published Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Stories of Velveeta shortage circulate as Super Bowl nears — but no shortage in Chattanooga

Blocks of Velveeta are on sale in the dairy aisle of the Bi Lo in St. Elmo on Wednesday in Chattanooga.
Blocks of Velveeta are on sale in the dairy aisle of the Bi Lo in St. Elmo on Wednesday in Chattanooga.
Photo by Doug Strickland.

Most-popular Super Bowl snack foods:

• Chicken wings

• Nachos

• Burgers

• Fries

• Sampler platter

Source: Tara Streck, manager Bud’s Sports Bar, Chattanooga

It’s being called the “cheesepocalpyse,” “cheeseaggedon,” and “cheesenado” — a reported Velveeta shortage weeks before the Super Bowl that threatens to leave football fans holding bare tortilla chips bereft of queso dip.

National news outlets glommed onto the story after AdvertisingAge reported that the gooey, smooth-melting processed cheese product was in short supply at unnamed East Coast grocery stores. Some sources soon speculated that Kraft might have manufactured the looming shortage as a “cheesy marketing ploy,” as one pundit put it, to boost sales.

A quick check Wednesday of two Chattanooga-area grocery stores found plenty of Velveeta in stock.

“We’ve even got it on display,” said Greg Mitchell, grocery department manager at the Signal Mountain Road Walmart where 300 2-pound loafs of Velveeta were in stock. Demand hadn’t shot up, he said.

“The sales here have been the same,” Mitchell said.

The St. Elmo Bi-Lo was fully stocked with a variety of Velveeta — not only original flavor, but sharp cheddar, queso blanco and a low-fat version made with 2 percent milk.

“I have it all,” the supermarket’s dairy and frozen food manager Leona Greene said.

Greene was surprised to hear about the alleged run on Velveeta. She said demand has fallen during the past five years.

“I used to sell more,” Greene said. “More people have gotten on the hummus bandwagon.”

Hummus, a dip made of ground chickpeas flavored with such things as hot peppers and garlic, is catching on — even with guys, she said. Likewise, Greene said, Greek yogurt dip is gaining ground on traditional French onion dip made with sour cream.

“There’s some actually good-tasting healthier options,” she said.

Nachos will be on the menu on Feb. 2 when the Make-A-Wish East Tennessee it holds its largest Chattanooga fundraiser of the year, a $1,000-a-table Super Bowl Sunday party at the “biggest screen in Chattanooga” — the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX Theater.

The nacho station will have a made-to-order guacamole. But the nonprofit organization’s Director of Development Stephanie Wilkins wasn’t sure if the caterer planned to stock up on Velveeta.

“Apparently, we may need to,” she said, adding. “I’m not sure if there’s any of that on [the menu].”

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township¹s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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