How Much Money do CPGs *Really* Make? (CPG Profit Margins Explained)

No matter what stage your consumer packaged goods (CPG) business is at, money matters.

At the very beginning, you’d be forgiven for not turning a profit. Startup costs, smaller orders, and a lack of leverage could all contribute to a smaller profit margin. 

However, it’s vital that you have a robust, realistic roadmap that will indicate how you’ll get into that profit green zone fast

Profit margins do vary according to the type of CPG. For instance, beauty and personal care CPGs sold online and through bricks and mortar can expect a profit of around 40%. The profit margins for food and beverage brands can sit anywhere between 20-35%. 

A white piece of paper sitting on a brown wooden table, with a pen, pencil and ruler nearby. The paper shows an upward trending graph

Why is profit margin a key metric for CPG success?

You might have the most innovative idea for a world-changing CPG product, but if you can’t retain the necessary profit margins you won’t make money. If you’re not making money, your business won’t stay afloat. If your business can’t stay afloat, you won’t get your product out into the world. 

That’s why profit margins are so vital. 

Once you secure your goal profit margin, the fun won’t stop there. You’ll then have to work on improving it. As your CPG product gains traction, you’ll be able to improve supply chain efficiency, place larger orders, and negotiate discounts with suppliers.

Your profit margin may not change drastically each year — it may be a matter of 0.2 percentage points — but every small improvement is a step in the right direction.

The question that many of you may be asking next is, how do you calculate a CPG brand’s profit margins?

Here’s a step-by-step guide:

How to calculate profit margin for a CPG brand

To keep things simple and easy to understand, we’ll use the example of a CPG food product — organic strawberry jam! Note: the below example numbers are a work of fiction.

We’ll want to figure out your gross margin, defined by the net sales revenue minus the cost of goods (COGs) sold

Step 1: Calculate your COGs

Quite simply, the cost of goods sold (COGs) is the amount of money it costs you to arrive at your finished product, which can then go on to be sold. 

Typically, you’ll need to find out the following:

  • Total costs of ingredients
  • Total costs of packaging
  • Costs of manufacturing or packing labor
  • Overheads of manufacturing (in order to make your CPG you’ll probably have to rent somewhere, right? Don’t take into account your office, marketing, or salary costs though. They don’t directly impact the COGs) 
  • Costs of freight or storage.

Add it all up and you’ll have your COGs.

In our example:

  • Ingredients
    • Organic strawberries ($250) + organic jam sugar ($20) + organic lemon juice ($50) = $320 
  • Packaging
    • 200 Jam jars ($120) + 200 lids ($30) + 200 printed labels ($90) = $240
  • Labor
    • 1 person packed all the jars in 3 hours. Their rate is $20 per hour = $60
  • Manufacturing overheads
    • coworking kitchen space day rate ($50) = $50

Example COGs total = $670

A small pile of strawberries set against a bubblegum pink background

Step 2: Calculate your net sales

Your net sale figure is how much money you’ve made from sales — taking into consideration any money you may have lost along the way.

This is calculated as:

  • Gross sales (all sales revenue) 
  • less promotional discounts 
  • less cash discounts 
  • less returns/damaged products/spoils etc. 

  • = net sales

    In our example:

    Each jam jar sells at $6 each, so our gross sales for 200 jam jars is $1200.

    We gave 15% off on the first 50 jars sold, so we need to take off $45 for promotional discounts. 

    8 jars smashed because we weren’t transporting them properly, so we’ll have to take off $48. 

    We don’t like to use preservatives so 15 unsold jars went to waste, that’s $90.

    $1200 - $45 - $48 - $90 = $1017 net sales

    Rows upon rows of empty glass jars

    Step 3: Calculate the manufacturing gross profit margin

    Divide your COGs (answer to step 1) by the net sales (answer to step 2), then multiply by 100:

    ((net sales - COGs) ÷ net sales) X 100 = manufacturing gross profit margin %

    In our example:

    (($1017 - $670) ÷ $1017) x 100 = 34%

    So in our organic strawberry jam CPG business, we’ve got a healthy profit margin of 34%. 

    Of course, we’re going to need to scale our CPG to make real money, but the goal would be to maintain or improve that profit margin by increasing sales in line with growing expenses.

    How to adjust a CPG’s profit margin

    We can be pretty pleased with our 34%, but what if it’s not enough? That’s still only your gross margin. A net margin takes into account further costs, such as other overheads, marketing costs, distribution fees, etc. 

    To make your profit margin healthier, you’ll need to reduce your COGs or increase your selling price. 

    So let’s try to get our organic strawberry jam up to a profit margin of 40%. In our hypothetical scenario, we conducted thorough research into our product pricing and $6 really was the sweet spot. So let’s leave that if we can and take a look at our COGs. 

    We’re buying a lot of strawberries, right? Having taken a closer look, it seems that we’re not getting any bulk discount! 

    *one telephone call later* 

    We’ve chatted with our strawberry suppliers and negotiated a great deal. If we exclusively buy our strawberries from them, they’ll give us a 15% discount. 

    That brings our COGs down to $632.50. Let’s input that into our handy calculation:

    (($1017 - $632.50) ÷ $1017) x 100 = 37%

    We’re oh so close. If we made the most of our coworking kitchen day rate and worked for more than 3 hours, then we’d produce more jam for the same rate! 

    We could also try to cut the number of jam jars that went to waste. That should be enough to bump us up to our goal profit margin.

    A bulk order of fresh strawberries

    Work with the right distributor to increase profits

    Remember when some jam jars got smashed in transport? How about those that were spoiled?

    If we had used a distributor that handles our jam with care, transported it quickly, and stored it properly, that could’ve been avoided. 

    Buffalo Market is a specialized distributor. And we’re experts in transportation and storage. 

    We’ve made it our mission to support CPG products that are good for the earth and good for consumers. If that sounds like you, then we’d love it if you said hello.

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