Kraft says sales of Philadelphia are up significantly from last year.
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bagel and cream cheese on plate
Credit: Scukrov / Getty Images

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we've seen no shortage of shortages. Halloween came with a pumpkin shortage. Thanksgiving had a turkey shortage. And good luck drinking away your sorrows: Both the beer and wine industry are dealing with shortages, too. At a time when literal maple syrup reserves are being tapped, even oddly specific items are not exempt from being in short supply—so it's actually not surprising at all that New York City is facing a cream cheese shortage.

Last month, New Yorkers were lamenting that dollar pizza joints could no longer afford to charge just a buck a slice; now, The New York Times reports that another NYC institution is struggling due to supply chain issues:  Bagel shops across the city told the paper that they can't find enough cream cheese to keep their products schmeared.

"I've never been out of cream cheese for 30 years," Joseph Yemma, who owns the Brooklyn-based distributor F&H Dairies, told the paper. "There's no end in sight."

Another enlightening fact from the report is that many bagel shops actually use the Kraft-owned brand Philadelphia cream cheese as the base for their own spreads, but unlike the rest of us, bagel makers buy a raw, unprocessed, and unwhipped version of Kraft's cheese to work with. Even that is hard to come by.

"We continue to see elevated and sustained demand across a number of categories where we compete," a Kraft spokesperson was quoted as saying, adding that shipment were up 35 percent from last year. "As more people continue to eat breakfast at home and use cream cheese as an ingredient in easy desserts, we expect to see this trend continue."

So in the interim, New York bagel shops—some of which are measuring the amount of cream cheese they have left in days—are resorting to whatever they can do to get the spreadable stuff. "I'll jump in my truck and I'll drive to northern Jersey and pick it up, but I usually wouldn't have to go that far," one Brooklyn shop owner said. "You make a phone call and it's dropped off to you."

So the next time you New Yorkers order schmear on your morning bagel, don't take it for granted. It might've had a longer commute than you.

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