After months of hand-wringing and waves of hysteria, the crisis has been averted. The national shortage of Speculoos Cookie Butter, the delectably spiced peanut-butter-like spread sold by gourmet grocery chain Trader Joe's, is over.
Stores in Texas and throughout the nation report that jars of cookie butter are populating their shelves again, though still in limited quantity. But things are looking up, says an employee at the Trader Joe's on Shepherd Drive in Houston.
"The cookie butter is back," says the employee, who remains unnamed because Trader Joe's doesn't like to talk to the press. "It's still limited. We only have the smooth, not the crunchy. But it's back on the shelves."
"Things started to turn around about a week and a half ago," a Trader Joe's employee says. "Now we're up to 10 cases a day."
Speculoos cookie butter has proven to be a major phenomenon for Trader Joe's, but also a bit of a bugaboo. It took the top slot in Trader Joe's annual "most popular products" list in 2012; in 2013, Trader Joe's boldly expanded the line and released a crunchy version.
Cookie butter is like a distant cousin of peanut butter; you can smear it on toast, crackers, pretzels, apples or celery. But unlike peanut-butter which has actual peanuts, cookie butter is made of ground-up cookies and oil, making it a less nutritious foodstuff. However, its sweet-spicy flavor has made it an addictive indulgence for many.
The product has been a victim of its own success. By April, Trader Joe's was experiencing a major Speculoos shortage. The company doesn't make its products itself, nor does it reveal its sources. Some speculate that the Speculoos is made by a Danish company called Markant.
"The manufacturer hasn't been able to keep up with it," says a staffer at a store in Pasadena, California, who is far enough away that we'll identify him as Joe. "Our warehouse put a limit so the company could jam out a whole bunch of product. That's what they've been doing, cranking it out."
The Trader Joe's in Plano is receiving about 10 cases per day of smooth Speculoos, up from the one case per day they've suffered all spring. A case holds 12 jars.
"We were having to limit the purchase to one jar per customer, and you'd have to get up here at 8 am to get one of the 12 jars," says a staffer, who remains unnamed so she won't get in trouble. "But things started to turn around about a week and a half ago. Now we're up to 10 cases a day, with a limit of six jars per customer."
The Houston store isn't limiting quantity at all. "You can buy as many as you like now," the store says.
Meanwhile, there's promising news on the horizon: "It says in our system that the crunchy will be in the warehouse this week and in stores by about August 9," says the staffer at the store in Plano.