Tips on market research and what to look for when starting to sell your dairy produce.

If you are producing more cheese than you can consume, it’s time to think of selling your extra cheeses. But market research is essential before embarking on a business. It is important to do research at the local supermarkets and find out which type of cheeses or yoghurts are the most popular, in short supply and the average price per kilogram.

When choosing a product take into account that products like yoghurts, maas and soft cheeses have good returns but require expensive packaging and high transport costs due to frequent trips to the market as compared with semi-hard cheese.

Make a decision on a particular product, experiment and make notes as you go. The experimental products can be used to test on friends and family and when perfected, used as samples when setting up an agreement with a supermarket or agent.

Research the type of equipment required and the set up cost of the production room. Take into account that it is very difficult to milk the cows, make the product and market the product on your own. It is often advisable to leave the marketing to a good agent. Research the agents in your area such as companies that supply hotels and restaurants. It is an excellent idea to ask them which products are in short supply. However, if starting small with an unusual cheese do not be deterred by too much negative input.

Some options on the type of business in the dairy industry are as follows:

·  Small amounts of an unusual cheese such as gorgonzola, goats or sheep’s milk cheese, kefir cheese sold at a high price. The market normally requires education with unusual cheeses and thus it is advisable to start small and grow with the market.

·  A popular cheese such as gouda and cheddar but with a slight variation such as adding herbs to the gouda or maturing the cheddar well or making small whole cheeses. These cheeses can be sold at a premium but again it is advisable to grow with the market.

·  A popular cheese such as feta, gouda or cheddar made slightly better and/or slightly cheaper than what is on the market can be made in large quantities but it is advisable to get a contract or agreement from a supermarket first. It is not easy to compete on price with the big companies.

·  A popular cheese that is made on the farm and sold retail directly to the public. The farm should be easily accessible on a well-used route and well signposted. This is the best option.

·  Excess milk that fetches a low price in any event, can be stored as a simple cheese.

Common errors in setting up:

·  Over capitalization without a ready market. Make sure to do your market research before investing in expensive equipment.

·  When manufacturing cheese with a long maturation period such as cheddar, it must be taken into account that income is delayed by three months due to the maturation period of cheddar.

·  Purchase of poorly made or incorrect equipment which then has to be replaced. It is advisable to start small but start right.

Try to make a good quality product with an attractive label and general appearance. Take care in choosing the colours of your label – the consumer tends to like blue and green rather than for instance black on the labelling. Good service and communication also adds value to your product.