Juice producer

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Problem Definition

A major juice producer sells packaged fruit juice to retail outlets. Normally, the juice is packed and sold in 16-ounce carton containers, but recently the producer added a new machine that packages the juice in 32-ounce plastic containers. So he was selling both the 16-ounce & the 32-ounce products. This allowed the business to grow 18% per year, but as sales continued to rise, profits kept falling.

The producer hired us to figure out why profits are falling despite higher revenues.


Candidate is not required to give a quantitative solution, but he/she needs to understand and be able to explain in overall what's going on and what factors are causing the profit problem.

Candidate should lead the case whereas interviewer shares the data & information upon request.

Short Solution (Expand)

Detailed Solution

Paragraphs highlighted in green indicate diagrams or tables that can be shared in the “Case exhibits” section.

Paragraphs highlighted in blue can be verbally communicated to the interviewee.

Paragraphs highlighted in orange indicate hints for you how to guide the interviewee through the case.

Suggested case structure:

The hints below can be shared with candidate if she struggles, but only after an initial brainstorm and approach explanation by the candidate.

Candidate should use the profit framework and focus on revenue & costs. Since revenues have gone up, it's most likely that costs are the problem here, so candidate should define the hypothesis around costs.

I. Background

  • The candidate should ask for data on pricing of both products, before and after investing in a new machine.
  • Candidate should also ask for sales breakdown between the two products.
  • Candidate should ask for the unit costs for both products.
  • Candidate should ask how cost per unit is calculated by client.

Upon request, the interviewer can provide the following information:
  • Price per unit was $2.00 for the 16-ounce product.
  • After investing in the new machine, prices have been increased by $0.50 for each product.
  • This means that the 16-ounce has a price tag of $2.50 and the 32-ounce $4.00 respectively.
  • 60% of total sales comes from the 32-ounce and 40% comes from the 16-ounce.
  • The plastic 32-ounce container costs more to produce since it required the new machine and more specialized labor.
  • As for remaining overhead, the producer just sums them up and divides them across all units produced for both products.

II. Analysis

Candidate should be able to explain the overall situation based on the information above. The following insights can be drawn from that information:

  • Firstly, sales per ounce are lower for the 32-ounce product than it is for the 16-ounce product.
  • Secondly, it costs more to produce the 32-ounce product, but we're not making more money on it in terms of sales.
  • Thirdly, overheads are divided across all products when there should be specific cost-allocation measures that client should use.
  • So we're selling more 32-ounce units that have a higher cost, but the pricing per ounce is lower than the cheaper 16-ounce product.

This means that for every 32-ounce we sell, we lose profit since that product is a low-margin product.

III. Solution

This is a clear case of not allocating the proper costs to the proper product and pricing it accordingly. The client should conduct a thorough cost analysis and allocate costs to the right product and adjust pricing.

Applying ABC-costing is a good approach here.

Difficult Questions

  • How do you think the client should price its 32-ounce products?
  • Explain your next steps to help this client move forward.
Related consulting question(s)
What are the most appropriate frameworks for pricing cases?
Vlad gave the best answer on Jul 21, 2017 - 1 answer
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School
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Hi, The general framework for pricing is: Cost base - Value based - Competitor based - pricing strategy 1. Cost based - you actually check what are the costs and apply standard industry / target... (more)

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Vlad gave the best answer on Apr 03, 2017 - 2 answers
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School
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Hi, 1) You proactively ask in the beginning, even before drawing the structure (something like "What kind of products / revenue sources do we have) and then split the structure into price, qty,... (more)

In an issue tree for profitability framework, where do you factor in questions about market etc.?
Sidi gave the best answer on Aug 13, 2018 - 1 answer
McKinsey Engagement Manager & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 80+ candidates secure MBB offers
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Hi Kay, this is indeed one of the fundamental things that you need to learn in order to rigorously disaggregate the value drivers of a business. The driver tree allows you to identify the numerical d... (more)

Which case topics to focus on first? Market entry, M&A, profitability analysis...?
Vlad gave the best answer on Feb 26, 2018 - 4 answers
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School
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Hi, I would start with either market sizing or with profitability cases since they are much easier: 1) In market sizing cases I would try to understand the basic approach: How to structure... (more)

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Francesco gave the best answer on Sep 03, 2017 - 4 answers
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Hi Moji, it seems your issue is not the math computation, but rather how to structure the math part once you receive a question (that is, the logic behind that you should apply). This means you sho... (more)

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