A decision-making tool to determine economic feasibility and break-even prices for artisan cheese operations.

TitleA decision-making tool to determine economic feasibility and break-even prices for artisan cheese operations.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsDurham, CA, Bouma, A, Meunier-Goddik, L
JournalJ Dairy Sci
Date Published2015 Dec
KeywordsAnimals, Cattle, Cheese, Commerce, Costs and Cost Analysis, Decision Making, Feasibility Studies, Food Handling, Hot Temperature, Milk, Models, Economic, Pasteurization, Sensitivity and Specificity

Artisan cheese makers lack access to valid economic data to help them evaluate business opportunities and make important business decisions such as determining cheese pricing structure. The objective of this study was to utilize an economic model to evaluate the net present value (NPV), internal rate of return, and payback period for artisan cheese production at different annual production volumes. The model was also used to determine the minimum retail price necessary to ensure positive NPV for 5 different cheese types produced at 4 different production volumes. Milk type, cheese yield, and aging time all affected variable costs. However, aged cheeses required additional investment for aging space (which needs to be larger for longer aging times), as did lower yield cheeses (by requiring larger-volume equipment for pasteurization and milk handling). As the volume of milk required increased, switching from vat pasteurization to high-temperature, short-time pasteurization was necessary for low-yield cheeses before being required for high-yield cheeses, which causes an additional increase in investment costs. Because of these differences, high-moisture, fresh cow milk cheeses can be sold for about half the price of hard, aged goat milk cheeses at the largest production volume or for about two-thirds the price at the lowest production volume examined. For example, for the given model assumptions, at an annual production of 13,608kg of cheese (30,000 lb), a fresh cow milk mozzarella should be sold at a minimum retail price of $27.29/kg ($12.38/lb), whereas a goat milk Gouda needs a minimum retail price of $49.54/kg ($22.47/lb). Artisan cheese makers should carefully evaluate annual production volumes. Although larger production volumes decrease average fixed cost and improve production efficiency, production can reach volumes where it becomes necessary to sell through distributors. Because distributors might pay as little as 35% of retail price, the retail price needs to be higher to compensate. An artisan cheese company that has not achieved the recognition needed to achieve a premium price may not find distribution through distributors profitable.

Alternate JournalJ. Dairy Sci.
PubMed ID26476951