Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Tip #280: Free Shipping: What You Should Know


Did you know Free Shipping Day is Friday, December 14? This commercial holiday was introduced in 2008 as a way to extend the online shopping season, that for many e-commerce retailers starts to diminish following Cyber Monday at the end of November.

Last December, Freeshipping.com attracted 500,000 consumers looking to save on holiday gifts. If you already have an e-commerce site, participating in Free Shipping Day could help your business gain exposure and entice new consumers to discover your products. 

Before jumping on the bandwagon, we highly recommend doing your research to ensure you don’t get burned by low profit margins or unexpected demand. You will find that many companies require a minimum spend (or threshold) for shoppers to qualify for free shipping, while others restrict qualifying purchases to best-selling products with the highest profit margins. Another idea may be to limit your free shipping promo code to only new or loyal customers or create your own free shipping day at a time when sales are slower, and forget signing up with Freeshipping.com until you have a better grasp on what to expect for the holiday.

If you’re looking to increase your website’s conversion rate, this is almost guaranteed to do the trick, however, it is important that you also understand this kind of promotion comes with risks, especially during the busy holiday season. RCI member, Rheo Thompson Candies, had great past success generating early Easter orders with a free shipping promotion, however, they later concluded the promotion was conditioning their customers to wait for free shipping to place their holiday orders. If this is a route you wish to explore, consider limitations to help avoid customers abusing the promotion. Perhaps limit free shipping within a certain radius of your store to reduce shipping expenses.

A free shipping promotion can be a great way to attract new customers or thank loyal customers, but as with any successful promotion it requires careful preparation and planning to ensure the result is worth the investment. To learn more and get involved, visit freeshipping.com. Here, retailers are invited to fill out a form on their website to be listed as one of the over a thousand participating businesses. Have you participated in Free Shipping Day in the past? If so, tell us about your experience in the comment section below.

RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices. Review past blog posts for quick and actionable tips to apply to your business. Look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox.

Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Throwback Tip #165: Celebrate Sweetest Day


Do you celebrate Sweetest Day at your candy shop? A favorite candy holiday in the Great Lakes region (more specifically Buffalo, Cleveland and Detroit), it originated in 1922 when Herbert Birch Kingston, a Cleveand candy maker, decided to give candy and small gifts to the city’s orphans and shut-ins, all who are often forgotten and neglected. With the help of friends and neighbors, he distributed these small remembrances on a Saturday in October. For years to follow, other Clevelanders began to participate in the tradition, which came to be known as "Sweetest Day.”
Al Herz, 1929 RCI Board President, treats local
orphans in with chocolates and entertainment from
the Little Rascals on Sweetest Day in 1928.

In time, the idea of spreading cheer to the underprivileged broadened to include everyone from family and significant others to coworkers and acquaintances with a kind act or a small remembrance. With a little help from movie stars in the 1930s, the idea quickly spread to other cities all over the country.

For many people, remembering takes the form of gift giving. For this reason, Sweetest Day offers an unique opportunity to offer all kinds of gift items. Falling midway between Father's Day in June and Christmas in December, Sweetest Day provides an occasion for the opening of fall merchandising programs and the promotion of various products, not the least of which is candy and boxed chocolate.

Other Ideas to Promote Sweetest Day
  • Remind your customers of Sweetest Day through social media, email and in-store signage. Click here to download our free graphic.
  • Send press releases about Sweetest Day to your local media and let them know of ways your business can help customers celebrate. Click here for more information about the holiday on RCI’s website.
  • Be prepared to explain Sweetest Day and to make suggestions regarding appropriate gifts, keeping in mind that the possibilities are limitless.
  • Create a prominent display of merchandise for Sweetest Day.

Gaining in popularity throughout the country every year, some RCI members have reported sales from Sweetest Day exceeding Mothers Day. This year, Sweetest Day will take place October 20, the third Saturday in October.

RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices. Review past blog posts for quick and actionable tips to apply to your business. Look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox.

Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Tip #278: Make Your Strawberries Last Longer


Since strawberries soak up water like a sponge, which can lead to moldy or mushy berries, it is important to be mindful of how you wash your strawberries before coating them in chocolate.

If you don’t plan on using your strawberries right away, experts agree it is best to store them in the refrigerator and wash them no more than a couple hours before using them. If you hull your strawberries before coating them, wait to do so until after they are washed. Cut strawberries will absorb even more water, making them more susceptible to mold, while also diluting their flavor. Below are two member-recommended methods for washing strawberries to make them last, we suggest experimenting to find which method works best for you.

Damp cloth method: Since strawberries are often prewashed, some experts suggest wiping strawberries with a damp cloth instead of submerging them in water to keep the moisture content low. Keep in mind as much as strawberries like to soak up water, they are equally adept at soaking up other things like pesticides. If you choose this method, consider sourcing strawberries from local farms that don’t use pesticides or are certified organic.

Vinegar solution method: If you prefer a more thorough cleaning, RCI member, Luisa Chocolatier, recommends washing strawberries in a solution of cold water and non-pasteurized apple cider vinegar (use approximately 3 tablespoons for every one gallon of water). After, first, wiping away any dirt with a clean towel and discarding unwanted mushy or moldy berries, gently submerge berries in the vinegar solution for five minutes. Next, place the strawberries in a colander to drain excess water before placing in a single layer on top of a dry towel to air dry. Once the strawberries are dry, they can be placed in their original containers, which have since been cleaned and dried as well, until they are ready to dip.

Since excess water will prevent chocolate from sticking to strawberries and also cause chocolate to have a dull appearance, both methods emphasize the importance of drying strawberries before dipping them into chocolate. Try one of these methods and let us know which works best for you!

RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices. Review past blog posts for quick and actionable tips to apply to your business. Look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox.

Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Tip #277: Oh my gourd! Sweet Ideas for Pumpkin Spice Day



Thanks to Starbucks for introducing the world to the Pumpkin Spice Latte (affectionately known as PSL) fifteen years ago, no other flavor quite signifies the arrival of fall like pumpkin spice. The seemingly heartwarming marriage of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves can now be found in everything from coffees and teas, to cookies, breakfast cereal, skin care and, yes, even deodorant.

In honor of National Pumpkin Spice Day on October 1, we’re sharing a couple of our member’s favorite pumpkin spice ideas to help inspire ways you, too, can satisfy your customers’ PSL cravings.


Pumpkin Spice Caramel
Dolle’s Candyland of Ocean City, Maryland can testify to the PSL craze after great success incorporating ground cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg into their secret caramel recipe to create Pumpkin Spice Caramels.

Pumpkin Seed Brittle
Joy Lyn’s Candies of Paradise, California replaces the nuts in their signature brittle with toasted pumpkin seeds, along with a dash of pumpkin pie spices, to make their Pumpkin Seed Brittle for the fall season.

Take inspiration from these candy makers to create your own sweet nod to Pumpkin Spice Day…or season! Here’s a list of confections that could be fun to experiment with by adding your own creative PSL spin.
  • Bark
  • Fudge
  • Hot chocolate
  • Homemade marshmallows/s’mores
  • Popcorn
  • Truffles

Comment below and let us know which PSL confection you think is most worthy of celebration on Pumpkin Spice Day.

RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices. Review past blog posts for quick and actionable tips to apply to your business. Look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox.

Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Throwback Tip #72: Use This, Not That To Break Up Chocolate



We have a quick Good Manufacturing Practices tip for you this week. When you receive pallets of chocolate or the ten-pound bars of chocolate from your chocolate supplier, you need to break them into smaller pieces to melt down and create your confections. How do you go about doing that? 

Many candy makers will break the chocolate into smaller pieces by smashing it with a hammer. However, if you are using a hammer with a wooden handle, you risk the wood chipping off in the process and small shreds of wood landing in your chocolate. Additionally, if you are using a hammer with a rubber handle, it likely has small crevices that can easily hold chocolate and create bacteria.

Lessen your risk with this week’s tip! Pitch the old hammer and replace it with a stainless steel or titanium crowbar to break your chocolate into pieces for melting. Of course, it is still a good idea to clean the crowbar on a regular basis. With no other elements such as wood and rubber on the bar, it is much easier to clean and sterilize so it is ready for safe use with food.

For $15 or less, you can create a more food safe candy kitchen. Now that’s cost effective! Do you have a quick and easy tip to improve food safety in your business? If so, please share in the comments below.

RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices. Review past blog posts for quick and actionable tips to apply to your business. Look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox.

Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Tip #275: Make Teacher’s Day Sweet

Find out which free graphic design tool we used to create this week's header.
Click here to download this graphic and share it on your own social media pages.

We can all agree teachers deserve a holiday! Remind your customers to celebrate World Teacher Day’s on Friday, October 5, 2018 by thanking the educators in their life with sweet treats that are sure to earn your candy shop an A+.
Dietsch Brothers shares their favorite teacher gifts on their Facebook page.
Take notes from RCI member, Dietsch Brothers, who creates custom tags and labels throughout the year to help theme their products as a way to encourage sales. Transform a basic chocolate bar into a thoughtful teacher gift by creating a custom wrapper that looks like a ruler and reads, “thanks for making this year rule!” Or add tags to your boxed chocolates and moulded chocolates that say “To the sweetest teacher.”

Don’t have an in-house graphic designer? Free graphic design websites like Canva or Crello make it easy for everyone to use, by offering free templates made by professionals that you can customize as needed. In fact, the header graphic above was created using Canva. These tools can also be utilized to create a coordinated look for in-store signage and even social media graphics to tell your followers about your sweet treats for teachers.

These custom graphics will not only take your merchandising to the next level, they can be easily updated and reused as the school year comes to an end and, then again, for back-to-school next year!


RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices. Review past blog posts for quick and actionable tips to apply to your business. Look for the "Subscribe now"box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox.

Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Tip #274: Retain Samples for Quality Control


When a delighted customer purchases a box of assorted chocolates from your shop, ideally, the box of chocolates would be consumed right away or at least within a week. In the event they are stored away in a cupboard for a special occasion or (dare, I say) forgotten, do you know what your products would look or taste like in two to three, or even four months? This week’s tip offers reasons for obtaining retention samples and advice on how to do so.

It is important to know and understand the shelf life of your products and collecting retention samples is the best way to test product limitations, so you can adjust recipe formulations if issues arise or advise customers on the best timeframe to enjoy your products.

When testing the shelf life of your product, variables, like packaging, must remain the same. For example, when testing your products, make sure they are stored in the same packaging they would be sold in. If they are shrink wrapped before selling (which is highly recommended), shrink wrap the product before storing them for testing. Anticipate how your customers would store your products, if not consumed right away. Would they store them in the refrigerator or in the pantry? Consider a reasonable length of time a consumer may store your products before consuming them. If you are unsure, ask a small group of loyal customers or friends and family.

Over time, enlist experienced tasters (this could be staff members or, again, frequent customers) to review your products for consistency and quality. If you run into issues with product quality, RCI members can login to pose questions to fellow members on RCI’s online forum, List Serve.


Regularly retaining samples of each batch could prove useful if you ever experience a product recall or customer complaints. At a past Chocolate Boot Camp course, RCI member, Candy House Gourmet, shared that they regularly take three samples of every product, label them each with a lot code and freeze the samples in a Ziploc freezer bag for four months. If a customer calls and complains, they can reference the quality of the product when it left their facility.

This week’s tip may require some extra steps and additional storage, however, the benefits of taking a proactive approach to quality assurance often outweigh the risks of not practicing such precautions. Comment below if you take retention samples of your products and what you’ve gained from this practice.

RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices. Review past blog posts for quick and actionable tips to apply to your business. Look for the "Subscribe now"box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox.

Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Tip #273: Don’t Skip This Step When Roasting Nuts



Not only do roasted nuts add satisfying crunch and crave-worthy sweet and salty flavors to chocolate confections, the pungent aroma of freshly roasted nuts, alone, can lure nearby shoppers into your candy store. This week’s brief tip, shared during RCI’s Chocolate Boot Camp®, is a must for candy makers who roast their own nuts.

REDUCE THE RISK OF BLOOM
To reduce the risk of fat bloom, due to fat migration, wait at least 48 hours to coat roasted nuts with chocolate. This practice allows the oils to reabsorb into the nuts. Keep in mind, dry roasted and whole nuts will have less free fat than those that are oil roasted.

STOP CRACKS IN THEIR TRACKS
Waiting to enrobe roasted nuts will also help lessen the chances of unwanted cracks in these chocolate-covered morsels. Quick and easy tips like these will help ensure your nutty delights look and taste as good as they smell!

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.