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.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Tip # 203:Create Eye-Catching Graphics Without Hiring A Graphic Designer

So, you’ve got a Facebook page. You may even keep pretty active at posting photos, but you don’t have a graphic designer on staff to design interesting and engaging graphics to make your social space really pop. Don’t break the piggy bank to hire a designer just yet!

There are plenty of FREE tools available that allow you to create the very images you’ve been dreaming of, and with no graphic design degree required. All you need to get started is a stock image or a photo shot from your smart phone and a little creativity. Read on for reviews of three recommended design tools and a graphic for National Lollipop Day - each graphic was created in less than five minutes.
Graphic created using Canva

#1: Canva

This free tool helps non-designers create social media graphics in minutes by adding text, filters and your own color scheme. Their library of over 100 professionally designed layouts for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and more makes it quick and easy to design elaborate graphics in just a few clicks. Upload your own photos or choose from over 1 million stock images (most only $1 each).

In addition to templates for social media graphics, Canva also has design templates for flyers, infographics, photo collages, letterheads, gift certificates, business cards and more.

#2: Adobe Spark

Graphic created using Adobe Spark
Adobe Spark is a free tool for creating beautiful graphics for social media as well as various printed materials. Like Canva, Adobe Spark Post has many professional design themes making design quick and easy, however, it also has a fun, time-saving feature which allows you to use a cursor to preview multiple pre-designed text, design and color themes all at once. Stuck on creating the perfect color scheme? Adobe Spark also offers a feature where you can browse hundreds of suggested color palettes to polish off your look.

What really stands out about Adobe Spark is the ability to animate your graphic from the iPhone or iPad app version, Adobe Spark Post, (Click here  to view a tutorial from Beth Ziesenis of YourNerdyBestFriend.com).

#3: PicMonkey

Graphic created using PicMonkey
If you like to share photos of your products and the day-to-day operations of your business, PicMonkey is a great option for you! Another free option to create attractive social media graphics, its capabilities are more focused on the photos and, currently, doesn't offer design templates. The free version equips you with basic photo editing tools and a large selection of frames, collage templates and other special effects, including fonts and overlays. Or for just $3.33/month annually, you can take advantage of some pretty impressive upgrades, like advanced photo editing tools (say goodbye to unwanted wrinkles or blemishes), over 1,000 graphics, double the effects and filters and premium fonts through PicMonkey Royale.

In summary, each of these tools will save you the cost of hiring another employee or taking up design courses yourself just to create graphics for your social media posts. Depending on your time and skill level, it is recommended that you test each one to determine which best fits your needs. You may even discover that you like to use more than one tool for different purposes. 

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, July 13, 2016

Tip # 202: 5 Tips for Creating a Memorable Promotional Event

Hosting a promotional event is a great way to develop new customers and increase traffic from existing customers. RCI member, Randy Good of Good’s Candy Shop, instructed attendees at RCI’s Merchandising Essentials course on how to execute a successful promotional experience. Here you will find five tips for building your business through effective promotional events.

Abbott's Candies demonstrates hand tempering for tour guests.
#1: Design an Event Around What You Do Best

For candy makers, this is the perfect opportunity to illustrate the care and attention that goes into your confections through candy-making demonstrations. Open your production facility for tours and allow guests to watch and sample your products.

We recommend complying with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), by requiring guests entering your production space to wear hair/beard nets and closed-toe shoes, to remove jewelry and abide by any other regulations made by Federal and State government. With clear communication of your guidelines, your guests will understand and appreciate the steps you’ve taken to ensure for the quality of your products and for their individual safety – plus, who doesn’t love taking a selfie in a hairnet?!

#2: Create a “Sticky” Event Name

When creating a name for your event, think of names that will “stick” or stand out in peoples’ minds. A memorable event name will help with the promotion of your event by capturing the attention of possible attendees, as well as the local media. If you host the event on an annual basis, this will also increase the chances of attendees to remember the previous events and the great time they had!
Goodstock is just one of many events Good's Candy Shop hosts to draw traffic to their retail store.
Staff at Good's Candy Shop take pride in representing their brand.
 #3: Represent Your Brand at its Best

Before you welcome new visitors into your business, keep in mind you only have one chance to make a first impression. Make sure all aspects of your business represent what your brand is or hopes to be. Not only should your store sparkle from front to back (even the area behind the counter that “no one” sees), your staff’s appearance should also reflect your brand. If your associates have a uniform or dress code, before an event is a good time to evaluate whether or not they need new aprons, name tags, branded apparel, etc. and to remind all staff of any guidelines pertaining to their attire. If you don’t have a dress code, consider creating an event t-shirt for your staff to wear – this will not only create a more cohesive look for your team, but help customers better identify staff if they have questions.

#4: Train Your Staff to Give

Successful events are about giving to the community. Train your staff on how to give information, courtesy, smiles and samples. Providing basic talking points or key phrases can help staff feel confident and better prepared to offer exception customer service to guests.

Samples are served with a smile at Rebecca-Ruth Candies.
Donaldson's Finer Chocolates is prepared to handle a crowd.

#5: Plan the Logistical Flow of Guests

Creating a plan for the flow of traffic through your facility can make a significant impact on the guest experience. Determine a plan to gently guide guests within your space by assigning specific staff to various touch points. Starting (most importantly) with a welcome greeting at the entrance, plan for three to four touch points (or more depending on the size of your store). At each touch point, station staff to offer product samples and even the chance to win a prize for signing up to receive promotional emails or joining your birthday club.  By planning ahead, you can prevent potential bottle necks and ensure your guests get the most out of their experience.

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, July 6, 2016

Tip # 201: Take Merchandising to New Heights with a Truffle Tree

Photos courtesy of Annedore's Fine Chocolates
A tower of truffles or “truffle tree” is a stylish way for your customers to serve truffles to a large group. The Truffle Tree also makes for an eye-catching merchandising display for your retail shop. It is a big ticket item that can add nice revenue to your store’s sales. With a little advance planning, building the tree can be relatively easy to execute.

Here you will find a list of materials needed and step-by-step instructions for creating this showpiece as provided by RCI member, Annedore's Fine Chocolates.
RCI members: Click here to log on to RCI’s member site and view three variations of ganache recipes on page 9 of 2014’s 3rd quarter issue of Kettle Talk.

For ease of construction, un-dipped ganache balls may be stored in the freezer. Simply follow the instructions below for thawing and dipping the ganache balls and you are ready to build a tree on demand.

Materials Needed:

  • Truffles (see recipes below)
  • Silicone mats
  • Plastic wrap
  • Foam block
  • Parchment paper or aluminum foil (optional)
  • Round toothpicks
  • Tempered chocolate
  • Foam cone
  • Wrapping paper or fabric (preferably coordinating with the color of your truffles)
  • Flathead pins
  • Scissors
  • Ribbon or tree topper (optional)
Step-By-Step Instructions

  1. Prepare truffle centers using your own ganache recipe or see recipes below. Pipe ganache onto silicone mats. Cover the mats with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 hours. Transfer mats to the freezer for 12 hours. Remove mats from the freezer and pop out ganache balls (Note: Balls may be returned to the freezer for future use). Cover balls with plastic wrap and allow them to come to room temperature.
  2. Cover a foam block with parchment paper or aluminum foil, so it can be reused. Glue a toothpick into each ganache ball by, first, dipping one end of the toothpick into tempered chocolate and then inserting that end into the center of the flat side of the ganache ball. Allow toothpick to set up firmly in the ganache ball.

  3. Once the toothpick is firmly set in the ganache ball you are ready to dip each ganache ball in tempered chocolate. Dip each ball carefully and then insert tooth-picked end of the ball into the block of foam. This will allow for perfect-looking, uniform truffles to create your truffle tree. Allow chocolate to set up. Truffles may be decorated while standing in the block of foam.

  4. Before you begin to build your tree, first, wrap the foam cone completely with wrapping paper or fabric – secure with flathead pins, as needed.

  5. Beginning at the bottom of the cone, push the tooth-picked truffles into the cone working your way around the cone to create the first row. On the second row, stagger the truffles by placing them in the open spaces created by the first row. Carefully work your way up the cone row by row until the entire cone is covered in truffles. Toothpicks may need to be cut as you reach the top of the cone.

  6. Crown the top of your tree by inserting a tooth-picked truffle vertically on the top of the cone. Experiment with different tree toppers, such as a large bow or a chocolate initial or number (birthday idea). Use your imagination. 

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, June 29, 2016

Tip # 200: Understand & Resolve the Generation Gap in Your Business

At Retail Confectioners International’s (RCI) Annual Convention & Industry Expo, Keynote Speaker, Matt Havens, kicked off the convention week with the hilarious opening session, Us vs. Them. Being a relevant topic for leaders of any business and industry, retail confectioners filled the education session eager to discover new solutions to effectively manage four distinct generations operating side-by-side. During Haven’s presentation, he poked fun at the different generations represented in today’s working environment, pointing out that there are really only two generations in the workplace, “people younger (or less-experienced) than you are and people older (or more experienced) than you are.”
©2016 Keynote Speaker Matt Havens. All Rights Reserved.

Not only were attendees rolling with laughter during his presentation, they walked away with a simplified understanding of the generation gap, as well as applicable strategies to create a more effective working environment for team members of all ages.

See below for just a few major takeaways, as well as  strategies from Matt Haven’s Us vs. Them.


·         Advancement is a process that never stops. As a parent, you will continue to learn new things 20 and 30 and 40 years after the birth of your children. And as a professional, you should expect to keep learning new skills, new technologies, and new approaches in the last five years of your career just like you did in the first five years of your career.

·         Your company’s current practices and processes exist for extremely good reasons. To date, those practices and processes are the best that anyone who has ever worked at your company has ever come up with. That doesn’t mean they can’t be improved, but it definitely means that they shouldn’t be completely discounted either.

·         No matter what generation you consider yourself to be a part of, you do not know everything there is to know. Every generation needs the other, because no one group of people has a monopoly on knowledge. You need your older colleagues to learn how they’ve done what they’ve done and to help guide you so that you don’t have to constantly reinvent the wheel; and you need your younger colleagues to help you continuously look at your business from a new perspective.


·         Invite your newest employees to deliver a presentation to the rest of your team on a topic they already know something about. It will convince your newest team members that you value their knowledge, and it should also convince your older team members that your new hires have something valuable to offer.

·         When discussing a potential change, invite everyone to debate the pros and cons of adoption. You probably won’t get 100% buy-in once the final decision is made, any more than you’ll get 100% buy-in from anything. But you will be certain that you’re making your decision with all the available information, and everyone will know the potential risks to watch out for as well as the potential rewards for moving forward.

·         Create teams of varying age ranges. Studies have shown that diverse groups that communicate well with each other are consistently more productive than homogenous teams.

Learn more about Matt Haven's and his insightful journey to understanding the generational gap at www.matthavens.com. RCI Members: Stay tuned to view Matt's full presentation and other education sessions from RCI's 2016 Annual Convention & Industry Expo, which will be available on our member site at retailconfectioners.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.