Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tip #207: Say “Buh-Bye” to Chocolate Bloom!

Simply put, chocolate is awesome. Consistently voted as most everyone’s favorite indulgence, it rarely fails to delight our customers. However, chocolate doesn’t always cooperate in the production of confections. Joe Sofia with Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate identifies one of the most common problems encountered with chocolate: bloom!

It can appear as spots, streaks, or a homogenous film, and can range from a dull white to a severe white discoloration, it’s bloom! The most common source is fat bloom, which is literally cocoa butter fat that has migrated to the chocolate's surface and recrystallized. While fat bloom has a negative effect on appearance, the product remains perfectly safe to eat. Pure chocolate that contains fat bloom can be remelted and retempered to reach the desired appearance. Unfortunately, finished confections that have fat bloom are more difficult to repair, since they contain fillings or inclusions and cannot be remelted.

Fat bloom can develop for a few different reasons. Excess heat (from sunshine or warm temperatures) can cause perfectly good chocolate to bloom. The heat melts some or all of the cocoa butter, and when it recrystallizes it lacks the proper stable cocoa butter crystal nuclei and cooling for proper recrystallization. The best way to avoid fat bloom is to  keep your chocolates away from heat!

Another source of fat bloom is poorly tempered chocolate. The use of a tempermeter, or other means of optimizing your tempering step, will maximize bloom resistance in your chocolates. Both under-tempered and over-tempered chocolates will bloom faster than well-tempered ones.

A third source of fat bloom is the mixing of incompatible fats. If you use compound coatings, which are usually palm kernel oil based, these should not be mixed with cocoa butter based chocolate. The incompatibility of these fats can lead to inefficient crystallization and eventual fat bloom.

Sugar bloom is a different type of bloom, resulting from exposure to moisture. It is formed by the dissolution and subsequent crystallization of sugar on the chocolate’s surface. It generally appears as droplets of sugar crystals on the surface of the product. If sugar bloom is moderate to severe, most likely the product will contain coarse sugar crystals and should be discarded. Sugar bloom can be avoided by keeping your refrigerated or frozen chocolates packaged and sealed until they equilibrate to ambient temperature.

Register now for RCI’s Chocolate Boot Camp® to learn more about chocolate tempering, trouble shooting and more.

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, October 18, 2016

Throwback Tip # 99: Celebrate National Candy Cane Day All Month

Did you know the day after Christmas is National Candy Cane Day? But don’t wait until December 26, celebrate this iconic holiday treat all month! In this throwback tip from 2013, we’ve shared five creative and easy ways (plus a couple new ideas) to incorporate candy canes into your product mix and presentation for the holidays.
Photo and tutorial courtesy of amenphotography.com
Candy Cane Tree
Forty-four boxes of candy canes were used to make this impressive candy cane tree! Make an impact in your holiday window display or size it down for an eye-catching centerpiece for a tabletop display. Click here to view a step-by-step tutorial.

Photo and recipe courtesy of inspiredreamer.com
Candy Cane Sweetheart Pops
With a box of mini candy canes, a lollipop stick and a bit of added heat, mould candy canes into hearts to frame your favorite holiday bark or dark chocolate. Plus, with the right color ribbon, this could easily double as a Valentine treat and a good way to use up leftover candy canes. Click here to view recipe.

Photo courtesy of marthastewart.com
Candy Cane Marshmallow
Sold separately or aside your own blend of hot cocoa mix, these festive peppermint marshmallows would add a pop of color to your shelf when packaged in clear candy bags. Click here to view recipe.

Photo courtesy of bystephanielynn.com
Candy Cane Rudolph
Embellish these antlered treats with white jelly beans and black sugar pearls for eyes and red Skittles for Rudolph’s signature red nose.

Photo and recipe courtesy of cookingclassy.com
Candy Cane Bark Popcorn
Save the plain popcorn for decorating the Christmas tree! Give out samples of candy-sweet popcorn bark to your guests and watch it pop off the shelf! Click here for more details.

If you have creative candy cane ideas to share, leave us a comment below!

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, October 11, 2016

Tip # 206: Give Thanks with a Chocolate Cornucopia

Photo courtesy of Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate
Turn heads with this bountiful display, which can be filled with chocolates, chocolate-dipped fruits and other fall favorites. Remind shoppers through merchandising that this tasteful cornucopia would make for the perfect dressing for their holiday table or a welcome and thoughtful hostess gift.

Chocolate Cornucopia
Recipe courtesy of Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate
Materials needed:
• (1) 12” wicker cornucopia
• (1) one-gallon plastic storage bag
roll of tape
pastry brush or latex glove
vegetable brush
• Peter’s Lenoir™ semisweet chocolate
• non-toxic, fresh salal leaves*
gold and copper luster dust (optional)
*Commonly known as lemon leaves. Available through floral supply shops.
Cover outside of 12” wicker cornucopia with a one gallon plastic storage bag, fitting snugly; secure with tape. Using a pastry brush or latex-gloved hand, apply three thick coats of Peter’s Lenoir™ semisweet chocolate over the surface, allowing each application to dry before adding the next. Remove wicker cornucopia; peel away and discard bag.
Chocolate Leaves 
Scrub non-toxic fresh salal leaves* with vegetable brush; rinse thoroughly and air dry. Use a small metal spatula to coat the back side of leaves with Peter’s Lenoir™ semisweet chocolate. Clean edges of excess chocolate. Chill until dry. Grasp leaf near the stem, gently pulling it away.
Decorating the Cornucopia  
Trim ragged edge of the open end. Attach large chocolate leaves along open end, overlapping and extending them slightly over the edge. Use increasingly smaller leaves until entire top and sides of cornucopia are covered. Brush with gold and copper luster dust (optional).

Learn techniques like this and others at RCI’s Chocolate Boot Camp in Waterbury, Connecticut February 20-23, 2017. Register now at retailconfectioners.org/bootcamp.

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, October 4, 2016

Tip # 205: Hire Smart for the Holidays

The confectionery industry has the special privilege/task of enduring holiday bursts. Hiring a temporary workforce can help your business maintain consistent production levels and product quality. In this excerpt from a Kettle Talk article written by Jan Douglass with Esther Price Candies, Corp., we built upon three practical tips to help you hire smart for the holidays.

#1: Build Relationships with Staffing Agencies

Staffing agencies can be a great resource for filling temporary positions. Building relationships with reputable staffing agencies and other local organizations (e.g., county or state job centers, developmentally disabled adult centers, etc.) can help to source reliable individuals for seasonal work and unforeseen sales bursts. When working with staffing agencies it is important to practice open and honest communication. Start by taking the time to discuss open positions rather than simply providing a job description. If a recommended candidate isn’t a good fit, providing concise feedback on why that was the case will help staffing agencies identify better candidates in the future. These simple steps will ensure the staffing agency feels well equipped to find the right fit, right away.

#2: Training is Key

They may only be with you for a brief time, but a temporary workforce can be vital to keeping with the ebbs and flows of seasonal business and make it less painful when you must reduce your staff at the close of a season. Be aware, however, there can be downsides to a temporary workforce, such as high turnover rates. Increased turnover can result in more training hours, risk of production and packing errors and additional work for human resources. Minimize those risks by having sourcing organizations pre-screen individuals and clearly communicate the job expectations to candidates through digital recordings of the candy making process. Successful training can also lead to the return of seasonal staff year after year.

#3: Stay Current on Labor Laws

Make sure to brush up on federal and state labor laws before hiring for the holidays, as many regulations that apply to full-time employment also apply to part-time and seasonal employment. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Employment and Labor Law Guide is a useful resource when hiring. Be aware of your state’s legal requirements for benefits such as unemployment, social security/medicare and workers’ compensation. Check with your state’s department of labor for exemptions for employers who require temporary staff for periods of 10 weeks or less. You will also want to familiarize yourself on your tax reporting responsibilities according to IRS regulations and state tax laws.

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, September 13, 2016

Throwback Tip # 90: Increase the Shelf Life of Your Popcorn

is a growing snack trend and is especially popular during the holiday season! This week’s tip is quick throwback to help you increase the shelf life of your popcorn.

To increase shelf life, we suggest air popping your popcorn. Because popping with oil increases the chance for rancidity, if you air pop your popcorn, the shelf life of your product is increased.  It’s that simple, but it works!

While we’re sure your popcorn is so good it’ll be flying off the shelves, we hope this quick tip will help you be able to pop your popcorn ahead of time so you can meet the demand for this great treat!

P.S. We’re looking forward to a great week in Vancouver, British Columbia for our Fall Regional Conference next week. Be sure to check out event photos on RCI’s Facebook page!

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, August 24, 2016

Throwback Tip #36: Celebrate International Chocolate Day!

One of our very favorite candy holidays is just around the corner. Do you know what it is? International Chocolate Day, of course! This sweet holiday is Tuesday, September 13! 

Making a big deal about this holiday in a variety of ways will create excitement and give chocolate lovers another reason to visit your store.  Here are just a few ideas we’ve gathered to help get you started. Have fun with it! And an early Happy International Chocolate Day to you!

  • Social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are great tools for communicating fun facts (and photos of your products) about chocolate throughout the day. For example, “Who marketed the first box of chocolate candies?” (Cadbury) or “What year was the first known European encounter with cacao?” (1500 – Christopher Columbus). To help get customers in your store, consider offering a free piece of chocolate for anyone who comes into the store with the correct answer.
  • Pitch a story to your local media with a press release about International Chocolate Day and how your store is celebrating it. Use some of the trivia facts above to illustrate that you and your staff are knowledgeable about this subject. Don’t forget to include radio on your list of media!
  • If you don’t already give free samples in your store, consider providing free samples of chocolate – and don’t forget to let everyone know you’re doing it through your social media and email outlets.
  • Email campaigns are great for special holidays. Consider sending out an email on Monday to remind customers to come in on Wednesday for the great special you’re going to have to celebrate International Chocolate Day.
  • A few days leading up to Tuesday, post yard signs around your store or on the street leading up to it that say “Celebrate International Chocolate Day With ABC Store This Tuesday!”. Of course, if you don’t own the building or area where you are located, this tip is dependent upon possible restrictions in your lease so check your agreement first.

If you have other ideas for how you celebrate this holiday, please share them in the comments below!

P.S. RCI will be exhibiting at the Philadelphia National Candy, Gift & Gourmet Show September 11-13. Stop by booth #330 to say hello and learn more about RCI membership and events.

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, August 9, 2016

Tip #204: Read This: Book Recommendations for Business Owners

Successful people have one key thing in common  - reading. In fact one of the most successful business owners Warren Buffet was once asked what his key to success was, he pointed to a stack of books and said, "Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”

Here are some great book recommendations for business owners.

Crucial Conversations, by Kerry Patterson
Learn to communicate best when it matters most. The classic guide to conversing in high-impact situations,Crucial Conversations helps you get constructive results when emotions run high and opinions vary, in the workplace and beyond.

Differentiate or Die, by Jack Trout
Bestselling author, Jack Trout, criticizes marketers for taking the easy route too often, employing high-tech razzle dazzle and sleight of hand when they should be working to discover and market their product’s uniquely valuable qualities. He examines successful differentiation from giants like Wal-Mart to smaller success stories like Connecticut’s tiny Trinity College to determine why some marketers succeed at differentiating themselves while others fail.

The Great Game of Business, by Jack Stack
The Great Game of Business is a whole different approach to running a company. With Jack Stack’s proven approach to transparency, employee education and engagement; he guarantees you will improve financial results and the lives of the people who drive those results.

StrengthsFinder 2.0, by Tom Rath
In 2001, Gallup introduced the first version of its online assessment, StrengthsFinder, to help people uncover their talents. In StrengthsFinder 2.0, Gallup unveils the new and improved version of its popular assessment, including hundreds of strategies for applying your strengths, this new book and accompanying website will change the way you look at yourself--and the world around you--forever.

The Ultimate Question, by Fred Reichheld
Loyalty expert, Fred Reichheld, shows how to turn customers into promoters who generate profits and sustainable growth. The key: one simple question—“Would you recommend us to a friend?”—that allows companies to track promoters and detractors, producing a clear measure of an organization’s performance through its customers’ eyes.

Who, by Geoff Smart and Randy Street
In this New York Times Bestseller, Geoff Smart and Randy Street provide a simple, practical, and effective solution to what The Economist calls “the single biggest problem in business today”: unsuccessful hiring.

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, July 26, 2016

Throwback Tip #103: Remind Employees of the Value of Customer Service

No matter what time of year it is, it’s imperative that every guest has a great experience each time they enter your store. Creating a welcoming and pleasant guest experience will increase the likelihood that customers will return and tell their friends about their great experience. That’s why this week’s tip is to remind your associates of the importance and value of great customer service. Below are a few items from a 2012 blog tip about customer service  to consider reviewing with your employees:

  • Don’t just greet customers – greet them with a smile.
  • Thank customers for their business and invite them to come back again.
  • Be proactive – go to the customer in the store to offer assistance.
  • Ask customers who call the store if they may be placed on hold rather than assuming and saying, “hold, please.”
By providing exceptional customer service, you just may turn that customer who walked in by chance into a new regular who visits your store for treats throughout the year.

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.