The products that you buy in the supermarket each week frequently take international trips on the way to your pantry. And the actions President Trump is considering on trade, including potentially restricting foreign steel imports, could do a lot to reroute these journeys.
In the video above, the Post’s Jhaan Elker and I trace one classic American product — the whipped topping Reddi Wip — around the world.
The aerosol can that Reddi Wip comes in is actually made from a kind of steel manufactured in Japan, at the JFE Fukuyama Works in Hiroshima. It’s then shipped across the Pacific Ocean and through the Panama Canal to the Port of New Orleans.
On a recent reporting trip, I saw that steel arrives in the port on a giant freighter named Sagarjeet. As I watched from the deck of the ship, dockworkers used a crane to lift massive steel coils from the ship’s belly into a barge waiting in the Mississippi River.
I learned that the barge would be heading up the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, where it would be transferred to a truck and sent to the DS Containers Factory in Batavia, Illinois. There, it would be shaped into aerosol cans for a variety of familiar products, including Reddi Wip, Barbasol shaving cream and Pam cooking spray.
President Trump could move as early as this week to place restrictions on imported steel, in an effort to better support the U.S. steel industry. Many U.S. steel companies have come out in favor of this move, arguing that unfair foreign competition is driving them out of business.
But, like any trade policy, the measure will create winners and losers. Many industries in the United States that use steel to make other products have spoken out against the measure, out of concern that higher tariffs will push up steel prices and cut down on their profit margins.
I sought out Matt Kuehn, the vice president of DS Containers, to see what he thought about the potential tariffs. He says he is “extremely concerned.”
Kuehn says that the laminated steel his aerosol cans are made from is not available in the United States, and that the higher costs the tariffs would bring could put their business, which employs 200 people in Illinois, at risk.
“We are in a situation where we need to source 100 percent of our material from overseas,” Kuehn says. “This could put us at a severe competitive disadvantage if tariffs were to be imposed.”