J. Gould of Maine asks, 'Whatever happened to ...?' My puffed-wheat cereal

Longtime Monitor columnist John Gould enclosed a note with a recent essay. He said that none of the supermarkets near him - or in Maine - had any puffed-wheat cereal. And no one he spoke to, not even grocery-store distributors, could say why.

So we phoned Quaker Oats, makers of Puffed Wheal and confirmed Mr. Gould's observation. There is a nationwide shortage.

"About two months ago, consumers suddenly started buying more Puffed Wheat than we could produce," says Quaker Oats spokeswoman Allison Harmon. "We're doing our best to meet the demand." The Quaker brand - unsweetened, and made for grown-ups - was first distributed in 1921. It's made by baking wheat that has first been steamed.

The company can't say why the cereal has become so popular. "Maybe people just like the taste," Ms. Harmon says.

The shortage should be short-lived. Supply should catch up with demand before the year is out.

The national shortage does not extend to a grocery store near the Monitor's newsroom, however. A box was immediately dispatched to Mr. Gould.

If you wonder 'Whatever happened to...' write us at: One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail: whatever@csmonitor.com

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