Local bakeries, bagel stores experience cream cheese shortage

Local bakeries, bagel stores experience cream cheese shortage

A portion of the cream cheese case in Bagel Express in Setauket. Photo from David Prestia

Across the North Shore of Suffolk County, bagel shops and bakeries have found that it has been a little difficult getting cream cheese.

While customers can still get their favorite spread on a sandwich or buy a cheesecake or Danish pastry, local bakery and bagel shop owners are having a difficult time procuring cream cheese, and the price of the product has increased over the last few weeks. The shortage has been felt across the nation.

David Prestia, owner of Bagel Express in Setauket, said he first heard about the shortage on the news. It was a bit concerning to him as his restaurant uses cream cheese often for their bagel sandwiches, even though they offer other options such as butter, egg salad and more.

Prestia said he deals with several distributors so he has only been slightly affected by the shortage. When a couple of them couldn’t fulfill his cream cheese order, he was able to go to another distributor. However, the amount he could order was limited. He said this distributor told him that they would have to limit orders until they could assess the situation.

Cream cheese comes in 50-pound blocks, and while it’s the norm to order a few blocks at a time, he and others have been lucky if they can get one or two per order.

Prestia said he also noticed the price was going up recently. He estimated, based on his experience, that it cost 20% more to buy the spread.

Cream cheese blocks can last 45 days if the seal isn’t broken, so Prestia said he should be good through the remainder of the year. He added that cream cheese is not the only thing in short supply and he has had trouble finding other products, including napkins and plates.

“It’s been so many different things that we’ve been short on and then when the stuff appears, then the price goes up and that’s the problem,” he said. “Prices are changing so rapidly. It’s hard to keep up with what’s going on.”

Cemal Ankay, owner of Bagelicious Cafe in Port Jefferson Station, has been experiencing the same issues as Prestia. He said he has been reaching out to different distributors throughout the state to get cream cheese.

Ankay said he always tries to have two-weeks inventory, and while he hasn’t been able to get as many blocks of cream cheese as he has in the past such as four or five, he has been able to get one or two here and there. He said it’s important to be proactive as the year winds down.

“Christmas week, that’s our busiest days of the year,” he said.

Product shortages have seemed to become the norm lately, Ankay said.

“After this pandemic happened, we always have different kinds of product shortages,” he said, adding at one point he had trouble getting bacon then cups for iced tea. He, too, has had trouble getting napkins.

Ankay has seen the prices skyrocket for cream cheese. He once paid $1.90 a pound but then last week it was around $2.49, and the other day he was told it would be more than $3.

“You’re lucky to get it,” he said. “I don’t want to say to my customers, ‘Sorry, I don’t have any cream cheese.’”

In Northport, Copenhagen Bakery & Cafe owned by Flemming Hansen has been facing similar problems getting cream cheese for items such as cheesecake, Danishes and their red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, according to employee Jessica Greenbaum. Like Bagel Express, they deal with a few distributors and have options regarding ordering. Recently, they ordered cream cheese from a distributor that they haven’t ordered the product from in the past.

“I hope it doesn’t come to, when in the morning you crave a cheese Danish, that we don’t have one,” she said, adding that the bakery has enough to get through the holidays as they don’t use as much of the spread as a bagel store would.

Grocery stores

The cream cheese shortage has affected local grocery stores, too.

Stefanie Shuman, external communications manager for Stop & Shop, said, “Like many retailers, we are seeing some shortages because suppliers are experiencing labor and transportation challenges due to COVID-19. With cream cheese, Kraft specifically has been having supply issues on Philly and Temp Tee [products] due to impacts from Hurricane Ida.”

King Kullen, which has stores in St. James and Wading River, is experiencing similar problems, according to Lloyd Singer, spokesperson for King Kullen.

“While we are in stock on most varieties, supply is tight and is expected to remain so through the end of the year,” Singer said.