Kraft Foods reports shortage of its Velveeta processed cheese product, says it's 'short-term issue that's more noticeable right now given the increased seasonal demand'
January 8, 2014
– If this story wasn't about the Velveeta cheese shortage, you could say it was full of holes.
No holes in the orange-colored, highly-processed cheese food, of course. But, perhaps, some holes in the Kraft Foods explanation about why some stores are running out of the stuff known as Liquid Gold to Velveeta lovers but widely lampooned by some food aficionados.
It all began with an enterprizing report in Advertising Age, the trade publication, that noted some East Coast grocery stores were running out of Velveeta cheese -- and didn't know why.
Kraft declines to discuss the specific reasons for the shortage. It did, however, email USA TODAY this explanation from spokesperson Jody Moore "This is really a short-term issue that's more noticeable right now given the increased seasonal demand."
Seasonal demand? For Velveeta?
"It's not a seasonal product," says Ken Albala, a culinary historian who teaches a class on "History of Food" at University of the Pacific in Stockton, Ca. "There is no dish served between Thanksgiving and Christmas that is quintessentially Velveeta."
What's more, says Albala, if there's one cheese product on the planet that should never run out, it's Velveeta. "The whole point of Velveeta is you keep it on the shelf indefinitely. It's the cheese for people who don't know how to cook."
Maybe so. But the 86-year-old processed cheese product, commonly melted into mac & cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches and casseroles, remains a $500 million-plus brand for Kraft. Never mind that in 1931, no less than the American Medical Association granted Velveeta its seal of approval.
But why today's shortage? Sure, Velveeta costs a lot less than real cheese, but Albala doesn't think this shortage is some statement about the still-wobbly economy. Nor does he think it was a staple for New Year's Eve dips. Velveeta may see a spike in interest around Super Bowl time, he says, but that's nearly a month away.
Albala thinks, perhaps, some very popular cooking TV show, website or magazine recently posted a recipe -- or recipes -- that called for Velveeta as an ingredient. "That's all I can think of," he says.
"It is possible consumers may not be able to find some Velveeta products on store shelves over the next couple of week," says Kraft's Moore, in the release. But, the release notes, "we have not heard many complaints from consumers so far."
Albala says he certainly has no complaints about the Velveeta shortage. "I prefer real cheese," he says. Even at 49-years-old, he notes, "I've never bought it in my life."