New York (CNN Business) Junior's Cheesecake has a big problem: Not enough cream cheese.
The company's cheesecake is made from about 85% cream cheese, making it impossible to prepare without that key ingredient. The shortage meant the company had to pause cheesecake production on Friday in its Burlington, New Jersey, baking facility because it didn't have enough of the ingredient, according to owner Alan Rosen. It reopened Sunday, after a frantic Saturday trip to pick up more. But it will have to pause production again on Thursday, Rosen said, as the problem persists.
The factory is where Junior's makes its signature product, which it sells to thousands of national retailers, as well as to restaurants, directly to consumers and in its own four restaurant locations. Every year, Junior's goes through about four million pounds of cream cheese to make its signature product, Rosen said.
Cream cheese is one of the latest ingredients in short supply as food sellers scramble to meet elevated demand as labor shortages and port congestion have wreaked havoc on the supply chain. While backups at ports are starting to clear up, there is concern that the Omicron coronavirus variant will exacerbate global supply chain problems.
The cream cheese shortage couldn't come at a worse time. December is "our busiest month of the year," said Rosen.
Junior's factory typically runs more often this time of year to meet higher demand around the holidays, he said. Half of the company's mail-order business comes in the last three months of the year, and its restaurant business picks up by about 20 or 30% around the holidays, Rosen said. While Junior's has managed to fill orders so far, Rosen worries the outages could have an impact on last-minute holiday cake shopping.
"We've been scraping by" for several weeks, he said, "getting cream cheese in sporadic supply and praying."
New York City bagel shops are also scrambling as they run low, according to a recent report from The New York Times. The small NYC bagel chain Ess-a-Bagel has leaned on more suppliers.
"We're just having to get the cream cheese from different vendors," Melanie Frost, Ess-a-Bagel's COO and president, told CNN Business. That, plus promotion of its tofu spreads, has helped keep Ess-a-Bagel from coming up short, she added.
That's not an option at Junior's, Rosen said. "The recipe has not changed one ounce" since its first restaurant opened in Brooklyn in 1950.
To help ensure that it doesn't run out of cream cheese, Junior's is appealing to Kraft Heinz, the food giant that owns Philadelphia. "We're getting on the phone with them. We're talking, we're pleading, we're moving trucks around where we can," Rosen said.
Kraft Heinz (KHC) had been seeing demand for cream cheese rise both in restaurants and grocery stores even before the current holiday season, according to the company. Now, "we are maximizing our production to meet the unprecedented demand," the company told CNN Business in a statement, adding that it's shipping 30-35% more cream cheese to restaurants than it did last year. In retail channels, demand for cream cheese popped 18% in 2020 compared to 2019 and has remained at the level, Kraft noted.
So even as it worries about running out of cream cheese, Junior's has been buying more of it than in the past because of greater demand.