Bakery owners in East York and surrounding areas say they are experiencing sharp increases in prices for the necessities they need to make their products.
“The cost of everything I use has gone up quite a bit and it’s difficult to pass this increase to my customers, so I’m losing money now,” said Pina Malfara, the owner of Sweet Serendipity Bake Shop on Danforth Avenue, in an email to the Toronto Observer. “Butter, flour, sugar, eggs … all these ingredients fluctuate quite a bit so it’s been difficult to keep up.”
Canada’s Food Price Report 2023 predicts that food prices will continue to go up this year. The report said Canadians might see a five to seven per cent increase. This means an average family of four could spend an extra $1,065 on food.
The bakery owners interviewed for this story said they struggle to determine how much to raise their prices but still keep their customers.
Patronage is important to small businesses, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. Bakeries are still recovering as some, including Sweet Serendipity Bake Shop, are single-person owned and operated, as well as closed for walk-in service. Orders are taken on the phone or by email and fulfilled by the requested date.
Some bakeries are switching to cheaper alternatives for the ingredients they use to try and lessen the blow of rising costs.
Lynda Paul, the owner of It’s the Icing on the Cake on Queen St. East, said she is now using No Name butter because the price is too high for her usual product.
However, some bakeries do not substitute certain ingredients as they believe it makes a noticeable difference to the taste.
Paul said getting supplies has also become a problem lately. The cause of the shortages is a mystery, but she said places like Costco have limited the number of high-demand products customers are allowed to buy.
“The other part of the problem is actually being able to get those things,” said Paul. “It’s a weekly scramble to try and find icing sugar.”
Icing sugar is an integral ingredient, as bakeries cannot produce icing without it. The cupcakes and custom cakes that are Sweet Serendipity Bake Shop’s top sellers this month would be incomplete without the icing.
Sales are notably down at Sweet Serendipity Bake Shop, Malfara said. She believes it is due to inflation. “Customers and orders are also affected and people are pulling back on their spending, so my sales have gone down recently,” she said.
Paul said that support for small-business bakeries is important, as she believes the movement to support local businesses has stopped. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a movement was started to ‘shop local‘ due to many small businesses closing their doors.
Paul believes this push to support local businesses has fizzled out and is requesting the community’s support to keep them around.
She runs a bake sale every Saturday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. where she sells all kinds of baked goods. These treats change every week and could be an array of cookies, tarts, cupcakes, or squares. This bake sale is held at It’s the Icing on the Cake in Leslieville at 1238 Queen St. E.