Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tip # 222: Give Your Candy Shop the WOW! Factor on a Budget

Photo via chickaniddy.com

Spring is the perfect time to freshen up your merchandising displays. Save money by finding new uses for old items to create eye-popping displays with “wow factor!” Old ladders, tables, or wooden crates can make for unexpected and memorable ways to display your confections.

Before you spend any money, take a look at items currently used in your store, tucked away in storage or even at your home that could be repurposed or upcycled with a fresh coat of paint. Next, visit a local flea market and use your imagination to search for anything that could be a vesicle to display your products.

Take tips from RCI’s 2016 Merchandising Essentials course when seeking display pieces that help satisfy one or more of the following five design principles:

  1. Focal Point - Every display or category/department should have a focal point or a center of activity, interest or attention.

Old windows can be reimagined to create a stunning focal point as a glass-enclosed display case. Photo property of re-store.org

  1. Balance (symmetrical or asymmetrical)Symmetrical balance is created by repeating the reverse of a design (or a mirror image) on the opposite side of the vertical axis. Symmetrical balance is considered formal, sophisticated and easy to visually digest. Asymmetrical balance is more informal, yet dynamic, achieving balance through contrast, using different elements that have equal weight.
An open trunk or small suitcase can be repurposed into shelving to create the perfect opportunity for a symmetrical display. Check out remodelaholic.com for tutorial on how to create a bookshelf (pictured above) out of an antique trunk.
Upcycle tired tables with vibrant paint to create an asymmetrical balance display, like the ones from resene.com pictured above.

  1. Pyramid Merchandising – This principle is achieved by creating a pyramid of product, with the top being the focal point that attracts attention. This is a very effective and foolproof merchandising technique.
Here's an example of pyramid merchandising created by repurposing an old ladder as a shelf. Learn how to build your own by viewing a tutorial at lovegrowswild.com

  1. Repetition - Create a striking and clean display through the repetition of many of the same or similar products.
The repetition of inexpensive, painted wooden crates used by chickaniddy.com makes an impact as a wall display. 
  1. Harmony – A pleasing combination or arrangement of different things will make your customer feel comfortable and at ease.
These repurposed tables by The Painted Hinge and Gelbach Designs have been cut in half and mounted on the wall to create eye-pleasing and space-saving displays. Visit thepaintedhinge.com for a step-by-step tutorial.

With an open mind and a little elbow grease, you can breathe new life into old furniture and flea market finds to create merchandising displays that will get your customers saying “WOW!” without breaking the bank.

Stay connected with RCI through Facebook for more tips and inspiration dedicated to the retail candy maker. Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tip # 221: Caramel Cures: Avoid a Sticky Situation

Known for its characteristically smooth and chewy texture, caramel is one of the most popular and beloved candies. However, even caramel’s biggest fans are not willing to risk dental work for sticky caramel. If creating an unhappy customer isn’t enough, caramel that is too sticky can also lead to difficulties during the manufacturing process, thus creating a very sticky situation.

Below we’ve identified the top seven common causes for sticky caramels and possible solutions, presented at RCI's Caramels, Toffees & Brittles course.

  1. Not enough fat – Increase the percentage of fat and/or the amount of milk being used in the recipe. A minimum of 8% fat is recommended when making caramels. 
  1. Excessive inversion – Inversion occurs when sucrose (a disaccharide) is broken down into glucose and fructose. This can be caused by extended cooking times (especially under acidic conditions) and the use of the enzyme invertase. Increasing reducing sugars will add to the flavor and color of caramel – but too much can cause excessive stickiness.

    Check the pH of premix, water and other ingredients, including scrap, to identify excessive inversion as the problem. Caramel premix should have a neutral pH (6.8-7.0). 
Two possible solutions for adjusting pH levels:
a)     Add low-pH flavors at the end of cook sequence or use buffered flavors.
b)    Increase premix pH with the addition of basic salts, such as sodium bicarbonate, sodium citrate (both considered natural and should be approximately 0.1% of batch)

  1. Not enough milk – A minimum of 3.7% milk protein solids or higher is recommended
  1. Low cooking temperature – Increasing the final cooking temperature slightly will produce caramel with a harder texture. Even one or two degrees can make a significant difference. Additionally, do not allow the moisture from the cooking process to drain back into the kettle.
  1. Too much corn syrup – Too much corn syrup can create a tender caramel, but also lead to stickiness and lack of body. Adjust the ratio of sugar to corn syrup (reduce the corn syrup or dextrose equivalent of corn syrup)
  1. Too much humidity – An overly humid environment can make caramel sticky and create a less than desirable layer of scum on its surface. Too avoid exposure to excessive humidity, pack and store cooked caramel away from steam kettles and in an area with a relative humidity of 40-50%.
  1. Lack of emulsifiers – The addition of mono and diglycerides (generally 1-1.25%) will produce caramel that is less sticky.
Great caramel doesn’t happen by accident. With all the factors that play into the science of making caramel, even one or two degrees, for example, can mean the difference between coveted caramels and a sticky mess.

Make your customers stick, but not your caramels! Registration for RCI’s Caramels, Toffees & Brittles course opens tomorrow, February 15. This three-day intensive course is designed to help candy makers (RCI members and non-members) understand the science behind recipe formulations and learn troubleshooting techniques for caramels, toffees and brittles. Participants will gain hands-on experience in the kitchen making variations of these coveted confections for several different applications.

Visit retailconfectioners.org/caramels for more information and to register for the course, starting February 15. Note: This course is limited to the first 24 registrants and is expected to sell out quickly.

Stay connected with RCI through Facebook for more tips and inspiration dedicated to the retail candy maker. Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Tip # 220: Here’s How to Clean Chocolate Moulds the Right Way

Did you know chocolate moulds that aren’t cleaned properly can cause chocolates to lose their desired smooth and glossy shine? Follow these five easy steps from Tomric Systems, Inc. to ensure your plastic moulds are cleaned properly and produce perfectly glossy chocolate masterpieces every time.

  1. Wipe moulds with a soft cloth in clear, warm water.
  2. DO NOT use an abrasive cleanser. If moulds become coated with cocoa butter, wash with a mild, grease-cutting detergent. Use detergent sparingly and avoid scratching the inside surface of the moulds.
  3. Rinse in clear, cool water.
  4. Dry and store in a cool location.
  5. Use moulds at room temperature.
Although maintenance is minimal for plastic moulds, it is important to perform these simple steps at the end of each holiday season to get the most out of your chocolate moulds.

Stay connected with RCI through Facebook for more tips and inspiration dedicated to the retail candy maker. Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tip # 219: From the Archives: Use Mass Displays

Retailers have been using mass displays as a successful visual merchandising technique for many years. According to Chron.com, “mass displays group a large quantity of merchandise together in one place to attract attention to it.” You may see this technique used in grocery stores and in other retail settings today, because it attracts attention and can be used to create a sense of urgency. If you’ve been in the business for any length of time, creating a sense of urgency is important considering many shoppers will wait until the last-minute to purchase gifts for their loved ones.

In 1960, RCI published an article written by Harry P. Cole, a sales associate for Paper Goods Company, featuring the surprising results this merchandising technique had on one of his retail clients.

Use Mass Displays

In making displays of your candy, both in the store and in your show windows, try using mass displays. Last February, one of our good roadside customers was unfortunate enough to have to go to the hospital and he was out for about five weeks starting January 15. The manager of this particular store, quite a smart, bright young lady, always wanted to make big displays of Valentine’s Day hearts. This was her opportunity. Instead of having hearts distributed all over the store in various places singly, she had large groups of them on tables. Each type was packed one on top of another with the top heart opened on a display stand to show the contents, prices and weight. Her boss was an old timer and when he came back shortly after Valentine’s Day and learned of the type of displays that were made, he started to raise the devil, but when he saw the figures he sang a different tune. The Valentine’s Day sales in that store were 20 percent over the previous year and the average in the area was only about a five percent increase.

Since making their debut shortly after Christmas, your Valentine’s Day displays may have seen shoppers come and go for a little over a month. Consider making some space for a fresh, new, attention-grabbing display, grouping your inventory of beautiful heart-shaped boxes near the front of the store or near the register. Keep in mind, the location of a mass display is important. This merchandising technique will be much more successful in a highly visible area of your retail space. If your space or inventory doesn’t allow for a mass display this Valentine’s Day, it’s not too late to incorporate one into your Easter and Mother's Day. Here's wishing you a successful Valentine's Day! 

Learn more about how to build your sweet business and help us celebrate our 100th anniversary at RCI's Annual Convention & Industry Expo in Chicagoland, Illinois June 12-16, 2017. Click here if you would like us to send you an email notification when registration opens. Not a member? Learn what makes membership with RCI so sweet!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tip #218: Meet the Press: 5 Keys to Getting Media Coverage

Many business owners view the beginning of a new year as a time to relax after the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, but for candy makers it’s just the halfway mark when it comes to holiday prep. A couple major candy holidays are on the horizon, which makes it a great time to share new and exciting happenings with the local media. You can expect the media is seeking newsworthy stories, why not let your business be the headliner?

Even if it takes you a couple hours, a well-written press release can offer more return on investment than any paid advertising. But before you begin typing, here's some tips to ensure you’re giving reporters what they're looking for.

#1 Get Personal
Consider ways to weave in a human-interest story (e.g., a customer-success story or recognition for a long-time employee). Both reporters and their readers like stories about real people. If you can offer this, your press release is as good as gold.

#2 Just the Facts
 If you want to be taken seriously by the media, your writing should deliver the facts and explain why your news is relevant in an objective manner. As an overall rule, avoid subjective claims or marketing jargon such as “the best,” “revolutionary,” “magical.”

#3 Insert Quote Here
Back up the information with a good quote or two that further supports why the information is relevant from key players involved – this could be a company executive or even a customer excited about the news you’re sharing.

When requesting a quote, have an idea of what you want them to say and offer guidance to ensure the quote supports your story. Within a quote is the only place it is acceptable to use first person. Otherwise, leave “me” out of it!

#4 Wrap it Up
Reporters are busy and often on a tight deadline, so keep it short. It is best to limit yourself to one page. If you’re considering a second page, it’s possible you’ve lost your focus. Every line of your press release should be supporting your hook. If it’s not, let it go.

#5 Proofread!
Don’t underestimate the value of letting others proofread your writing. Nothing loses credibility faster than incorrect spelling and bad grammar.

If your high school English teacher isn’t available to proof your writing, a quick Google search will lead you to online proofreading tools like Ginger (gingersoftware.com). Ginger is a free proofing app that checks your grammar, features a built-in dictionary, translator and more – which can be streamlined through Microsoft Office, Google Chrome (i.e., Facebook and Twitter) and even your mobile devices.

Stay connected with RCI through Facebook for more tips and inspiration dedicated to the retail candy maker. Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tip # 217: Get the Crunch Without the Cracks

Randy Hofberger of R&D Candy Consultants, LLC, is an active member of RCI and the lead instructor for RCI’s Chocolate Boot Camp®. This week’s post is an excerpt from his article “Crunch Without the Cracks,” which offers eight tips to reduce cracking in chocolate-covered pretzels, cookies and crackers.

Texture is so very important in our foods and is a large part of the eating experience. Many of our most popular confections have a crunchy texture and using baked goods such as cookies, crackers and pretzels is one way to provide this. When coated with chocolate, however, there is a chance the finished product will crack, making it less appealing to consumers.

What cause these fissures to develop? While it may seem that there are little micro earthquakes occurring on your pretzels or gremlins attacking the chocolate-covered cookies, one of the main culprits can be moisture entering these dry baked goods and causing them to expand. To prevent moisture from coming in contact with the finished product, one of the most obvious solutions is to use packaging with a good moisture barrier. While this will solve many of the cracking problems, there are other factors that can cause cracking. Also, this will not help any of your products that are open to the atmosphere in your display cabinets.

Other suggestions to reduce cracking in chocolate covered pretzels, cookies and crackers include the following:

  1. Have a uniform coating. Unequal coverage will cause different contraction rates and, thus, cracking.
  2. Thicker coating is a stronger coating and a better moisture barrier. Coverage should be complete without pin holes, air bubbles or thin spots.
  3. Using a chocolate formulated to be softer will be less prone to cracking.
  4. Enrobed baked goods will generally have less of a heat load and will require a gentler (less) cooling.  Good cooling tunnel conditions will have little or no air movement at the tunnel entrance and a temperature of approximately 65ºF.  Air velocity may be gradually increased to about 700 CFM until the chocolate is set – at which time velocity may be increased to 1200 CFM. Coldest tunnel temperatures exceed the low 50sºF. Total tunnel time should be a minimum of eight minutes, but 12 minutes is better.
    If your operation requires you to maintain consistent tunnel settings because of various product mixes, increasing the tunnel belt speed will give less total cooling and more line production. 
  5. Enrober/tunnel/feeding area relative humidity should not exceed 55%.
  6. Pieces to be enrobed should be room temperature or warmer (up to 78ºF).
  7. Pretzel and cookie packages can be opened the evening prior to enrobing. This will help them equilibrate to the atmospheric conditions.
  8. Rough-surfaced centers reduce cracking and the loss of the chocolate shell, e.g., salted pretzels are better than unsalted pretzels.

 Stay connected with RCI through Facebook for more tips and inspiration dedicated to the retail candy maker. Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Tip # 216: Submit a Nomination for the Candy Hall of Fame

Induction into the National Confectionery Sales Association’s Candy Hall of Fame is one of the highest honors in the confectionery industry, recognizing individuals who have served, over and above their personal careers, by giving back to the industry through active participation in trade associations, educational efforts and community involvement.

We’re proud to see RCI members honored by the Candy Hall of Fame, including those from the class of 2016.

Pictured above (clockwise from top right): James Day of Esther Price Candies with wife, Elaine, Vivian Farber of The Madelaine Chocolate Co. with husband Jorge, Bernard Garbusjuk of Boehm's Candies accepting award with family, Bernard with wife Hee Jeong Park and Thalia Hoenthal of Guittard Chocolate Co. with husband Michael. All inductees were recognized at a luncheon as well as a formal banquet.

RCI members inducted into The Candy Hall of Fame, class of 2016:
  • James Day, Esther Price Candies Corp.
  • Vivian Farber, The Madelaine Chocolate  Co.
  • Bernard Garbusjuk, Boehm’s Candies, Inc.
  • Thalia Hohenthal, Guittard Chocolate Co.
  • Patrick Murnane, Murnane Companies


Nominations for induction into the Candy Hall of Fame are welcomed from any source, but should include proof that the criteria below have been met. In addition, the Candy Hall of Fame Selection Committee accepts letters of support from individuals familiar with the nominee’s qualifications.

  • Twenty years of service in the candy industry (buyers must have at least 10 years of experience)
  • Nominees must have a demonstrated loyalty to building and supporting the candy industry through active participation over and above job requirements.
  • If nominee is retired or deceased, nomination must be within two years of either event.
  • Unless deceased, the nominee must attend the Candy Hall of Fame Induction event.
  • The nominee must agree to meet NCSA deadlines for materials and information.
  • The nominee must be at least 50 years of age.
  • The nominee must be a current NCSA member.
  • Nomination does not guarantee induction.

Nominate someone you know who is deserved of this honor and fits the criteria. Click here to download the 2017 call for nominations form. The deadline to submit nominations is Friday, January 27, 2017.


NCSA CHoF Selection Committee
Spitfire House
3135 Berea Road
Cleveland, OH  44111

Nominations can also be emailed to info@candyhalloffame.org.

Stay connected with RCI through Facebook for more tips and inspiration dedicated to the retail candy maker. Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.