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Food & Drink

Americans Are Eating More Velveeta, and Now There's Not Enough

If only televised football didn’t go so well with gooey dip. Couch-dwelling Americans are facing a potential Velveeta shortage first reported by Ad Age on Tuesday morning, with some of the more concerned already calling it “cheesepocalypse.” The culprit: high demand as the National Football League playoffs kick into high gear, the company claims.

How could this happen? Postseason football can hardly come as a surprise. One grocery store employee told Ad Age it was due to a “plant issue,” and Kraft (KRFT) spokeswoman Jody Moore blamed it vaguely on “a combination of minor manufacturing challenges” while denying an ingredient shortage or any weather-related distribution problems caused by the polar vortex.

It could be that we’re buying a lot more of the yellow foodstuff. Euromonitor International estimates dollar sales of Velveeta cheese increased by 23.7 percent in the U.S. last year. The Velveeta brand, which includes processed cheese as well as pasta and casserole meal kits, benefited last year from Kraft’s marketing spend on Velveeta Cheesy Skillets, said Virginia Lee, an analyst at the firm, in an e-mail. Brand sales in the U.S. were up an estimated 16.3 percent.

Now consumers will have to ignore those cravings, at least for a brief time. “Some consumers may not be able to find some Velveeta products on store shelves over the next couple of weeks,” Moore said. Kraft expects it to be a “short-term issue,” and the company said it hasn’t received many consumer complaints so far. Still, a shortage couldn’t have come at a worse time; this is, as Moore described it, “always our busiest time of year.”

The Super Bowl seems to regularly incite overblown hysteria about insufficient munchies to fuel America’s gluttonous parties. Last year the nation bit its proverbial nails over a possible lack of chicken wings, only to find no real problem. Back in 2009, San Francisco narrowly averted a citywide guacamole shortage. For manufacturers, fear of short supply does have its advantages, sometimes resulting in a sales spike (remember when everyone thought Twinkies were done?).

At least the NFL has an official hummus, just in case this cheese drought lasts too long.

Wong is an associate editor for Bloomberg Businessweek. Follow her on Twitter @venessawwong.

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