supply. Photo credit: Shutterstock

What’s Causing the Shortage? 

Simply put, economists attribute the global supply chain crisis to disruptions caused by the pandemic, paired with a growing demand for goods. The issues have been compounded by the labor shortage and the “bottlenecked” traffic at major U.S. ports in Los Angeles and Savannah, Georgia. 

The backlog has affected the cost and availability of a wide swath of consumer goods, including shoes, cars, and chicken tenders. But the cream cheese shortage might be felt more acutely given how many Americans buy a bagel on a daily basis. 

Global supply chains are complex and interdependent and it’s impossible to say exactly when the availability of any particular good will stabilize. So in the meantime, some consumers are eyeing alternatives to the spread. 

The cream cheese shortage, like all facets of the global supply chain crisis, is believed to stem from pandemic disruptions to the economy coupled with high demand. Juniors
The cream cheese shortage, like all facets of the global supply chain crisis, is believed to stem from pandemic disruptions to the economy coupled with high demand. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Cream Cheese Alternatives to Tide You Over

Melanie Frost, COO and president of Ess-a-Bagel in New York, told CNN her shop has been promoting its tofu spread as a cream cheese alternative while they weather the shortage. Silken tofu is a popular alternative to cream cheese for its light, creamy texture and protein-rich nutrient profile.

If tofu is a no-go, many have had luck by opting to use another dairy product — strained Greek yogurt, sour cream, and ricotta cheese have all been touted as enjoyable substitutes to cream cheese.