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Grab a whisk: Nitrous oxide shortage affecting whipped cream supply

A brownie sundae topped with whipped cream. Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff/File

If you were hoping to add a dollop of whipped cream to your apple pie this holiday season, then you’d better head to the store and start filling up your shopping cart early.

Some supermarkets and manufacturers are warning customers that due to a national shortage of nitrous oxide, certain canned whipped cream products may be missing from the shelves.

An incident at a Florida facility in August has impacted the production of the gas that shoots whipped cream from canisters and onto desserts, leaving some stores that sell the fluffy white topping strapped before Christmas.

Conagra Foods, which makes Reddi-wip, said the industry-wide issue affects any company that relies on nitrous oxide in their products, including private labels and competitive brands.


Lanie Friedman, a Conagra spokeswoman, said in a statement that the company is doing its best to make its whipped cream available to as many consumers as possible.

In the meantime, they’re encouraging shoppers to “stock up early,” during the peak season.

“We should have our full supply up and running by February,” Friedman said.

The lack of whipped cream cans was evident in some stores in the Boston area this month. The website Universal Hub posted an image of a sign taped to a shelf at a Market Basket Tuesday that warned customers about the dearth of the topping.

“There is a national shortage of nitrous oxide, the gas used in aero whipped cream,” the internal memo read. “The shortage affects all of our whipped cream suppliers ... we hope to receive some product (an allocated amount) next week.”

The sign, dated Dec. 5, continued, “there may be no product available for at least 10 days, except for a minimal amount of Reddi-wip.”

Market Basket officials did not immediately return a request for comment about the notice.


A shopper at a Hannaford’s location in New Hampshire was confronted by a similar warning sign last Friday when strolling the aisles during a trip to the supermarket.

“Our current supply of Aerosol whipped topping has been severly limited due to a nationwide shortage of nitrous oxide,” the sign read. “We expect this problem to be resolved shortly.”

The problem seems to be tied to a fatal incident at a facility operated by Nitrous Oxide Corp., an Airgas company, in Florida this summer.

An explosion at the plant impacted the production of nitrous oxide indefinitely, as well as Airgas Nitrous Oxide’s supply in the short-term, according to the company.

Sarah Boxler, a spokeswoman for Airgas, said in a statement that whipped cream makers have been notified directly about the problem. Other customers, including those in the medical industry, were also impacted, according to the Chicago Tribune, which first reported the issue.

The company, Boxler said, “is making all possible efforts to remedy the situation as quickly as possible.”

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.