Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Tip #257: 5 Sweets that Beat the Heat

Photo by Romolo Yanes

Regardless of any groundhogs’ predictions, the arrival of spring is a month away! This means more outdoor festivals, farmers markets, picnics and parties on the horizon. Don’t let warm weather keep your business from shining at outdoor events by featuring more sturdy treats that aren’t as likely to melt in consumers' hands.



RCI member Hilliard’s Chocolates’ toasted coconut marshmallow is their “tried and true” summer confection. Try it yourself with this recipe from Epicurious.

Kakao Chocolate presents Truffle Shots during RCI's Candy Clinic in 2016.

Truffle Shots

RCI member, Kakao Chocolate shared a creative idea at a past Candy Clinic for a mess-free summery chocolate treat. By piping ganche into compostable cups, Kakao Chocolate’s truffle shots allow them to deliver the same great chocolatey taste their known for at farmers’ markets and other outdoor events without the threat of chocolate melting in customers’ hands.


Brittles & Toffees

As long as they’re not coated in chocolate, you can count on these hard candies to stand tough. This recipe for sweet and smoky brittle from MarthaStewart.com would make the perfect addition to a summer BBQ or pool-party themed display or sold at a farmers’ market.

Not only do many fudge recipes hold up to reasonable heat, no-cook fudge recipes can help you keep the temperature down in your candy kitchen. Check out this tutorial for watermelon fudge that screams summer! Consider inserting popsicle sticks into watermelon wedges to serve as fudge pops.

Chocolate Storybook

Cotton Candy

A staple at any outdoor carnival or boardwalk, these sugary clouds melt in your mouth, but not in your hand. When stored properly, cotton candy can withstand relatively high temperatures and deliver pops of color to your booth or retail shop. If you don’t want to make it yourself, Chocolate Storybook wholesales 31 unique flavors of hand-spun, specialty cotton candy from classic pink vanilla to spicy jalapeno.

Outshine the sun this spring and summer with these 5 delicious treats that can tolerate the heat, without turning into a melty, soupy mess.

Note: The above recommendations are intended for use in reasonable conditions and not guaranteed to withstand extreme heat, such that might occur in shipping during spring and summer months.

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 13, 2018

Tip #256: Make Magic with 3 Easy Unicorn Treats

For being a rare and mystical creature, ironically, unicorns are everywhere these days! Consider incorporating these fun and simple unicorn-inspired treats into your spring and summer merchandising for some added sparkle, sure to inspire impulse purchases for birthdays, baby showers, and just for the fun of it!

Popsugar Food

Unicorn Pops

Transform your favorite sandwich cookies into unicorns with a few easy steps. Click here to view a video tutorial by PopSugar.

RCI Tip: Kimberly Mitchell with Olympian Candies, suggests inserting wooden popsicle sticks into double-stuffed sandwich cookies to make this process easier and more efficient than using lollipop or sucker sticks.

Hostess with the Mostess

Unicorn Horn Treats

All you need is sugar cones, colored confectionery coating and sprinkles to make magic in the form of unicorn horns. Click here to view the recipe from Hostess with the Mostess. 

Lady Behind the Curtain

Unicorn Pretzels

Who doesn’t love chocolate-covered pretzel rods? Add a swirl of caramel, bright colors and a little shimmer and your customers will feel the magic with every bite! Consider making a special batch for samples using the broken pretzel rods. Click here for a step-by-step tutorial.

RCI Tip: Open your bag of pretzels and leave it open the night or day before you plan to coat them. By allowing the pretzels to get slightly stale, you are removing moisture which helps prevent surface cracking in the chocolate.

Group these magical treats together for impact, and get creative with colorful unicorn merchandise and a fun framed unicorn printable (click here to download a free unicorn printable from RCI) to create a whimsical world fit for a unicorn in your candy shop.

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 6, 2018

Tip #255: 5 Mistakes You Could Be Making When Writing a Press Release

When it comes to getting media coverage, candy shops have a major advantage. Candy! And who wouldn’t want to see more candy and chocolate on the news?!

If you aren’t getting any bites from your local media, chances are you haven’t submitted a press release lately. If you have taken the time to carefully craft a press release and send it to your local media, with little or no avail, you are not alone. Keep reading for five common mistakes businesses make when writing press releases, plus tips on how to get the media knocking on your door hungry for more!

1.) You didn’t proofread!
Nothing loses credibility faster than spelling errors and poor grammar. Make sure to read and re-read your press release carefully and, then, ask a friend or two to proofread it for spelling and grammatical errors. Invite them to share constructive feedback on how to make your press release more newsworthy.

2.) Too much hype!
If your press release sounds too much like an infomercial, there’s a good chance it will get rejected. The intent of a press release is to help the media deliver news. If you want to pay for advertising, however, the sales department will gladly accept your money and your hype.

A press release should deliver the facts and explain why your news is relevant in an objective manner. As an overall rule, avoid subjective claims, like “the best,” and other cringe-worthy marketing jargon.

3.) Me, myself and I included
A press release written in first or second person (e.g., I, we, you) is a big no-no! Not only does this make the content seem subjective, it creates a lot more work for journalists to make corrections, making it less likely to get published. Always write press releases in third person (e.g., he, she, it, they). Within a quote is the only place it is acceptable to use first or second person.

4.) What now?
If it is unclear what the reader should do after reading your press release, your press release has unfortunately missed the mark. A successful press release will have one clear call to action. When writing your next press release, be mindful of what you want to accomplish and make that objective clear.

5.) Not too long, not too short.
If your press release is too long, chances are you’ve lost your focus and you’ll lose your reader too. However, if your press release is too short, you could be cutting out vital details.
As a good rule of thumb, try to limit press releases to one page. But before going overboard with the backspace, make sure you’ve addressed the 5 Ws and 1 H (who, what, when, where, why and how).

A well-written press release can offer more return than any paid advertisement. Avoiding these common mistakes will help you write a press release your local media won’t want to pass up.

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 30, 2018

Tip #254: Secret Enrobing Tools and Techniques Unveiled

In honor of RCI’s upcoming Chocolate Boot Camp® course, taking place February 19-22 in Waterbury, Connecticut. We’re unveiling two simple, yet highly effective tools and techniques that are sure to improve your enrobed centers.

It may surprise you to learn that stringing or marking a coated center offers more benefit than simply identifying the center. Whether you string by hand, a fork or an automatic decorating machine, those stringing marks can hide small imperfections on the surface (such as air bubbles) and give the product a more glossy appearance. The three dimensional quality of the markings create more angles for light to reflect, much like the facets of a diamond.

TRY IT: Next time you are coating centers, mark one piece and leave the next piece smooth. The chocolate temper will be the same on both, but the strung piece will have a better shine once cooled.

Detailer Rods
Even a small adjustment to the detailer rod can make a big
difference to your finished product.
Detailer rods, located after each wire belt, affect the bottom and bottom edges of the centers. When used properly, the rod is close to the wire belt and slightly below the level between the wire and cooling belts. If adjusted too low, this will result in tails (pictured on the far left) or bases (center photo). When set too high, it will remove too much chocolate, leaving thin bottoms (as seen in the photo on far right. Should the detailer be set too far away from the wire belt it can also scrape bottoms and deposit lines of chocolate onto the cooling belt. Even a small adjustment to the detailer will make a big difference in your finished chocolates.

RCI Members: Login at retailconfectioners.org to access more secrets to enrobing in the 2016 first quarter issue of Kettle Talk magazine, written by Jim Bourne, of Hilliard’s Chocolate System.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Tip #253: Make Groundhog Day Sweet

Nestled snuggly between New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day is Groundhog Day on February 2. Although it may be a mystery to many of us as to why we give these furry little critters any merit when it comes to predicting the weather, there’s no question many consumers will be excited to participate in this American holiday. Here’s some ideas of how your candy business can take advantage of all the groundhog hype next month!

Make Groundhog Day Sweet

Just when you thought those cuddly groundhogs couldn’t get any cuter, they took on a chocolate form! Baking blogger, Bakerella, created adorable little groundhog cupcakes using peanut butter cups and other candies (click here for ingredient list), but you could really do without the cupcake—unless you happen to make cupcakes or could partner with a local bakery. 

Of course, there are lots of options for substituting similar ingredients if you don’t have these items on hand—and bonus, if you make your own peanut butter cups! Another option would be to try chocolate-covered sandwich cookies in place of peanut butter cups for the head. If you don’t have mini marshmallows for the teeth, try using white sprinkles or piping white confectionery coating for the teeth. These little guys are almost too cute to eat!

Get Animated By Adding a GIF to your Next Promotional Email

Tell your customers about your adorable chocolate groundhogs or other themed products by adding an animated GIF like this to a promotional email or social media posts. Adding animation to marketing messaging is super trendy now. According to MailerLite.com, animations are widely considered to be the best way to attract attention to your brand or to market your product online. Click here for more reasons why you should be using GIFs in email marketing.

Have some fun with Groundhog Day this year! With these chocolatey groundhogs in hand, your customers will wish we celebrated this silly holiday more often!

RCI Members: Constant Contact Email Marketing offers a fast, effective way to get your message out to customers and keep your organization top of mind. Start your email marketing today and receive an RCI member discount of 20% for purchasing the 6 month prepaid option or a discount of 25% for purchasing the 12 month prepaid option. Already use Constant Contact? Contact RCI to begin receiving the member discount.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Throwback Tip #28: Taste Test Your Products for Flavor Consistency

Are you tempted to eat your chocolates as you walk by the packaging line? We have two great reasons to embrace the role of a frequent taste tester of your products without the guilt: quality and consistency. As the owner or manager of a candy store, you want to have complete confidence the products you are selling are not only delicious, but the same level of quality and flavor each time.

When a customer purchases a box of toffee, they expect to purchase the exact same product every time. Therefore, it’s extremely important to regularly taste your candies to ensure they meet your standards for quality and flavor.

Routine Taste Testing
If you have a quality control manager, consider adding a consistent taste testing program to their routine. The frequency for taste testing may vary depending on how often you produce a particular product, but at least weekly would be the minimum recommendation.

You’ve taken the time to achieve a great flavor, so take the time to ensure it’s consistently the same great flavor your customers expect.

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, January 9, 2018

Tip #252: Adapt Nut Butters to Any Candy Recipe

Nut butter adds a healthy halo and rich toasted notes to chocolates and confections and with the prevalence of peanut allergies, many food manufacturers are exploring options beyond the mainstream.  

In this excerpt taken from an article published in RCI’s Kettle Talk magazine, discover three popular nut butters to enhance your product line and how to adapt any recipe to highlight these nutrient-dense tree nuts (RCI members: login to read full article).

There are many ways to use nut butters in modern and traditional confectionery. Use them in any recipe where a pronounced nut taste is desired, such as truffles, fudges or as a substitute for peanut butter. When combined with dairy butter, their nutty flavor is enhanced. And for vegetarian and vegan recipes, nut butters are an ideal way to mirror some of the richness of dairy butter while providing the healthfulness of a whole food.
When adapting a formula to incorporate nut butter, here are a couple points to keep in mind:

Other considerations

The standard of identity for peanut butter permits the addition of stabilizers as well as salt and sugar. Stabilizers help control the flow of any liquid fat in the peanut butter. Most natural nut butters contain neither stabilizers nor sweeteners. Because oil migration can be a concern when using nut butter confectioners may want to pay special attention to chocolate confections that are not eaten within a few weeks of production.

3 Methods to Avoid Oil Migration When Using Nut Butter:
  • "When working with nut butters in a chocolate piece, select a well-refined chocolate to stem oil flow migration," recommends Julie Mates, Specialties R&D Manager, Barry Callebaut U.S.A. The finer particles in the chocolate will slow oil migration, she explains.
  •  A thicker coating on enrobed chocolate also acts as an oil barrier.
  • When making a chocolate center with nut butter consider adding finely ground nuts, nut flour or flaked feuillantine wafers to the mixture. Not only do these ingredients contribute flavor and texture, they also help mitigate the oil migration effect.
Try something unexpected by incorporating these trendy tree nuts into your favorite confections.

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.

Martel, Priscilla. “Better with Nut Butter: New Frontiers Using Nut Butters With Chocolate.” Kettle Talk July / August / September 2016: 15-16.

American Almond Products Company.  All About Nut Butters & Nut Pastes.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Tip #251: The Price Is Right: How to Price Your Products

Happy New Year!

If you aren’t already evaluating your pricing strategy on a regular basis, the arrival of the new year is as good a time as any to get started. The first step when evaluating your product prices is to ensure you are factoring in the full cost of your product, including overhead. Below we've updated material originally published in RCI's Kettle Talk magazine (Members: Login to view article) to help you evaluate the price of your merchandise.

Know Your Profit Margin
Example: A candy company produces boxes of candy that sell for $25 each. The entire cost to produce the box of candy is $8. That makes the company’s net income $17 ($25 - $8) and its revenue $25. The profit margin would be 68% (17 divided by 25).

Once you've determined pricing that best covers all your costs, devise a plan to regularly reevaluate your pricing to keep up with the marketplace.

Note: RCI is in no way suggesting a pricing formula. This is a suggested list of items to consider for your company’s pricing equation.

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.