COVID-19

Bread baking boom means flour and yeast are flying off U.S. shelves

Kristin Schwab Apr 15, 2020
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There's something comforting about kneading your own dough and baking your own bread. Philippe Lopez/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Bread baking boom means flour and yeast are flying off U.S. shelves

Kristin Schwab Apr 15, 2020
There's something comforting about kneading your own dough and baking your own bread. Philippe Lopez/AFP via Getty Images
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There’s no shortage of homemade bread recipes online right now. They show fluffy loaves fresh out of the oven, golden brown with beautiful cracks in the crust. Baking is fun, easy and delicious, the directions claim.

“It came out much more gooey … I tried to make it into a baguette,” said Antonius Wiriadjaja in New York, who has attempted one New York Times recipe five times with mixed results. “It came out looking like a rocket ship.”

Like a lot of people right now, Wiriadjaja has a lot more time on his hands and decided to get into baking. He had to order a $50 kit from a local bakery because he couldn’t find flour and yeast at the store.

And that’s because demand for flour and yeast is on the rise. Red Star Yeast, one of the country’s major producers, has said the surge is unprecedented. At Vermont-based King Arthur Flour, sales are three times higher than usual — even for whole wheat flour.

“Typically, at this time of year, we’re operating at 50% capacity,” said co-CEO Karen Colberg. “But in the past couple of weeks we’ve turned on to full tilt, and we’re operating 24/7.” Colberg said the country isn’t running out of wheat. Instead, the shelves are empty at grocery shelves because the supply chain is overwhelmed.

But why has baking bread become an obsession? In some places, a shortage of bread could be a reason. But also: carbs are comforting.

“There’s the kneading the dough with your hands. There’s the distinct way that the yeast smells,” said Amy Bentley, a professor of food studies at New York University. “And then I’m not sure that there’s any better aroma than baking bread.”

Plus, bread is cross-cultural. Sourdough, naan or challah — it all makes us feel more connected to family.

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Flying is starting to recover to levels the airline industry hasn’t seen in months. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Oct. 19 that it’s screened more than 1 million passengers on a single day — its highest number since March 17. The TSA also screened more than 6 million passengers last week, its highest weekly volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel is improving, the TSA announcement comes amid warnings that the U.S. is in the third wave of the coronavirus. There are now more than 8 million cases in the country, with more than 219,000 deaths.

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Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?

A report out recently from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.

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