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Oh, the humanity! Dion’s runs short on ranch

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Dion’s has temporarily suspended dressing-making operations as it completes upgrades to its production facility. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Brace yourselves, Albuquerque: We are in the midst of a Dion’s ranch shortage.

The Albuquerque pizzeria chain has temporarily suspended dressing-making operations as it completes upgrades to its production facility, and some of its 23 stores have already begun serving substitute dressing. The company has not said exactly when it will have a fresh supply of its own ranch, Greek, Thousand Island and more but has indicated it could be in the next few weeks.

This is the second time Dion’s has made headlines this month. The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a public health alert about possible listeria contamination of Dion’s deli meats on Jan. 6 after some equipment at the company’s production facility tested positive for the bacteria.

There have been no confirmed cases of listeria in Dion’s customers, the chain’s executives said Tuesday, but the company suspended its meat slicing and is now relying on its existing meat vendor to provide it already cut.

None of the dressing-making equipment tested positive for listeria. But CEO Mark Herman said the company has looked more closely at its production facility since the alert, temporarily halting the dressing manufacturing.

“It was a good time for us just to review and say ‘Are there any upgrades we want to make while we’re thinking about this and it’s fresh in our mind, things we can do to make it even safer?'” he said in an interview Tuesday.

A dearth of Dion’s dressing isn’t as dramatic as, say, a green chile shortage, but for some fans it seems to hurt almost as much.

“No Dion’s ranch dressing? The one thing you think you can count on in this world,” wrote Twitter user @Macho­_Nacho, who also included the hashtag #notmydressing.

A few customers complained on the company’s Facebook page.

Local radio shows weighed in too. Hosts from KPEK-FM’s Jackie, Tony & Donnie show lamented the dressing deficit on-air Tuesday morning, tweeting an exclamation-point laden message that read in part “A New Mexican tradition has been ripped away!!!!!”

Herman — who declined to reveal the source of the ranch alternative — said the comments are heartening.

“We’re thrilled that people love it so much because we do as well,” he said. “This is temporary and we’ll have it back up as soon as we can.”

Dion’s ranch is among its signature products. The company produced more than 4.2 million cups in 2016, Marketing Director Deena Crawley said. Dion’s makes all of its own dressings at its Albuquerque production facility, which also has a bakery and generates the vegetable “mix” used in salads and the chain’s fruit cups. The bakery is operating as normal, but some stores have experienced shortages of the mix and fruit cups. Crawley said the mix is available again.

Herman said there was “a dip” in business right after the Jan. 6 health alert but sales have recovered well. He said he did not yet know the total cost of the upgrades taking place at the production facility.

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