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Cream-cheesed off: bagel-loving New Yorkers face supply chain nightmare

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<span>Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images

One of the biggest businesses in New York City has developed a worrying hole: bagels.

According to the New York Times, bagel shop owners are facing a shortage of cream cheese, a culinary calamity that could upend how tens of thousands New Yorkers begin their day.

Related: Bagels, pizza and egomania: five things California does better than New York

“This is bad,” Pedro Aguilar, a manager at Pick-a-Bagel, told the paper. “This is very bad.”

As of Friday afternoon, Pick-a-Bagel predicted its schmear supply would only last until Monday.

Zabar’s, an upscale deli in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, only had enough cream cheese to last 10 days.

“Begging is one of my plans, which I have done, and it’s helped,” said Scott Goldshine, Zabar’s general manager.

Goldshine said he had contacted eight distributors recently, to no avail.

“If anybody’s got it,” he said of the creamy comestible, “let them call me.”

The cream cheese crisis comes amid supply chain problems which have roiled the US throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, disrupting availability of items ranging from appliances to apparel.

Some New York bagel shops have also reported problems in finding sandwich meats including ham and beef tongue, the Times said.

Many bagel stores in New York use Philadelphia-brand cream cheese – made by the Kraft Heinz food conglomerate – as a base. Unlike the Philadelphia available to most retail consumers, it is sold “unprocessed and unwhipped”, allowing shops to add their own flavorings, the Times said.

But for the past several weeks, companies which supply bagel shops said, orders from manufacturers have not kept up with demand, imperiling the most beloved topping for bagels, the ring-shaped bread synonymous with New York City.

“I’ve never been out of cream cheese for 30 years,” Joseph Yemma, owner of F&H Dairies, which distributes products to many New York bagel stores, told the Times. “There’s no end in sight.”

Kraft-Heinz said there was a surge in demand and it had ramped up shipping by 35%.

“We continue to see elevated and sustained demand across a number of categories where we compete,” the company said. “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.”

Frank Mattera, one of the owners of Bagelsmith in Brooklyn, was among proprietors hunting cream cheese in other states. He told the Times he planned on picking up 2,000lb in neighboring New Jersey.

“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,” Mattera said. “You make a phone call and it’s dropped off to you.”

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