When much of the country was at home under lockdown conditions this year, many of us looked for new ways to spend time indoors and save a few extra dollars.
A Canstar survey of 1,024 people revealed around one third – which would be the equivalent of 6.3 million Aussie adults – baked bread or had someone in their household bake bread at home during the COVID-19 pandemic*.
Around 32% of those who jumped on the baking bandwagon said they did so to take up a new hobby, while close to a quarter of people were looking to save themselves money and 15% got caught up in the trend.
Trend data sourced from Google reflects this frenzy, with it showing searches for “bread recipe” by Australians began to rise in May and spiked in early April.
That trend is reflected in the strong grocery expenditure recorded in May, which was up 7.2% month-on-month and 12.9% compared to the year prior, according to ABS Retail Trade data.
It also showed there was a huge 6.4% lift in spending on food in the first quarter of 2020 as people stockpiled grocery items, followed by a fall of 1.6% in Q2 when stockpiling spending had largely ended.
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Bread aficionado and head of research at Canstar, Mitchell Watson, said there were a number of reasons why one third of us took to the kitchen to bake bread.
“So many of us got caught up in the bread-baking craze and for many it was an escape from lockdown by learning a new hobby, but what was surprising was the people who saw it as a means to save money,” Mr Watson said.
“Baking at home can have therapeutic and comforting qualities, but for many it might have signaled a sense of control in a somewhat chaotic environment.
“For one in four people who took it up, baking was a solution to take control of their personal finances and stretch the budget further by purchasing low-cost ingredients that yielded longer-lasting returns.”
The research also revealed the younger generations were the most likely to have baked bread at home, with 50% of both Gen Z and Millennials surveyed saying they’d taken to the kitchen.
“The pandemic is likely to be the first taste of a financial crisis for many young Australians, particularly those working in industries such as hospitality, tourism and retail that have experienced widespread job losses. Baking bread may have filled the extra time at home but also kept costs low,” commented Mr Watson.
“Many home bakers may now have neglected bread starters or perhaps realised the baking game is not for them, but there could be financial benefit in continuing to bake your own bread.”
That financial benefit could ring true for many Australians who are increasingly eager to save their money and spend cautiously.
IBISWorld research released in September revealed weak consumer sentiment and social distancing restrictions had undermined household consumption expenditure, leading the savings rate to reach 7.9% of overall disposable income in 2019-20, compared to just 2.7% the year before.
“Household savings are likely to remain at elevated levels for at least the next three years,” the report noted.
“Consumers are likely to spend cautiously as they did after the Global Financial Crisis, hindering the recovery of the retail sector.”
The cost to bake bread yourself
Canstar’s research analysts crunched the numbers to estimate how much this venture cost Australian baking enthusiasts.
They found it costs around $13.50 to buy all the key bread-making ingredients at the supermarket, which works out to be approximately $1.30 per loaf. For a household that devours one loaf per week, this would equate to almost $68 each year, or about $135 annually for two loaves per week.
Compare that to typical loaves of bread at your local supermarket, and the saving could add up over the year. The most expensive typical bread loaf currently sold at Coles, for instance, costs $7.50. If you don’t fancy baking for yourself, the supermarket also sells a $1.30 Coles brand loaf.
These estimates, of course, don’t take into account the added ingredient costs for Australia’s banana bread-baking enthusiasts, who jumped on the lockdown baking craze this year too.
*Survey of 1,024 Australians aged 18+, commissioned by Canstar and conducted online via Qualtrics in July 2020. ABS data reveals the number of Australians aged 18+ is 19,746,647 (December 2019).