AUSTIN (KXAN) — For Max Varela, CEO of Alicia’s Tacoriendo in Austin, the practice of making tamales during the holidays is a celebration and recognition of one’s ancestors, he said. Families gather around kitchen tables, preparing tamales and recalling memories of their loved ones and personal traditions.
For many Central Texas families, tamales are a cornerstone of the holiday season. This year though, an increased cost for ingredients has led to some shops increasing their tamale prices, Varela said.
Amid a national supply chain shortage, the cost of meat has increased as the number of workers assisting in meat production factories have decreased. Before the coronavirus pandemic, Varela said he would pay roughly $2.50 per pound for beef fajita.
At its peak during the pandemic, that cost estimate rose to about $11, he said. Now? It’s settled closer to $5, double what it was just two years ago.
“We’ve been in the tamale business probably about 35 plus years, and my mother has always done it. And [the cost] fluctuates from time to time,” he said. “But especially with COVID, we definitely saw a huge increased markup.”
Not only have meat prices been affected, but the cost of cheese has risen as well, Varela said. His family’s food truck and catering van prides itself on hefty fillings, he said. With the increased costs of production, his business has raised the price of tamales this year.
Alicia’s Tacoriendo isn’t the only local tamale provider who’s been hit by supply chain woes. Tamale Addiction in Manor also noted issues gathering the different husks they use, as well as limited availability of filling ingredients.
“Some weeks we don’t find a meat, you don’t find even like a cardboard or paper plates like what we use for our catering service,” said Adrian Paredes, owner of Tamale Addiction.
While product limits have forced some businesses to adapt, Varela said most customers have been understanding and happy to pay the extra price for their tamales this holiday season.
“We have clients that we’ve been dealing with for 10 years, 15 years, and they’re still buying 10 dozens at a time, 20 dozens at a time from us,” he said, adding, “We’ve been kind of swamped in recent weeks, but it’s a good thing. It’s a real good thing, because this is kind of our money maker.”