99 problems: ice-cream fans face shortage of Cadbury Flakes

Britons can now enjoy a pint in a pub or a restaurant meal but it turns out that, after months of hardship, the taste of freedom is a 99 ice-cream.

The heavy rain that has accompanied the lifting of lockdown restrictions has not put off Mr Whippy fans with unexpectedly high sales threatening to exhaust supplies of the mini Flakes that form an essential part of the 99 experience.

“We are seeing a recent increase in demand for our Cadbury 99 Flake in the UK and Ireland that we had not expected,” said a spokeswoman for Mondelēz, which owns Cadbury.

Flake ice-cream toppers are half the size of the chocolate bars sold in newsagents and supermarkets, with the mini versions, aimed at the hospitality trade, manufactured outside Cairo in Egypt and also in Coolock near Dublin in Ireland. Cadbury has been owned by the US multinational Mondelēz since 2010.

The shortage was not blamed on Brexit or disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic but straightforward supply and demand issues after Mondelēz did not predict the UK’s spring ice-cream sales bonanza.

The food group, which owns a large number of other chocolate brands including Dairy Milk, Milka and Toblerone, did not say how long it expected the shortage to last. However, in a statement, it said: “The product is still available to order and we’re continuing to work closely with our customers.”

Fans of soft-serve ice-cream are a resourceful bunch in a crisis, with many taking to social media to suggest alternatives, not least a Twirl, similar to a Flake in texture but with extra chocolate. Other suggestions include switching to Kinder Buenos or plonking a Freddo on top. One wag suggested people would be “demonstrating in their hundreds and thousands” at the injustice of it all.

Many people think the term 99 Flake is a reference to the price of the ice-cream, although anyone who has bought a round of cones recently knows that you can no longer get your hands on one of the treats for 99 pence.

Cadbury says the 99 name is a reference to the 99 guards who protected the Italian monarchy. “The name was used to appeal to Italian expats living in the UK and Ireland who were active in the ice-cream trade,” the company said.