- Spray whipped cream will be missed at holiday tables due to an Airgas explosion in August, Fortune reported Tuesday. A disruption in the supply chain is delaying production of the airy concoction, disappointing celebrants and whippet users alike.
- While Airgas struggles to make repairs, the bulk of production is being diverted to hospitals for medical use, and to mollify physicians in advance of complex heart and brain surgery. Suppliers expect to resume normal shipments in February, just in time for Valentine's Day.
- The market for ready-made whipped cream was expected to reach $505.3 million in 2016, up from $407.2 million in 2011. For the time being, though, Americans will be forced to make do with either excellent hand-whipped real cream, or, for those unable to do without compressed food products, Cheese-Whip.
Upstream supply chain disruptions in primary supplies can have lasting and expansive consequences.
Though comical, this situation perfectly illustrates the value of transparency throughout the supply chain. A quick supplier search indicates at least 80 different nitrous oxide vendors in the U.S., which may all be facing increased demand but should be willing to scale up production.
Whipped cream producer Reddi-Wip is suffering most from the disruption: Airgas was a primary supplier for the company, and the sudden lack of nitrous oxide has reportedly left the company struggling to secure sufficient supply. The lack of a full supply of Reddi-Wip until February shows just how dependent the company was on its primary supplier.
Further downstream, retailers lacking the product have a choice: lose from potential sales or restock whipped cream supply from alternate vendors. A cost-benefit analysis would typically favor restocking from alternate vendors or alternate goods vendors if price remains stable.
A lack of nitrous-oxide supplied whipped cream at the retail level, then, indicates either Reddi-Wip and competitors are equally suffering from the supply disruption or retailers lack information of their whipped cream supplier's and are writing off the potential sales loss as missed shipments or supply shortage rather than looking for alternate solutions. In either case, there is no good news for the whipped cream vendor.
If vendors and producers had tied down an alternate source, received alerts about Tier 2 suppliers, and planned ahead from the moment of the Airgas explosion, we'd all be awash in whipped cream this holiday season, as Santa Claus intended.