COLUMBIA — Only time will tell whether the Great Pumpkin Shortage of 2009 takes a bite out of holiday desserts.
Nestle Baking issued a news release last week warning that grocers might run out of its Libby’s canned pumpkin during this year's holiday season. According to the Los Angeles Times, Libby's controls 85 percent of the canned pumpkin supply.
"Our calculations indicate that we may deplete our inventory of canned LIBBY'S pumpkin as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday," the news release read.
“We have not been impacted this severely for decades,” Roz O’Hearn, spokeswoman for Nestle said in a telephone interview.
Some local grocers, however, don't appear to share the canned pumpkin anxiety.
Schnucks spokesman Paul Simon said he has gotten a lot of calls about the potential shortage but doesn't anticipate the grocery chain running out in the near future.
Gerbes has a limited supply of Libby’s canned pumpkin but also offers its own brand of canned pumpkin, as well as whole pie pumpkins if people wish to make it from scratch, spokeswoman Sheila Lowrie said.
O’Hearn said Libby’s had a bad harvest last year as well and planted 20 percent more acres the year to protect themselves. She declined to say exactly how much smaller this year’s harvest was compared to last.
In contrast to pumpkins used for jack-o-lanterns, those used for canning are oblong and a pale orange color like a cantaloupe. These are sweeter and have a lot more flesh in them, O’Hearn said.
Once Libby’s is out of canned pumpkin, they will be out until next August, O’Hearn said. But if grocers aren’t worried, was this all a stunt to get people in to stores?
Companies aren’t allowed to lie in advertising, MU strategic communications professor Steve Kopcha said. But he described announcing shortages as a tried and true method.
“It makes people say 'Ooh, I better go out and get some before it runs out,” Kopcha said.