Mass Production Advice Needed to Reduce Cookie Pricing

My boss aproached me a couple of weeks ago with the idea that we take up my cookies into our range of products. He is just in love with them and thinks they are amazing. As much as I am flattered by his opinion and as much as I would love to do this, I truly doubt that we will be able to come up with reasonable prices.

 

As mentioned in another post already, I need an average of 30-40 min for each cookie. I could reduce this quite a bit if I didn't have to work in my private kitchen but had more space and more professional equipment (e.g a kitchen aid). And of course I could come up with simpler designs and not fuzz about each line so long. But I guess the absolute minimum I will ever be able to reach, without reducing quality and design to a level so low that it wouldn't be me anymore, is 15 minutes per cookie. That would mean an outcome of max. 4 cookies per hour. Simple ones I wouldn't be too happy with.

 

The costs for all the insurances needed, the space my boss would have to rent, the chamber of commerce fee, the business registration fees, the additonal charges for getting me officially acknowledged as a person allowed to sell baked goods, aso, asf, can be roughly estimated with 1000 € per month. And then, of course, I get paid as well and there are taxes on every single cookie sold. As I have a training in foreign trade, I know a bit about calculations, and what I come up with is that we will have to make at least 45 € an hour to be profitable at all - always assuming we will get enough orders 

 

This will make each cookie worth 11,25 €, and that is already very optimistic! I'd say it will border more on 15-18 € in the end.

 

You see the problem? It jumps right in the face, doesn' it? One way to lower the price would be to cut my wage - and I am not really willing to do that. Legal minimum wages were just increased to 8.50 € in Germany, and honestly, that is too low for me. I would need to leave my house and move to a small flat, give away my cats, eat dry bread, etc. I aim for appr. double.

 

So the other option I see is mass production with the help of machines. So far my research has shown that it seems hardly possible, as RI doesn't agree with machines very well. But I do have hopes that some of you have ideas about this, maybe even experience? I'd be grateful for any advice on increasing production speed. Maybe there is a way to use a device for mass coating, or mass cutting cookies?

 

Sorry for the long post, but I lie awake every night for hours and wonder if it is possible at all to make a living off decorated cookies, or if you can only make a bit additional money if you do it home-based and don't pay yourself a decent hourly wage...

 

Looking forwards to your ideas, suggestions, and opinions!

Original Post

Hi Laegwen

 

I will give my limited opinion - though I am still very new to everything, but perhaps understand some of the pricing problems as here I have 25% tax to add on to each cookie and similarly minimum wage here far exceeds what I am actually earning for my time. (I haven't had to give my cats away just yet)

 

I completely see the problem, as far as mass producing goes - I'm really not any more enlightened than you are, I am sure the process can be streamlined and certainly as far as baking the cookies goes, that could be made much quicker in a commercial kitchen. I am not sure as to how the icing process could be made much faster. The thing I tend to do is try to do designs I can finish fairly quickly, which I know you wouldn't like to do. I like wet on wet very much, simply because I often don't need to let them dry for a long time before I can finish them, I would love to spend longer on each cookie but I need to think of the time I am spending and what income I am making. I also charge according to how many colours I am mixing as I find that very time consuming - again maybe that's an area that could be made faster if doing a design range in bulk.

 

I believe yes you can make money but it would take some serious time to set up a system that worked so that you could offer a slightly improved price. Also, it might be worth seeing if there are any similar products and what people are prepared to pay for them. A cookie costing 11-18 euros is a luxury item so it's a question of whether you can also sell them in large quantities as well as mass produce them, which is no doubt something that you have thought about lots. I know of a lady in Norway with a store and 2 extra staff members who sells her cookies at around 9-10 euros each, how many orders she gets I can't say though. Mine in contrast cost 3-4 euros a cookie but of course I don't have the same overheads, staff costs etc to consider. 

 

I make a great deal more money on cupcakes than I do on cookies, and I think it could be really difficult to get to a point where I am making a decent hourly wage making cookies. It's good for me as I am at home quite a bit and only teach quite part time and have a couple of language classes, so it fits in. I'm in talks about a job doing marketing for another company at the moment and that would be full time meaning I would stop teaching and either stop doing cookies altogether and do it for a hobby or take extremely few orders. All the work I have done setting up weighs pretty heavy on me but, the decent salary and the possibilities of taking holidays and not working every weekend is extremely tempting. So it is something I am seriously considering.

 

Not sure I have helped at all hahaha, sorry, but maybe it gives you a little insight hearing from someone else who only recently started up. It takes time and the financial rewards are not guaranteed. Of course there are lots of people making a huge success doing cookies, and I would love to be the person to say - yes, follow your dreams, go for it. But, you definitely need to feed your cats and yourself, so I guess I am sitting on the fence a little.

 

Oh my word - I have written loads, I will shut up now

 

I really hope you can find the information you need, so you can make a really good informed choice about the future. I think you are a very sensible lady, so I am sure your decision whatever it is, will be the right one.

 

Marie x

 

Originally Posted by Marie - LilleKageHus:

Hi Laegwen

 

I will give my limited opinion - though I am still very new to everything, but perhaps understand some of the pricing problems as here I have 25% tax to add on to each cookie and similarly minimum wage here far exceeds what I am actually earning for my time. (I haven't had to give my cats away just yet)

 

I completely see the problem, as far as mass producing goes - I'm really not any more enlightened than you are, I am sure the process can be streamlined and certainly as far as baking the cookies goes, that could be made much quicker in a commercial kitchen. I am not sure as to how the icing process could be made much faster. The thing I tend to do is try to do designs I can finish fairly quickly, which I know you wouldn't like to do. I like wet on wet very much, simply because I often don't need to let them dry for a long time before I can finish them, I would love to spend longer on each cookie but I need to think of the time I am spending and what income I am making. I also charge according to how many colours I am mixing as I find that very time consuming - again maybe that's an area that could be made faster if doing a design range in bulk.

 

I believe yes you can make money but it would take some serious time to set up a system that worked so that you could offer a slightly improved price. Also, it might be worth seeing if there are any similar products and what people are prepared to pay for them. A cookie costing 11-18 euros is a luxury item so it's a question of whether you can also sell them in large quantities as well as mass produce them, which is no doubt something that you have thought about lots. I know of a lady in Norway with a store and 2 extra staff members who sells her cookies at around 9-10 euros each, how many orders she gets I can't say though. Mine in contrast cost 3-4 euros a cookie but of course I don't have the same overheads, staff costs etc to consider. 

 

I make a great deal more money on cupcakes than I do on cookies, and I think it could be really difficult to get to a point where I am making a decent hourly wage making cookies. It's good for me as I am at home quite a bit and only teach quite part time and have a couple of language classes, so it fits in. I'm in talks about a job doing marketing for another company at the moment and that would be full time meaning I would stop teaching and either stop doing cookies altogether and do it for a hobby or take extremely few orders. All the work I have done setting up weighs pretty heavy on me but, the decent salary and the possibilities of taking holidays and not working every weekend is extremely tempting. So it is something I am seriously considering.

 

Not sure I have helped at all hahaha, sorry, but maybe it gives you a little insight hearing from someone else who only recently started up. It takes time and the financial rewards are not guaranteed. Of course there are lots of people making a huge success doing cookies, and I would love to be the person to say - yes, follow your dreams, go for it. But, you definitely need to feed your cats and yourself, so I guess I am sitting on the fence a little.

 

Oh my word - I have written loads, I will shut up now

 

I really hope you can find the information you need, so you can make a really good informed choice about the future. I think you are a very sensible lady, so I am sure your decision whatever it is, will be the right one.

 

Marie x

 

I follow you totally. Cakes and cupcakes gibe a lot more profit, as people are willing to pay more for them in comparison to the time you need to make them. I don't exclude myself - I would surely not pay my own estimated price for a cookie *lol*

 

If this was just about making some extra cash in my free time, I would not give much thought about what I make per hour. But if my boss is going to take the risk, and has me on the payroll, this whole thing needs to be profitable. And if people are willing to pay about 3-4 € per cookie, this will mean something like one color with wet-on-wet polka dots, and not more.

 

I could actually compare my cookies to the ones of a newly opened cookie shop in Hamburg. I don't want to praise myself, but those cookies were not in the same league as mine. They are sold for the above mentioned prices and I think that is very fair. My cookies are much more detailed, elaborate and cleaner. So if I were selling them, they would need to be 3-4 times the price. Which proved that my calculations were right.

 

I need some Scheichs or rich Russians, they might be willing to cough up that kind of money

 

After much thinking I truly fear that I will have to tell my boss that we just can't realize it. He is under the impression that it must be possible to get machines to do the actual piping, so that I will only have to do the design, programm a computer and off you go... and he wouldn't truly believe me when I told him it might not be working that way. On the other hand he is pretty clever, maybe he will come up with a solution.

 

Whatever, as much as I love cookies, I will not move into a nice cardboard box under a bridge just to be able to sell them.

Originally Posted by donaharrisburg:

Laegwen, what an honor to be asked and for him/her to have so much admiration for you!  Wowowoowwzaaaa!  I hope you can find a way to bring this to fruition.  I'm proud of you and him/her for asking you.  It is an honor! 

Thanks for your kind words, Dona, I really appreciate them! And I feel honored, especially as he is a guy, and still can see the beauty of something as feminine as decorated cookies.

I would love to make it happen, but so far I have not come up with a solution to the pricing problem *sigh*

Originally Posted by Adriana Lora:

Si hubiera una máquina para colocar el RI en la galleta nos ahorraríamos mucho tiempo, dinero y esfuerzo.

If google translated correctly, you said we could save lots of time, efforts, and money if there was a machine for icing cookies. Oh man, do I agree! I would buy one if it was available

haai Laegwen,  I think the prospect of a card board box under a bridge is what keeps cookies as a hobby for many people!

In the latest comment on "http://cookieconnection.juliausher.com/topic/fondant-on-cookies"  fondant is mentioned as a base for royal icing details. It could save you thetime for icing the base layer, but probably still cost you in colouring the fondant. At least there are machines for rolling it out!

I really hope you find a solution.

Everything you say makes complete sense, and it sounds like you have a real handle on what's needed in order to make it financially viable. It would be amazing if your boss did come up with a solution for you. (oh and you are totally worth the money, your cookies are amazing)

 

If things don't go this way though, perhaps some of your previous ideas about running classes could be somewhere in the future for you, so it may be that you still work with cookies but are able to concentrate on design rather than mass production. I think that could be fantastic.

 

Originally Posted by Laegwen:
Originally Posted by Adriana Lora:

Si hubiera una máquina para colocar el RI en la galleta nos ahorraríamos mucho tiempo, dinero y esfuerzo.

If google translated correctly, you said we could save lots of time, efforts, and money if there was a machine for icing cookies. Oh man, do I agree! I would buy one if it was available

Creo que el traductor confunde. Yo igual que tu tambien lo compraria.

Originally Posted by Liesbet:

haai Laegwen,  I think the prospect of a card board box under a bridge is what keeps cookies as a hobby for many people!

In the latest comment on "http://cookieconnection.juliausher.com/topic/fondant-on-cookies"  fondant is mentioned as a base for royal icing details. It could save you thetime for icing the base layer, but probably still cost you in colouring the fondant. At least there are machines for rolling it out!

I really hope you find a solution.

I wonder why, there are really nice boxes availabl *lol*

I had considered fondant as an option for coating and have not totally ruled it out, but fondant tastes, well, awful. And the coating is only between 1-3 minutes, depending on cookie size and shape. Fondant needs to be colored, too, rolled out, cut, the edges smoothed, glued to the cookie. I wonder if it saves more than, say, a minute max.

And for the decoration itself fondant is hardly an alternative in most cases. Making embellishments with molds just as time consuming as piping...

Darn, if I had fallen in love with sewing, people would be willing to pay appropriate prices, as e.g. a quilt is something lasting. A cookie isn't lasting and small in addition. Maybe I should call them non-edible and make them large as quilts

Originally Posted by Marie - LilleKageHus:

Everything you say makes complete sense, and it sounds like you have a real handle on what's needed in order to make it financially viable. It would be amazing if your boss did come up with a solution for you. (oh and you are totally worth the money, your cookies are amazing)

 

If things don't go this way though, perhaps some of your previous ideas about running classes could be somewhere in the future for you, so it may be that you still work with cookies but are able to concentrate on design rather than mass production. I think that could be fantastic.

 

Thanks for the praise. I will hire you as our marketing executive

 

Giving classes is actually the second option we consider, and in my humble opinion the much more realistic. I only need to persuade my boss that we will go down that road, at least for a start. It will also require a lot less investment and reduce the risks considerably.

A short update on this matter, just in case someone is interested.

 

We still didn't come up with a workable solution and I guess we never will. Selling the kind of cookies I do professionally just seems impossible.

 

BUT, I'll be teaching my first classes soon  Well, to be honest, co-teaching. I have been asked by my teacher (where I take the PME professional courses) if I'd like to do a class together with her. She has a fully equipped studio and a reputation in the cake decorating scene in Germany - and told me that I have to start with something, why not by giving a beginners cookie decorating class with her?

 

She has been thinking about this for quite a while, but always refrained from stepping further for the following reasons.

- a class needs at least 6 people to be profitable

- 6 beginners can hardly be handled by one person

- 6 people with advanced or at least intermediate skills in cookie decorating who are also willing to take a class, are the needle in the haystack around here

- she couldn't find a co-teacher so far for a beginners class

 

Ha, and that is where I step in. I'm so excited! My mission to spread the cookie virus in my part of the world will finally beginn!!!

Originally Posted by Marie - LilleKageHus:

That's fantastic news! I am really pleased you'll be teaching classes (let me know if you start doing any in English - my German is frankly hideous)

Thanks! I am also very pleased... and a bit scared. It's a good thing I start out as a co-tutor

If the classes are a success, there will surely be follow-ups, hopefully also for advanced skills. And you will be about the first to know, promise!

As already mentioned, I gave my first class, on November 14th. There were just three students, as cookie decorating is really still in it's swaddling clothes over here, but it was a complete success! The time frame was perfect, six hours for 8-10 cookies, skills taught were preparing icing, coloring it, flooding and outlining, wet-on-wet, working with nozzles. All students were absolute beginners and they did a great job! The theme was "edible X-mas tree decoration".

And right two weeks later we were hosted in a cafe in a shopping mall to give a cookie decorating show and for the kids there was the possibilty to try themselves at modeling with fondant. My day started out at 5:30 and I was home at 10:00. Totally exhausted but happy.

If you're interested, on this facebook page you can see some pics:

https://de-de.facebook.com/levelohamburg/

Just scroll down to November 28th and you will be able to see me with a very clever expression

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