According to reports from the American Cheese Society’s State of the U.S. Artisan/Specialty Cheese Industry Survey, the industry is evolving. Researchers found that there are nearly 1,000 artisan and specialty cheesemakers in the United States—a number that has increased over the past few decades. According to the survey, 76 percent of cheesemakers reported annual cheese production of 50,000 pounds or less, indicating that this growing industry largely consists of smaller businesses.
A press release noted that cheese continues to top U.S. specialty food sales—over 4 billion dollars in 2017. However, despite this growth, 80 percent of cheesemakers operated profitably in 2017 and average profit margins were slim. Ninety-two percent of cheesemakers reported that maintaining profitability is an area of concern. Cheesemakers that reported a higher production volume averaged higher gross revenue, but ACS stated that strong revenue didn’t necessarily translate to profit. The higher the cheesemaker’s gross revenue, the lower the profit margin was on average.
“Cheesemakers put an incredible amount of passion into creating their products, and these in-depth surveys show just how challenging that work can be,” said ACS Executive Director Nora Weiser. “Unique cheeses made using traditional methods are driving growth in the cheese sector, and engaged consumers who care about local, artisan products are supporting this growth.”
The findings consist of three reports, which share information in the following areas:
Digital copies of each report are now available for purchase on the ACS website at the following rates:
The first ACS State of the U.S. Artisan/Specialty Cheese Industry Survey was conducted in 2016. The resulting Report of Key Findings provided a snapshot of the small businesses that form the community of artisan, farmstead, and specialty cheesemakers in America. With the release of its 2018 reports, ACS is expanding upon what has been a limited field of data available about these producers.
Researchers at the University of Missouri conducted the biennial survey on behalf of ACS. Funding for the survey was provided by the nonprofit American Cheese Education Foundation.
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