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Good Humor Shortage Dings Ice Cream Trucks

Thu, 06/21/2012 - 9:22am
David Dishneau, Associated Press

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — As the first heat wave of summer broiled the Northeast on Wednesday, fans of Good Humor's classic Toasted Almond Bar found a shortage of sweet relief.

Parent company Unilever PLC said a sales spike during the unusually warm spring and challenges linked to next month's closing of its Hagerstown manufacturing plant have limited its ability to supply ice cream trucks with Toasted Almond, Candy Center Crunch and Chocolate Eclair bars — treats especially popular in the Northeast.

The British-Dutch conglomerate said the Toasted Almond shortage should ease by the end of July. "We are confident that all issues will be resolved by mid-summer," Unilever spokesman Jeff Graubard said in an email.

That's little comfort to Brian Collis, owner of Mr. Ding-a-Ling Ice Cream Inc. in Latham, N.Y. He said customers of his 68 trucks in the area around Albany suffered through a shortage of Good Humor Oreo bars for most of the spring and now can only get Toasted Almond Bars from a grocery store.

"The Toasted Almond's such an old-time thing from the 1950s," he said. "It's just such a basic thing we've always had. Now everybody's missing it."

He said Good Humor supply problems have taken a 5 percent bite out of his sales.

Less affected are mobile vendors on the West Coast. Lauren Kates, owner of Aunt LaLi's Treats in San Francisco area, said her wholesaler doesn't carry Toasted Almond Bars because there's virtually no demand for them.

"Every once in a while we get some East Coast people who've migrated out here who ask about it," she said.

Rumors last winter of a pending Good Humor disruption prompted Joey Simonton of Charleston, W.Va., to switch to Blue Bunny bars for his Joey's Ice Cream Trucks. He said Blue Bunny, a unit of Le Mars, Iowa-based Wells Enterprises Inc., has products similar to Good Humor's.

"It's pretty amazing that they couldn't be more prepared for something like this," Simonton said.

The Unilever spokesman said it's been difficult shifting production from Hagerstown to Unilever plants in Covington, Tenn. and Sikeston, Mo., while maintaining product quality.

The Hagerstown plant is closing permanently as part of a consolidation of the company's U.S. ice creamoperations.

Bill Pavone, owner of Chilly Billy's Ice Cream in Tonawanda, N.Y., said it's the neighborhood dealers and their customers who suffer during such shortages.

"It sucks to tell someone you don't have something," Pavone said. "In most cases they'll just pick something else but they'll look a little disgusted."

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