Answer Man: Why isn't eggnog sold year-round?

News-DemocratDecember 16, 2013 

Q. Why is eggnog not sold year-round? If it were, I would be a dairy's No. 1 customer! I think it's the manufacturers who are designating it as a seasonal drink. If iced tea can be sold in the winter, why not eggnog in the summer?

-- Bill, of Breese

A. For the same reason I enjoy dark, thick stouts in the winter but switch to thinner pilsners in the summer: Most people simply like lighter fare as temperatures climb, which leaves eggnog gathering cobwebs on store shelves soon after New Year's Day.

"Consumption of it seems to be tied to the temperature, because it is just a little heavier," Gary Lee, vice president of procurement for Prairie Farms Dairy in Carlinville, told me. "It does have a few fans out there, but it's just more of a holiday, cold-weather kind of item."

And, according to historians, that's the way it has been ever since it became a wintertime favorite of the British aristocracy centuries ago. Back then, they usually served it warm and mixed it with brandy or sherry to retard spoilage.

When the Brits made their way over to the New World, they brought their cold-weather eggnog habit with them but colonists soon replaced the expensive liqueurs with cheaper rum. By the 1800s, it had become a winter holiday classic, a custom that has continued ever since.

Today, most dairies like Prairie Farms start revving up production in mid- to late-October. Sales start to rise until initially peaking during Thanksgiving week -- about 10 percent of total annual sales. Then, after a slight drop-off, customers stock up during Christmas week, when about 20 percent of the annual production is sold.

After the presents are unwrapped and the last piece of pumpkin pie is scarfed down, sales start to plummet faster than the stock market in 1929. By early January, only a few stalwarts like you are still putting it in their shopping carts.

And, it's not just the time of year, but also the temperature. Companies say the colder it is, the more it sells. As a result, eggnog is far more popular in the Midwest and Northeast than the South.

Dean Foods, for example, which reportedly makes about a third of the 130 million pounds of eggnog sold in the United States each year, says its three most popular brands are all sold in the northernmost parts of the country. Yet even marketers in cold climes say sales plunge during warmer holiday seasons.

I would guess dieting plays a role, too. Around the holidays, many feel they can enjoy a short calorie splurge just before they make their annual New Year's resolution to eat healthier. So they sneak a few glasses of high-octane eggnog (340 calories per 8 ounces) as they gird for 11 months of skimmed milk (90 calories).

As a result, it's sadly not cost-effective for dairies to please their nogheads. Just think of the resources that would go into producing and marketing small batches of eggnog for its few summertime fans. And, of course, supermarkets don't want to take shelf space away from more popular items.

I do have a bit of good news: Since the 1990s, Dean Foods apparently has produced an Eastertime eggnog for a few cities that, while not a huge seller, reportedly earns a small profit. Next spring, Prairie Farms apparently going to follow suit for good eggs like you, so watch for it.

Q. What has happened to Mr. Trivia, David Strauss? His show was a mainstay in my life on Sunday night radio for 20 years.

-- Taree

A. I feared it was anything but trivial when I saw a note by St. Louis media blogger Mike Anderson last March 18 that Strauss was about to undergo open heart surgery.

I was even more worried when I didn't see a promised follow-up, but Greg Kornfeld, a former colleague at the Big 550, KTRS, let me know this weekend that all is well.

"I spoke with Dave last week," Kornfeld wrote. "He's doing well. He's changed some things in his lifestyle (which he needed to do). Doing some walking and eating better. He still lives in the South County area, and he's happily retired. I would give you an email for him, but he doesn't have one. That's Dave."

Today's trivia

Can you name the four Japanese-born actors and actresses who have won an Oscar?

Answer to Sunday's trivia: Born in the Netherlands as Andreas Cornelius van Kuijk, Colonel Tom Parker became country star Eddie Arnold's full-time manager in 1945. He later began working with Hank Snow, which caused Arnold to fire him. Then in February 1955, Parker met with Elvis Presley, and the rest is history. By the way, he took the name Tom Parker to help hide the fact that he was an illegal alien when he enlisted in the Army in the 1930s. He then passed up an opportunity to become a legal citizen in 1940, possibly to keep his prior service from becoming public.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 618-239-2465.

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