• "We could have handled twice the normal demand. But five times the normal [demand] almost overnight no one can prepare for the that," said Robb MacKie, president and CEO of the American Bakers Association.
  • In response to the surge in demand, "The industry is cranking product like you wouldn't believe all up and down the supply chain," MacKie said.
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US yeast and flour makers are rapidly ramping up production as more and more Americans flock to baking amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Sales of yeast, which is used to make bread and other baked goods, grew 647% in the week ending March 21, compared to the same week in 2019, according to Nielsen data. No other grocery product tracked by Nielsen experienced such rapid sales growth in that seven-day period.

As demand for baking ingredients has surged, some shoppers have reported shortages of items like yeast and flour in stores across the US.

"An extended spike of demand hit the system hard and unexpectedly," said Robb MacKie, president and CEO of the American Bakers Association, whose members include makers of baked goods, flour millers, and yeast manufacturers. "We could have handled twice the normal demand. But five times the normal [demand] almost overnight no one can prepare for that."

Companies that manufacture baking ingredients immediately ramped up production in response to the surge in demand, according to MacKie.

"The industry is cranking product like you wouldn't believe all up and down the supply chain," MacKie said.

He said manufacturers have assured him that they will be able to meet demand at a sustained high level. As a result, any grocery stores experiencing shortages of key baking ingredients or baked goods should soon be restocked, he said.

In the meantime, some yeast prices are surging online.

A 2-pound pouch of Red Star Active Dry Yeast was listed for about $7 by a third-party seller on Amazon at the beginning of March, and surged as high as $48.95 on March 24, according to Amazon price tracker Camel Camel Camel. The price had fallen to $19.99 on Tuesday.

Home-bound Americans turn to baking to fight boredom

The sudden increase in demand for baking ingredients comes amid widespread voluntary quarantines and shelter-at-home orders due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Baking can help address the boredom of home quarantines and some people may have more time on their hands now that they aren't commuting to an office.

Many people are trying to avoid frequent trips to the store, as well, and baking is one way to keep fresh bread in stock without venturing out.

Baking is also a good family activity, MacKie said.

"It's an opportunity for families to gather and make something together," he said.

Evidence of the growing baking trend is increasingly showing up in our Instagram feeds, with people sharing photos of homemade breads and other baked goods.

This, in turn, is likely further fueling demand for items yeast and flour.

For anyone who is still having a hard time finding yeast, Sudeep Agarwala, a program director and biological engineer at the biotech company Ginkgo Bioworks, posted a widely shared list of instructions to Twitter on how to make yeast at home.

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