Hey! Stop shooting that canister of whipped cream directly into your mouth! And not just because it’s uncouth. America is currently in the midst of a whipped cream shortage – meaning any prepackaged whipped cream you have lying around should be conserved and used exclusively for all-important holiday desserts… or possibly be sold on some sort of extremely lucrative whipped cream black market.
For those worried about other cream-based products, the shortage has nothing to do with dairy. Instead, the industry is currently facing a serious paucity of nitrous oxide – the gas used in the sweet topping’s spray cans – meaning the shortage only affects whipped cream… and maybe people who are planning to see Phish live on New Year’s Eve. The situation is so dire that last month food giant ConAgra had to halt production on its popular Reddi-wip brand, and as of last week, at least one Boston-area market posted that the “shortage affects all of our whipped cream suppliers,” meaning the store could have no product “for at least 10 days.”
So how does an entire country run out of nitrous oxide? The problem stems from a fatal August explosion at a Florida-based plant of nitrous oxide producer Airgas coupled with the shutdown of the company’s Canadian facility for safety reasons. A plant in Mississippi is also apparently having issues (leading you to wonder if some of that nitrous is leaking into the corporate offices). According to the Chicago Tribune, Airgas has been working to build supply back up, but medical suppliers, who use the gas as anesthesia, are getting priority over whipped toppings that can pretty easily be made at home without any laughing gas.