Assessing market demand for Finger Lakes specialty cheese
The focus of this study is to provide market and price information that enables small scale specialty cheese producers to evaluate their marketing options and price accordingly to expand sales regionally and beyond the Finger Lakes, NY. During this summer, we met with members of the Finger Lakes Cheese Trail on 4 occaisions to discuss the project work plan. A project consultant was hired however, after a month of gathering data, he took another job out of the area. During the time that he did work, he gathered product, price and market information from existing producers that would be used as baseline data in researching marketing and pricing options. Further work on the project was halted as we sorted out project staffing. A plan for moving forward has been developed but requires a one year grant extension to re-start the work of the project.
This project has the following objectives:
1) Describe current markets used by Finger Lakes specialty cheese producers – to date we have worked with the list of 14 cheese producers who were originally identified as cooperators on this project. A consultant was hired to conduct the research. To obtain producer product, price and marketing information, the consultant reviewed published information (web & brochures) followed by a mailed survey and personal interviews (8 out of 14 were interviewed). Additionally, the consultant talked with a cheese distributor, Artisan Foods, to learn more about his distribution networks and costs.
2) Identify new retail or wholesale markets in the Finger Lakes – no progress on this objective.
3) Identify distribution challenges and options and costs associated with each – two regional distributors are engaged in distributing Finger Lakes specialty cheese – of the 14 cooperating cheese producers, 7 use one or both of these distributors, while the other half do their own distribution or sell at their farm or farmers’ markets. Volume is the key reason for chosing not to use a distributor.
4) Identify price points and volume requirements among a variety of wholesale buyers including small retail food stores and restaurants. – no progress on this objective.
5) Evaluate producer capacity to expand into new markets – some information gathered during interviews; a more realistic assessment can be made once more market information is available.
For example, some producers may be able to serve one or two small wholesale accounts but could not deliver volume at a competitive price to a larger food retailer.
6) Final product – develop a marketing plan for Finger Lakes specialty cheeses with general guidelines for small scale producers, and opportunities for expansion. – no progress on this objective
See the attached timeline document.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Data gathered from 8 specialty cheese producers shows wide ranging prices based on a large variety of cheeses. Standard pricing will be hard to establish given the diversity of products offered by specialty cheese producers. Cheddars and goat cheese are the most common types which can be used to establish a pricing floor with other specialty types priced according to their complexity. Using this scheme may provide some benchmark info for producers to price their products for various markets. Obviously no conclusion can be drawn until we gather price information from a broad range of outlets.
Cooperating cheese producers continue to express interest in this project and support the request for a grant extension so that we can continue to gather market and price data.
Finger Lakes Farmstead Cheese Co.
5491 Bergen Rd.
Trumansburg, NY 14886
Office Phone: 6073873108
Small Farm Specialist/Small Dairies
Cornell Cooperative Extension/CU Small Farms Program
60 Central Ave.
Cortland , NY 14850
Office Phone: 6077535213