KANSAS CITY — The total cost of a “basket” of key baking ingredients this holiday season was down 6.2% from a year ago, according to the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Long-running Sosland Publishing Company bakery ingredient indexes, published in Milling & Baking News and Food Business News, also were mostly down from 2017.

The E.R.S. said a baking basket comprised of a dozen eggs, a pound of margarine, a 5-lb bag of flour, a 4-lb bag of sugar and a gallon of whole milk cost $10.85 in October, down 6.2% from $11.57 in October 2017, using U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics average price data for October 2017 and 2018.

“This decrease is driven by lower prices in 2018 across four of the five foods,” the E.R.S. said. “The largest savings are found in flour, sugar and milk — flour prices are down 9.4%, sugar prices fell 9.3% and whole milk prices are 7.8% lower.”

The margarine price was down 6.4%. The October 2018 average price of flour was $2.27, sugar was $2.41, milk was $2.91, and margarine was $1.60.

The only ingredient that was higher than a year ago was eggs at $1.66 per dozen, up 12c, or 7.8%.

Average retail price of baking ingredients chart

“Due in part to prices adjusting from lows in 2016 and 2017, egg prices have been moving upward in much of 2018,” the E.R.S. said. “However, additional savings could be found in December as grocers often offer discounts on holiday food items.”

Values for the seven Sosland Publishing Company bakery ingredient indexes, which track prices for bulk ingredients used by food manufacturers rather than retail values as did the E.R.S. in its report, in late October were mixed compared with a year earlier, but in December all had declined from October, and most were down from a year ago. Also, since the Sosland indexes are based on standard industry formulas, none are directly comparable to the E.R.S. “basket” of baking goods.

Five of the seven Sosland baking ingredient indexes in mid-December were down from a year earlier, and two were up. The Sosland cake donut index, which is most comparable to the E.R.S. basket, was down 4.5% from a year ago in late October and was down 6.9% in mid-December, similar to the E.R.S. findings. Changes in mid-December from a year earlier for the other Sosland indexes were: pasta, down 18.4%; bagel, down 15.6%; devil’s food cake, down 2.8%; shortbread cookie, down 0.2%; saltine cracker, up 12.6%; and white pan bread, up 0.8%.

Comparing specific ingredient values as of mid-December, Sosland reported prices for eggs were down 34% (retail dozen, while egg products were mixed), soybean oil (versus margarine) was down 10%, flour was mixed, sugar was unchanged and dry dairy products (dried versus milk) all were higher.