| NEW YORK
NEW YORK American sweet tooths may suffer this holiday season as a ready-made whipped cream shortage could leave such favorites as apple pie or a mug of hot chocolate without a little extra on top.
The creamy dessert topping is in short supply after an August explosion at an Airgas Inc facility in Florida disrupted the supply of nitrous oxide, the gas used to keep whipped cream airy and light, industry officials said.
"The timing is really unfortunate," said Stephanie McVaugh, vice president of Delaware-based Natural Dairy Products Corporation, the maker of Natural by Nature whipped cream.
Demand usually picks up in November as the holidays approach, she said, but her company produced its first run of whipped cream only last week after having none for a "couple of months."
The U.S. market for products like ready-made whipped cream was expected to reach $505.3 million in 2016, according to market research firm Euromonitor International, up from $407.2 million in 2011.
While the disruption has put some on edge, some culinary websites and blogs have noted there is no shortage of cream and that making "real" whipped cream at home is a simple task.
"It's only a whipped cream shortage if you don't eat real whipped cream," a post on the personal finance website the Penny Hoarder said on Monday. The real thing is relatively easy to make, the site added.
There was not a "Whippocalypse or Creamageddon in sight," food website Serious Eats said.
For those who prefer the ready-made version, Airgas, which distributes gas for industrial and medical purposes, said in an email it was making "all possible efforts to remedy the situation as quickly as possible."
The company said serving medical customers is the first priority until supplies have stabilized.
The Purchasing Association of Private Clubs warned in November of the shortage, saying ConAgra Foods Inc (CAG.N) had halted all production of Reddi-wip products.
Lanie Friedman, a spokeswoman for ConAgra, said the company is "doing the best we can to make it (Reddi-wip) available to as many people as possible." A full supply should be on hand by February, she said.
Nate Formalarie, spokesman for Vermont's Cabot Creamery Cooperative, said in an email there had been shortages but that "there is light at the end of the tunnel."
(Editing by Ben Klayman and Matthew Lewis)