How the war in Ukraine shuttered an Austin vegan ice cream shop
You can add an Austin ice cream shop to the long list of places unexpectedly impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Driving the news: Sweet Ritual, a beloved vegan ice cream maker, announced that it's shutting down.
The big picture: Safflower oil, a crucial ingredient in Sweet Ritual's frozen desserts, is produced and processed in Ukraine — and it grew scarce after the conflict began in February, Sweet Ritual owner Amelia Raley told Axios.
Between the lines: Raley used safflower oil to mimic the texture of dairy ice cream.
- The shop shut down for more than a month earlier this year because Raley couldn't acquire the ingredient.
What they're saying: "My supplier doesn't know when [the safflower's] coming back, because no one knows what's going on," Raley said.
Zoom out: Russia has plundered grain and other goods from Ukraine, leading to spiking food prices globally.
By the numbers: The safflower shortage was only the latest crisis for Sweet Ritual, which had already been hobbled by the pandemic, labor shortages and supply chain issues.
- Inflation drove up ingredient prices by at least 30% compared to pre-pandemic times.
- The cost of coconut milk soared by 97%.
To stay in business, price hikes for items like milkshakes — which were going for about $7 — felt inevitable.
- "I had to ask myself, 'Can I charge $15 for a milkshake? Will my customers pay for it?' That's what I'd need to keep the caliber of employees I have."
Her plan had been to push through the summer season, but the ceaseless setbacks — topped by personal health issues — led her to get out.
- "My boyfriend says it's like someone poked me in the eye, punched me in the gut and then shoved me down the stairs — and is now drawing a mustache on [me] at the bottom."
What's next: A summer vacation. She hasn't had one in 10 years.
- Raley, who has served as a frozen dessert consultant, is weighing several job offers — and deciding whether to remain in town.
- "Austin's been really good to me, and it's an incredible place to grow as an entrepreneur."
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