Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tip # 226: 5 Equipment Cleaning Tips for Candy Makers

As of yesterday, March 20, spring has officially arrived! This means warmer weather, longer daylight hours, blooming flowers and spring cleaning! Chances are you are least excited about the latter, so we’ve got some helpful cleaning tips for candy manufacturers taken from an article published in the January 2004 issue of The Manufacturing Confectioner and written by Susan Hough of Masterson Company.

Use Soap and Water
The most effective way to clean equipment is with soap and water. It is a real search and destroy mission that should not be taken lightly. Just scraping or using water alone will not be effective.

Oil Flushes for Oil-Based Products
If you are working with an all-oil-based product (and no sugars to help dissolve the product away), you may have to start with several oil flushes first before introducing water or chemicals. Without the oil flushes, the chemicals can extract out the oil, leaving behind solid masses cemented to the pipes or agitators of your vessel. If you absolutely cannot get water near your systems and have a completely dry process, you may want to try dry CO2 pellet cleaning.

Checklists Are a Must
Checklists for the system, identifying all the equipment requiring dismantling, cleaning and inspection, are a must. There are several ways of verifying the effectiveness of the cleanup. A good verification doesn’t trust just one verification method, but is successful through the collective use of several.

Use Your Senses
Especially when it comes to cleaning equipment exposed to allergens, it is important to visually inspect and use your sense of smell. As mentioned earlier, you need to open up and visually inspect every area possible. The sense of smell can be useful in the case of allergens such as peanuts. Even in very minute amounts, the smell of the peanut can be a telltale sign of a hidden cleaning issue. A further verification uses some of the more quantative tests available today. You could utilize ATP testers (especially if a particular allergenic protein has no test kit yet available). It should be noted that this method will not tell you how much PPM residue you have, and is not as effective on proteins that have been heat treated.

Protein Test Kits
Test kits for peanuts approved by the AOAC Research Institute as performance tested include Biokits Peanut Assay; Ridascreen Fast Peanut; and Veratox for Peanut. These kits can be used to test the actual product, do swabs of your equipment or test the rinse water off a system after cleaning. It should be noted that although many of them are relatively easy, they can take 45 to 60 minutes to complete.

After cleaning is completed, the system should be additionally inspected and signed off by a management person to verify the cleanup. The more eyes (and noses) involved, the less chance something will be missed.

Cleaning large equipment can be a daunting task. With proper cleaning methods and verification, you can rest assured you're following Good Manufacturing Processes (GMPs) and your equipment is ready for the spring season! Happy Cleaning!

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.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Tip # 225: From the Archives to Now: Easter Merchandising Inspiration

Photo courtesy of kimborup.blogspot.com/au

In celebration of RCI’s 100th anniversary, we have pulled favorite articles from the “archives.” In this excerpt from an issue of Kettle Gossip published in 1972, Dave Faurer of Wilbur Chocolate Co., shared Easter merchandising tips for candy makers. Although it's fun to reflect on how things (especially prices) have changed since 1972, many of Faurer's tips can be applied by today's retail confectioner. However, we've included some suggestions for updates to his merchandising ideas below.

Easter Merchandising

For most confectioners, Easter ranks second only to Christmas as a candy merchandising occasion. In some areas the Easter volume exceeds Christmas. As an occasion for the retail manufacturing confectioner to show his real skill in the art of candy making, Easter leads the list by far.

Timing – Easter falls on Sunday, April 2 this year (in 1972). Many merchants start showing some of their Easter items right after Washington’s birthday. Items like small chocolate-covered Easter eggs and 10, 15 and 25 cents eggs can be displayed or sold even earlier. This will include jelly eggs, marshmallow eggs, butter cream mix, etc.

About four weeks before Easter, your full line of Easter items should be on display. These would include your more expensive gift items, large eggs, gift baskets, etc.

Displays – The very nature of the items in your Easter line makes them easy to display. In themselves, they are so colorful that very little in the way of display material need be added. Basic colors for your display should be in the pastel shades. Usual color combinations are orchid and yellow, green (light) and yellow or pink and green.

It is extremely important that all signs are selected very carefully. To make sure that your signs stand out from the merchandise, you should choose the strongest colors in your display for the sign background. Good eye catchers are a super-large chocolate egg or a chocolate bunny or even an extra large size plush bunny.

Here are a few ideas which may help to create better and more effective Easter displays:

1972: A border of artificial daffodils and tulips can be very effectively arranged around the front of your windows

Now: For a more current take on this idea, use a cupcake stand,terra cotta pots and fresh daffodils to create a visually interesting Easter display.Photo from living.msn.com

1972: A good way to show your moulded eggs and rabbits is to use a large round glass, covered with either amber or green cellophane grass. Use a separate piece of glass for each group. Place the largest item in the center and surround with the smaller sizes.

Now: Consider purchasing real or artificial wheatgrass, which can be used to nestle products  and d├ęcor for fresh and colorful merchandising throughout spring and summer. Photo from bestorganicwheatgrass.com

1972: When displaying your eggs, cut one very carefully, cello wrap so customer can see what the egg is like inside. This is especially true of the fruit and nut centers.

Now: What’s on the inside counts, right? Instead of wrapping a cut-chocolate in cello wrap, consider displaying cut pieces on a glass dish or cake stand, topped with a glass dome. Glass domes of all shapes and sizes are super trendy right now and are relatively inexpensive at your local craft and hobby shop. And don’t think you have to splurge on a big, pricey dome. Even small and dainty domes can create an elegant display. Photo courtesy of kimborup.blogspot.com/au

In conclusion, Easter is one of the most fascinating (and exasperating) periods of the candy year. By careful thought in selecting items and merchandising them properly, you can capture the Easter market in your town.

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, March 7, 2017

Tip # 224: Troubleshooting: Hazy Chocolate Moulds

Are you a little hazy on what’s causing the buildup of a film on the surface of your chocolate moulds? You’re not alone. Learn what causes this common problem and get preventative tips on how to avoid it in this excerpt from RCI’s Mechanics of Chocolate Moulding course.

We all know the temperature of chocolate and, even, your workspace is important, but did you know the temperature of your moulds could also be affecting the quality of your chocolate?

Cold moulds can cause chocolate to stick to the surface of a mould because the chocolate has not had time to grow the proper crystals and shrink free of the surface. Moulds should be 75-80° F before coming into contact with chocolate. And, bonus, the solution to this problem is easy, because moulds within this temperature range will self clean. Repeated deposits will remove the buildup from the surface of the moulds.

Although cooking spray can work wonders for baking pans, never coat chocolate moulds with vegetable oil to prevent sticking. This may appear to help prevent buildup; but it will create early bloom on the surface of a moulded piece because of the incompatibility of the vegetable oil and the cocoa butter in chocolate. Compound coatings made with lauric fats, such as palm kernel oil, are even more susceptible to bloom than chocolate, if incompatible fats are mixed with them.

Now that you know your chocolate moulds like to be kept at a cozy 75-80° F, how do you check the temperature of a mould? An infrared thermometer "gun" will do the trick and can be found at any of your local home improvement stores. Click here to view best-selling infrared thermometers on Amazon. Prices range from $16 to $130.

Happy Moulding!

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 28, 2017

Tip # 223: Celebrate Something on a Stick Day

Did you know March 28 is National Something on a Stick Day? Yes, it may be another quirky food holiday but there’s no denying it is a fun excuse to invite your customers and social media followers to visit your store…as if we need another reason to eat more chocolate!

Opportunities to join in on this celebration are endless! You could go the more daring route that involves bacon or anything deep fried or try something fail-proof that you know everyone will love…chocolate-covered sandwich cookies!

If you have ever tried to insert lollipop sticks into any number of sandwich cookies, you probably felt about as efficient as a tortoise. Thanks to a quick and easy tip shared by RCI member, Kimberly Mitchell with Olympian Candies, you can pump out as many chocolate-covered sandwich cookies on a stick as your heart’s content and still have time to decorate them for National Something on a Stick Day! Inserting wooden popsicle sticks into double-stuffed sandwich cookies will make this process much easier and efficient than using lollipop or sucker sticks. With a little embellishment, wrapped in a clear candy bag and tied with a pretty little ribbon, Olympian Candies can’t keep their chocolate-covered-sandwich-cookies-on-a-stick on the shelf!

Olympian Candies uses flower pots, foam and shredded paper
 to display their cute, spring-themed sweets-on-sticks!
Here’s some other decorating ideas for your chocolate-covered sandwich cookies.
Photo credits (top to bottom and left to right): premeditatedleftovers.com, indulgy.com, Lillian Hope Designs
thepinkflour.com, Makoodle, Inside Bru Crew Life, Sprinkles for Breakfast, DippedInSweetness, A Taste to Remember
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 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!