A year ago, Mekayla Garcia, a stay-at-home mother in San Angelo, Texas, bought a 1999 Breadman bread-making machine at Goodwill for $7, nearly the same price she pays for her weekly loaf of organic bread. She cleaned the machine, searched for the recipe guide online and made white bread that same night.
“I swear by it,” said Mrs. Garcia, 24, who uses the machine to make bread dough, which she then bakes in her oven. She bought the bread maker so she could save money as food prices rise. “The bread is just perfect. And who doesn’t love homemade bread?”
The bread maker — an appliance that mixes, kneads, proofs and bakes bread a loaf at a time — found new fans during the early days of the pandemic, as shoppers worried about food shortages and home bread-baking became a sign of the times. But recent inflation has given the machine another boost. Social media influencers, especially on TikTok, have contributed to the resurgence.
In 2022, U.S. sales of bread makers hit $42 million — 20 percent higher than the year before, said Joe Derochowski, the vice president and home industry adviser at the NPD Group, a market research firm. Since 2020, dollar sales have increased 131 percent, he said.
Hamilton Beach sold out of bread makers in 2020 and 2021, and the company increased production for 2022. Cuisinart said that while sales of its bread makers dipped as the pandemic stretched on, there has been an uptick in the past six months.
“The difference between a trend and a fad is something that saves you money,” Mr. Derochowski said. “Something that saves you money will be a part of your long-term behavior.”
Like so many basic foods, bread is increasingly expensive. The average price per pound in the United States has risen to about $2 in recent months, from $1.40 in 2019, said Miguel Gomez, a food marketing professor at Cornell University. (He noted that the average American eats about 50 pounds of bread per year.)
In September, Miranda Watson, 28, started using her mother’s decades-old Sunbeam bread maker when loaves of organic bread in St. Augustine, Fla., reached $6 to $7 a loaf. Even using organic ingredients, it now costs her only $3 to bake a loaf of white bread. “It’s the most dense, yummy, most delicious bread you’ll ever have,” she said.
Still, bread makers require an upfront investment — most new machines cost anywhere from $60 to $120, though prices can be lower on sale items and secondhand models. And unlike many store-bought breads, loaves made in bread machines have a much shorter shelf life because they contain no preservatives.
Joseph Lee, an entrepreneur in the Boston area and the son of enslaved people, invented the first commercial bread machine in the late 1880s, largely for use in the hospitality industry. The device automated the mixing and kneading of dough.
Today’s bread machines are more affordable than those from the 1990s and more …….