A shortage of Reddi-wip whips stores ahead of the holidays

If you can’t imagine the holidays without whipped cream “fresh” from a can, now might be a great time to learn to make your own.

Supplies of Reddi-wip and other canned brands are running low nationwide due to shortfalls of nitrous oxide, the gas used as a propellant for the “aerosol whipped topping,” the Chicago Tribune reports.

“Due to an industry-wide supply issue, there is currently a shortage of some whipped toppings, including Reddi-wip,” Lanie Friedman, a spokeswoman for Reddi-wip owner Conagra Brands, told CBS MoneyWatch. “We’ve heard some stores throughout the country are already experiencing shortages and others still have plenty of product on shelf.”

A factory explosion that killed a worker at an Airgas facility in Cantonment, Fla., led to a drop in production of the gas earlier this year. Another facility in Canada was shut down, according to a note from the Purchasing Association of Private Clubs last month.

Airgas is the largest producer of nitrous oxide in North America, according to its website. The gas has many medical uses, and while supplies ramp up again, medical customers are getting priority, a company spokeswoman said.

Supermarkets from Boston to Omaha, Nebraska, are posting apologetic signs on empty shelves, as would-be buyers are noting on Twitter and Facebook:

The Coffee Bean, a nationwide cafe chain, also confirmed on Twitter some stores were out of whipped cream.

Reddi-wip, first launched during post-World War II food shortages, now makes up half of the canned whipped cream consumed in the U.S., the New York Times reported. That’s not good for bakers.

“We encourage shoppers to stock up early,” said Friedman.

But never fear -- even if your local store runs out, making homemade whipped cream takes all of five minutes and requires no equipment more sophisticated than a mason jar.