Is there a worldwide helium shortage?

Earlier this week, I attended a produce trade show called the Northern California Fresh Produce and Floral Council Expo. There were over 150 booths, representing vendor companies from all over the world, and supermarket retailers, food service distributors and produce managers walking the show.

About 60% of the booths represented fresh fruits and vegetables, and 40% were filled with flowers, plants and floral accessories.

As I walked the show, I stopped at a booth for Mayflower Distributing, which was filled with balloons, a big business for floral departments of supermarkets. Just as I was ready to walk away, the owner Joe asked me, “Can I help you with anything?”

Well, actually, I did have a question. I wanted to know if there really was a worldwide helium shortage. A good friend, who started a balloon arrangement business, is paying double for helium what she was two years ago, and mentioned the shortage to me.

As it turns out, Joe had a lot to say on the subject. He told me that one of the biggest users of helium is MRI machines (only 7% of helium use is for balloons!). You can read more here about the helium shortage.

What I found most interesting was a product his company is using to reduce the helium shortage on his business.

As you can see from this photo, the contraption at the base of the balloon looks like a giant spring, which props up the balloon like a neck brace. Since this balloon is filled with regular air (not helium), the normal buoyancy caused by the helium is not there, and without this invention the balloon would droop. That would just kill the party balloon business!

So, voila! Necessity is once again the mother of invention.

I’ve always thought the produce industry was extremely resilient. In the face of near natural disaster, (a freeze) or business crisis (spinach recall), we always come through with a new invention, process, source of supply or a solution. We literally make lemonade out of lemons.

And I guess the floral and decorative accessory business is also resilient and inventive.

It’s good to know that a helium shortage will not hold back the balloon business!