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Why does shipping cheese seem so dang expensive?

June 23, 2020

Why does shipping cheese seem so dang expensive?

The simple answer is this. Because it is. Everything is more expensive when you buy direct on the internet from a small, artisan producer.

Cheese is a perishable product that requires both speedy delivery and heavy ice packs to keep the product safe during transport. Express delivery of a weighty box is the dreaded “one-two punch” of shipping expenses.

Additionally, it’s ridiculously expensive to make small batch cheese while paying our employee-family a livable wage and offering health and retirement benefits. Margins are smaller because of the way we chose run our business; therefore, there’s less wiggle room when it comes to discounts and promos.

We offer free shipping for orders over $75. After a decade in the eCommerce game, a Beehive cart over $75 is the magic number so that we can offer free shipping and not lose money selling online.

It can be a bit jarring when you reach checkout to see what shipping actually costs. Ten years ago, when we started selling online, we decided to be transparent about shipping costs instead of inflating product prices to cover the appearance of “free shipping.” We knew this decision could result in a few abandoned carts along the way and couple nasty comments on our social posts.

FREE shipping is never actually free, even at Amazon.

Every retailer, from Amazon to the little guys like us, must pay a carrier to deliver packages. Period.

It should be no surprise that Amazon has a huge advantage when it comes to offering lower shipping prices to consumers. Due to the sheer volume of packages shipped daily from Amazon fulfillment centers, they have the power to negotiate the lowest rates with carriers.

Amazon also has their own fleet of contracted delivery people, who sadly, aren’t making much for the level of work they’re doing. At the end of the day, it can be argued that the free shipping you’re enjoying at Amazon comes at the expense of the contracted driver barreling down your street to meet their break-neck delivery schedule.

Good, bad, or indifferent, the expectation that Amazon has set for eCommerce has changed the consumer mindset. It has affected small, hand-crafted producers like us who chose to manage their online sales independently and conduct business in a way that feels right for us.

Artisan cheesemakers like us can’t afford to compete with Amazon. That’s fine, we accept that, and we’ve priced our product to reflect the true cost.

More about delivery services

Many delivery services, like Instacart, cost way more than you think and are far more expensive to use. Let’s consider a cart totaling $75 from your local grocer delivered by Instacart. You’ll pay a $7.99 delivery fee plus a $15 tip (20%) equaling $22.99 for delivery of the product to your door. In addition to those fees, the products listed on the app are marked-up by anywhere from 30-90% above the in-store price. We only change you $14.99 for Express delivery and our cheese is priced to be the same online as in your local grocery store.

These fee strategies aren’t that far off from other delivery services like GrubHub and UberEats.

The take-away

If you’ve made it to the end of this blog post, thank you! Maybe we changed your mindset about the delivery of our cheese? Maybe not.

When it comes to buying hand-crafted perishable products, the economics will look different than shelf stable, commodity goods. Specialty cheese is just that. It’s special and worth it.

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