LOS ANGELES – If you’ve been to your local bakery recently and noticed things are a little more expensive, you wouldn’t imagine it. The inflation of wheat has hit our breads and pastries. Consumers will see most of this price increase in local bakeries, where bakers and pastry chefs have had to pass the increased costs on to their customers.
Kate McLaughlin said she bakes between 50 and 70 loaves of bread for her artisan bakery business, San Pedro Levain, all from her home kitchen. McLaughlin sells to the local convenience store and donates to several pop-ups and even local pantries, in addition to special orders. McLaughlin said prices for its locally ground flour have never been higher since last summer.
âWhen I first started baking, I didn’t think about the price. And now when a 50-pound bag of flour goes up almost 25%, I take note,â McLaughlin said of shaping a leaven ball.
As a result, McLaughlin had to make changes to his baking business, as did most of the local bakers and bakeries. She cut back on marketing.
âI use cheaper bags, I don’t put small cards in the bags anymore, I stamp the bags less,â she said.
âI increased my prices. And Pedro is a working-class town, they don’t like price increases too much,â McLaughlin said. She also had to raise prices, an inevitable step for most bakers today.
âI have increased my prices. And Pedro is a working class town, they’re not too fond of price increases, âMcLaughlin said. “I also reduced the size of the loaf. In doing so, I was able to keep the price around 30 cents more per loaf, which most people don’t mind.”
Across town at The Kings Roost in Silver Lake, Roe Sie is a miller and supplier of local artisanal flour. The Kings Roost is also McLaughlin’s supplier for San Pedro sourdough.
âWe have artisan artisan bakers, which is good for sourdough, high-amount, high gluten, all-purpose beehive, so it’s like your high protein breads,â Sie said as he walked along. his storefront.
Sie explained that wheat inflation is largely due to climate change.
âWe have drought, fires, floods in some places, and that is causing crop yields to drop. So, crop yields, even though we have the same amount of dedicated farmland, the yields per acre are also declining, “Sie says.
The effects of two years of continuous drought are finally hitting crops across the country. The USDA released a report on July 6 that assessed 98% of the country’s wheat fields as being on land that is experiencing some form of drought.
Along with the pandemic and a country in the throes of a labor shortage, it all amounts to a perfect storm for wheat costs to rise – fast.
“And so what I see is just constant price increases, so I was kinda cheated because my customers come in and say, ‘Oh my God the prices have gone up! “” Sie said. âAnd then the prices will go down, then they will go up again. And some grains are completely unavailable. ”
Sie said he has seen the cost of a 50-pound bag climb by as much as 40%, including shipping increases, a cost he has no choice but to pass on to his customers. . But as average consumers, we won’t notice this kind of increase in our bags of flour in grocery stores just yet. This is because large retailers are able to absorb some of the costs. But artisan bakers and local bakeries are buying wholesale and feeling these price increases.
As a result, we, the consumers, pay more for our baked goods.
McLaughlin said that even if wheat inflation causes her to change the way she and other bakers operate, she doesn’t think it will end her business in the end. She said that despite higher prices, demand from her customers is still high enough that she can continue to cook.
âA lot of people in Southern California can afford to pay a higher price for bread, and they will because there aren’t many places where you can get homemade natural sourdough bread. , slow-fermented, stone-ground …. I’m not doing this to make a huge profit, but I don’t need to lose money, “she said.