Bakers Journal

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Festive baking takes beating in economic slump


November 27, 2008
By CBC News

Nov. 27, 2008, TORONTO – The slumping economy is mixing with rising food prices to put some bitterness into what for many is usually a joyful season in the kitchen.

This time of year, things normally get busy for Simply Good Catering, a Saint John-based non-profit company that employs people who live with mental illness. The company cashes in on people who love the taste of holiday cooking, but lack the time or skill to do it themselves.

Wendy Fox said the catering company is struggling this year because the cost of ingredients has spiked up.

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"Flour has doubled in price, butter is very expensive and eggs are very expensive," Fox said. "We have got some orders but it's an uphill battle trying to explain to people that, 'No I can't do it for the same price as the supermarket because my prices for ingredients are so much higher.'"

According to Statistics Canada, retail flour prices this October were 40 per cent higher than last October — even though prices on international flour exchanges are 25 per cent lower over the same period last year.

And with global oil prices plummeting in recent months the cost of transporting goods has dropped too, but the prices of ingredients haven't kept pace.

That means home-baked sweets are no longer the money-saving gift they used to be.

But Marjorie Ferguson hasn't been discouraged from picking up the ingredients she needs at the grocery store.

"I think it adds a nice homemade touch," she said. "I'm not going to do too much, just the simple things like squares and cookies."

The advice for shoppers is to stock up on ingredients when they go on sale or simply cut back.

A few years ago these culinary cutbacks were not necessary. Fox's catering company was cooking six or seven different items. And the suddenly slowing economy is also causing people to rethink some of their purchases.

Now Fox said she's trying new ways to draw in business for the upcoming season.

"I've been giving out lots of flyers and leaflets about our Christmas cooking and they'll say, 'I'll get back to you I have to think about it,'" she said. "They only have so much to spend and so they have to give it a lot of thought before they decide what to buy."