Rising egg prices have made some days at Donut Dip more difficult than others, owner Paul Shields said.
Shields, who is based in West Springfield, said the donut shop, which has been open since 1957, has not made or sold any French crullers in the past five months. This is because the brownie dough recipe requires more eggs than other doughs.
Shields is one of many bakeries across the state looking for creative ways to balance the rising cost of raw ingredients with consumer demand.
Despite production delays at French crus, Donut Dip — which opens at 3 a.m. and doesn’t close until 9:45 p.m. daily — needs eggs for its popular breakfast sandwiches.
“We’re toying with the idea of doing (French crullers) again, and we should charge more for them,” Shields said. “Periodically, we review the prices of all the products we sell and, like everything else, we make adjustments. We have delayed making these increases. We don’t like it, but we have to.”
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Shields said he doesn’t know how much crullers will cost when they’re back on the menu, but people often ask. Any price increase will be minimal.
“If someone asks now, they probably haven’t been to the store in a long time,” he said. “Historically, any fancy donut that we charge for, people seem to be happy to pay extra because they want it and they like it.”
Why are eggs expensive?
Expensive, scarce and turned into memes, stories swirl online around the high price of eggs across the country and how it affects what consumers buy and what business owners sell.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average price of ten eggs in December was $4.25, compared to $1.51 in 2020. Reasons range from holiday demand to bird flu, which has affected nearly 58 million birds, including 40 million egg-laying hens, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A bird flu-induced decline in the chicken population is paving the way for depleted refrigerated shelves across the country, from Manhattan to Denver to Inglewood, California. Massachusetts, which passed a law in 2021 to avoid an egg shortage in 2022, will allow consumers to raise their own chickens and produce their own eggs. But that doesn’t help many Massachusetts bakeries and donut shops.
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One bakery is changing its distribution model
Jolene Guzzo, owner of Jolene’s Theme Cakes in Wilbraham, shared her “epiphany” on Facebook on New Year’s Day. Everything will be “order only” as it temporarily closes the “take out” part of the bakery. Inflation and the cost of ingredients led to his decision, as he noticed that the walk brought in less than a quarter of his income and “became 150% of my stress.”
Guzzo said he paid $20 for 15 eggs. Now he pays $56 for the same amount.
“There is no supply for demand,” he said. “I still can’t get a lot of things – boxes, plastics, containers – and the electricity is out of control.”
But the shortening is fresh in its take on baked goods, from cheesecake to cannolis, because it makes them when customers ask for them. The decision is a return to its roots, something it says its online customers appreciate. He plans to fully reopen in a few months and will be ready for business on holidays like Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day.
“I’m working as hard as I’ve been for the last 12 years, but in the kiosk, self-checkout world we live in, we all need to work smarter than harder,” he said. Facebook on January 1st.
His plan was to start “order-only” sales on February 1, but he changed his mind.
“Sorry, I couldn’t wait until February,” he later said on Facebook on January 20. “As of this week, I’m only taking orders for now. If you need anything, just text me: 413-427-3302 and I can have it ready Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. Sorry for the inconvenience.”
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Local egg vendors provide some discount
Kane’s Donuts in Boston deals with egg prices by using eggs from local vendors, says owner Peter Delios.
“The thing is, we can connect with national vendors, but we’ve had a long-standing relationship with local vendors,” he said. “For other retailers, going out of state is another consideration. “If inflation continues, I can’t predict what will happen and it will continue to affect everyone.”
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Delios hopes that this will not lead to the reduction of some products. By continuing to work with local suppliers and using local ingredients, it was easier for them, he said. Delios urged his peers in other bakeries to “tread the water and not stay in the water.”
“Try to run the business as well as possible and have the best quality of service,” he said. “Just unplug and go to work every day.”
A striking relief
All three shopkeepers continue to operate despite high prices due to inflation and prolonged bird flu. But there may be a sign of relief.
Egg prices fell as of January 17, according to Urner Barry’s grocery data. They reported that the average Midwest large egg price was $5.46, but that has since dropped to $3.64. (Also, the price of a dozen eggs is the most expensive in California at $7.37, according to the Los Angeles Times.)
“After the (December) baking period, there’s almost always a drop in demand, which in turn leads to lower wholesale prices,” Karyn Rispoli, who covers Urner Barry’s egg market, told Vox. “This year’s decline has been very steep because of the highs the market is adjusting to.”