Monday, September 18, 2017

Tip #238 Turn Caramel Apples Upside Down


If you love caramel apples, but you hate how apples don’t always set straight and level, then this super simple tip of the week is about to turn your world upside down, literally.

Instructors at RCI’s Caramels, Toffees & Brittles course, recommend turning apples upside down before inserting caramel apple sticks into the base of the apple.

Thanks to this tip, long-time RCI member, Fascia’s Chocolates of Waterbury, Connecticut, started flipping their apples after 53 years of practicing the traditional method of inserting sticks through the top of the apple, near the stem. Carmen Romeo, of Fascia’s Chocolates, says their apples now set more steadily and less caramel seems to gather on the bottom.

Try this tip yourself and let us know which method you prefer in the comments 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, September 12, 2017

Tip #237: Celebrate El Dia de los Muertos


Merchandising is an important component to increasing sales. It is a way to grab your customers’ attention, stimulate emotions and give buyers a reason to make a purchase. This fall, take advantage of a traditional Hispanic holiday and the theme of the latest Disney movie, when adding to your merchandising displays.

El Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is celebrated between October 31st and November 2nd, and is similar to Halloween with its themes of death and the spirit world. Not to be morbid or scary, instead this holiday is a fun, family-based celebration of life and death, a time to honor lost relatives with flowers, favorite foods and treats, even trinkets and toys.  In addition November 22, Disney releases its newest movie, Coco,  which takes place in this spirit world. Coco is the story of aspiring musician Miguel and his extraordinary journey through the Land of the Dead.

For inspiration, here a few ways to incorporate Dia de los Muertos into your fall merchandising. 

Decorate a display with various bright colors including paper flowers, colorful banners and painted skulls.  Source: Party City

Source: Party City
As a play on the holiday’s sugar skulls, create sweets such as painted moulded skulls, decorate caramel apples and skull pops in their likeness.
Tomric Skull Mould

Caramel Apples from CraftyChica.com

Sugar Skulls Source: Oh! Nuts


Ideas for gift items source: smart-retailer.com



Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Tip #236: Join RCI in Albuquerque, New Mexico



Albuquerque, New Mexico is the destination for Retail Confectioners International’s (RCI) Fall Regional Conference. If you’re a candy maker, chocolatier or industry supplier, keep reading for the top 4 reasons why you should join RCI in the “Land of Enchantment” October 4-6, 2017.

1. Experience the most photographed event in the world.
Extend your stay to experience the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta—the largest hot air balloon festival and the most photographed event in the world. Conference goers can take advantage of a special partnership between RCI and Tour New Mexico to receive a discount on general admission and avoid the congested traffic and parking conditions of an event that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Visit retailconfectioners.org/balloonfiesta for more details.


2. Turn up the heat with the flavors of New Mexico.
Discover the distinctly local flavors of New Mexico, such as red and green chiles and piñon nuts, while touring innovative businesses who have distinguished themselves by utilizing these local ingredients to create unique products, during RCI’s popular behind-the-scenes tours. Long-time RCI member, Buffett’s Candies has developed a reputation for their use of piñon nuts, which is unique to the southwest region. Other tours will include the Buffett family’s Popcorn Cannery, where they manufacture over 20 flavors of popcorn. Attendees will also tour one of the largest coffee roasters in the state, New Mexico Piñon Coffee, praised for their sweet and nutty custom pinon-flavored blends. During tours, attendees will experience the production sides of these facilities in order to gain perspective and inspire new ideas to use in their own businesses.

3. Learn how to look at your business with fresh eyes.
Learn how a taking a different approach toward common business and industry concepts such as growth, leadership, communication, flavor development and sales can help you take your business to the next level in this thought-provoking lineup of education:

  • A Fresh Look at Growing a Business
  • Leadership: New Mexico Style
  • Learn the Language of Chocolate
  • Local Flavor: Truffle Demo
  • Optimizing Sales by Targeting Mobile

4. Watch authentic Flamenco come alive.
Experience the passion and energy of flamenco come alive during a private performance at Tablao Flamenco Albuquerque. Attendees will are sure to delight in the authentic Sevilla tapas served at this unique farewell reception Friday, October 6.

Although RCI has traveled to 35 states (plus Washington D.C.), 16 countries and four continents over the trade association’s lifetime, RCI  has never traveled to New Mexico. Making this a long-awaited destination for many members looking to gain inspiration from the state’s distinctive culture and heritage.

“You never know what will spark the next great idea. At RCI, we enjoy creating event experiences that encourage the generation of new ideas,” says Angie Burlison, RCI’s Executive Director. “We support many small-to-midsize businesses who can use flexibility to their advantage to implement such ideas as a means to standout in their communities, as well in the industry.”

Registration for RCI’s fall regional event is welcome to members and non-members online at retailconfectioners.org/fall. Additional event details such as schedule, registration and hotel information may also be found there.

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 29, 2017

Tip # 235: Handle Customer Complaints Like a Pro

Customer service today is customer driven and in the world of social media, businesses need to be ready to respond.  Customers can share their frustrations online in real time, reaching a larger audience than just one or two. Learning to respond quickly and appropriately can often help with customer loyalty and retention.

Respond Quickly – It’s important to respond quickly on social media. It is hard to always respond to everything, but be sure to respond to at least 90% of disgruntled feedback.

Acknowledge Mistakes – Customers know that not everyone is perfect, which is why it is important if you know you were at fault to own up to that mistake. Doing so will likely gain the respect of this customer.

Communicate Offline – We have all seen disgruntled customers and business owners in a digital war of words and watched in dismay. If you are dealing with a very negative situation, take the conversation offline through a private message.

Get Personal – Customers often complain because they want you to respond and help resolve their issue. A personalized response from you or one of your team members will make a big difference in how they react to the response.

Go the Extra Mile – Don’t just resolve the issue with the customer, but take steps to go the extra mile. Give them a free item or offer something above what they are requesting.

Follow Up – Finally, follow up with the customer and make sure they are happy with your resolution.

You have great products and a great business; don’t let one customer complaint take over your social media presence. Take the time to put a plan in place to effectively respond when a complaint occurs and not only resolve the issue, but also retain a customer for life. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Tip # 234: How to Apply Water Marbling Effect to Moulded Chocolates


For members looking to gain creative ideas at RCI’s 2017 Annual Convention & Industry Expo, Candy Clinic did not disappoint. Since the thirties, this member-exclusive event has allowed RCI members from across the United States, Canada and abroad to share their best ideas and gain inspiration from fellow candy makers. Keep reading for an idea that won the award for best innovation at the latest Candy Clinic.

Inspired by an associate’s manicured finger nails, RCI member Cher Diamond of Maurie’s Fine Chocolates of Madison, shared a creative technique for applying cocoa butter to moulded chocolates. Water marbling is a technique used to create a unique nail polish design by adding droplets of nail polish to water before applying it to the nail. A similar effect can be achieved with cocoa butter and water.

Start by filling a bowl with room temperature water. If you read tutorials online for water marbling, they recommend using filtered or bottled water. Get cocoa butter spray, shake it up and spray it into the water. Because the oils in cocoa butter resist the water, the cocoa butter will float on top of the water, allowing you to create a unique design with a variety of different colored cocoa butters. Drag a toothpick or other similar object through the cocoa butter, cleaning it after each use.

Once the desired marbleized effect is achieved, take a finished moulded piece or just the shell and run it through the cocoa butter. Let each moulded piece dry for three hours or overnight. You may finish the piece by applying a glaze spray, but according to Cher, the cocoa butter will not rub off or detemper the chocolate.

If you’re looking to create stunning chocolate pieces, give this simple and fun water marbling technique a try and let us know how it turns out by leaving a comment below.

Want to learn more innovative ideas like this one? Idea sharing is just one of the many benefits of membership with Retail Confectioners International (RCI)! Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Throwback Tip # 137: Tips for Making Caramel Stick to Apples


After recently wrapping up RCI’s second Caramels, Toffees & Brittles course, we want to share a favorite caramel apple tip.

Have you ever experienced problems with caramel slipping off your caramel apples? The wax on your apple may be the culprit. By simply wiping each apple with a damp cloth prior to dipping, you can remove the waxy residue that rests on the apples.

An apple naturally produces a waxy film to protect itself, however, in some instances additional food-grade wax is added by suppliers to further increase an apple’s shelf life. For this reason, it could save you time and effort to request unwaxed apples from your supplier, if they do add wax to their apples.

If that doesn’t help, consider adding white compound to your caramel at a 5 to 1 ratio to help it better adhere to the apple.

Caramel apple season is just around the corner, so we hope this quick and easy tip will help when making this customer favorite.

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, June 27, 2017

Throwback Tip # 127: Spark Creativity with a Mind Map


If you attended RCI’s Annual Convention & Industry Expo June12-16 in Chicagoland, there’s a good chance you took away a lot of great ideas and inspiration. After returning to your business, you might be feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what to do with the new knowledge you’ve acquired. Consider using a mind map to organize your thoughts and apply them to your business.

What is a mind map? It’s a diagram used to visually outline information. Typically it begins with a word, image or phrase in the center and then other ideas and images branch out from the center across the page.  One of the key benefits of a mind map is that an idea doesn’t have to be full or complete or even in sentence form in order to be displayed. The idea is that the process of a mind map resembles how your brain actually works!

Tips for an effective mind map:
  • Start with a large piece of paper (Give your brain room to think!)
  • Use images, not just words
  • Vary the size, color and alignment of your images and text
  • Keep topics and labels short (Think big picture.)

Mind maps are useful tools for individual creativity and also can help to get creative ideas flowing among a team of people. In your next team brainstorming session, consider using a whiteboard or oversized Post-it to map out ideas as they’re given and see where mind mapping can take you! If you prefer tech tools to paper versions, check out MindMeld or Mindmeister.


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, May 23, 2017

Tip # 233: How to Know Chocolate is in Good Temper

Checking your temper is an important step to ensure you aren’t surprised by unsightly bloom or dull or tacky chocolates.

Chocolates that have a dull appearance may be over tempered, while rapid bloom or a tacky, greasy surface are indicators that chocolate is under tempered. Quit guessing and rest assured your chocolate is always in good temper with these two methods for checking your temper.

  1. The Blade Test: This method is quick, easy and budget friendly, however the results could vary on the temperature of the room.

    Simply dip a metal spatula or knife blade into the chocolate and leave a small film on the blade. At room temperature (65-68° F), well-tempered chocolate should be firm, not tacky, after just five minutes.
  2. Tempermeter: Although more costly, this method will most accurately measure the degree of tempering, indicating the quality and quantity of stable crystals that have been formed.

    Tempermeters produce a temperature versus time curve, resulting from uniform cooling of a chocolate sample over a specified period of time.
It may be easy to assume your chocolate is well tempered and ready to move into the assembly line, however, skipping this step could result in a costly mistake.

Choose a testing method that works best for you and put a plan in place to ensure your chocolate is being checked on a regular basis. Many of our candy maker members have a system in place to verify their chocolate’s temper every hour.

Connect with fellow confectioners and industry suppliers at RCI's Annual Convention & Industry Expo next month! Register online now and join us in Chicagoland June 12-16, 2017!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tip # 232: Reward Customers with a Loyalty Program


According to Entrepreneur.com, 64% of businesses that utilize customer loyalty programs report it’s been effective, meaning it makes more money than it costs to maintain it. For small businesses, a customer loyalty program is an effective way to compete with big businesses while leveraging the program to engage with your customers on a more personal level.

Peterbrooke Chocolatier of Jacksonville, Florida leverages customer loyalty through their Peterbrooke Rewards app, a digital customer loyalty program. Digital loyalty programs mean businesses no longer have to waste time and money printing paper punch cards and entering customer information manually. Digital loyalty apps also make it easier for customers to participate.

Despite common perceptions, reasonably priced digital customer loyalty programs are available. Entrepreneur.com recommends digital loyalty programs, Perkville and Belly. Monthly subscriptions for basic packages can cost anywhere from $29 per month to more than $100 per month.

If you’re looking to make your business stand out, apart from the big box stores, consider what a loyalty program would look like for your business. Click here for 6 tips from Quickbooks® on creating a customer loyalty program.


Meet fellow confectioners and industry suppliers at RCI's Annual Convention & Industry Expo next month and learn more valuable ways to improve your business! Register online now and join us in Chicagoland June 12-16, 2017!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Throwback Tip #133: 3 Ways to Extend the Shelf Life of Your Truffles

Today is National Truffle Day! Often considered the highest expression of a quality confection and often commands the highest price when purchasing, there’s no question why these little morsels are good cause for celebration.

A decadent truffle made with high-quality ingredients is a welcome surprise to chocolate lovers around the world, however, the surprise appearance of mold could ruin your sweet reputation. Keep reading for three ways to extend the shelf life of your truffles.

Reduce Water Activity
The high moisture of cream is often the cause of microbial growth in truffles. While cream arrives pasteurized, it is usually scalded to 190°F to ensure there’s no yeast and mold.

Reducing water activity will reduce the microbial growth and can be accomplished by:
  • Replacing a portion of the cream with corn syrup
  • Adding invertase (an enzyme derived from yeast)
  • Increasing fat percentage
  • Increasing chocolate solids
Use of Preservatives (including natural preservative options)
Preservatives can also control microbial growth. Potassium sorbate is one of the most effective options, however it is not usually considered natural. Natural preservatives might include cultured dextrose. Other preservatives can include reducing the pH of the ganache or the addition of alcohol. Legal and flavor considerations, however, must be addressed before using these methods.

Reduce Storage Temperature
A rule of thumb is that reducing the temperature by 18°F (10°C) will double the shelf life. Freezing truffles can substantially increase their shelf life, however, this must be done properly. Click here to view previous blog post on freezing truffles.

A truffle’s short shelf-life is a major challenge for many confectioners. With these tips from RCI’s Chocolate Boot Camp you can effectively extend the shelf-life of your truffles and avoid any unwanted surprises.

Get solutions to your problem candies from fellow confectioners and industry suppliers at RCI's Annual Convention & Industry Expo next month! Register online now and join us in Chicagoland June 12-16, 2017!

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, April 26, 2017

Tip #230: Refresh Your FSMA Knowledge


If you are in the food industry, chances are you are well aware of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Now that HalloweenThanksgivingChristmasValentine’s Day…Easter is now over, this is a great time for a refresher in this excerpt from RCI's Kettle Talk, written by Michael Koch of Morley Candy Makers/Sanders Candy.

FSMA was designed to shift the focus on food safety from responding to contamination issues to a more proactive approach of preventing contamination before it happens. Through the passing of this law the FDA has gained more leverage in its ability monitor and control the safety of our food supply chain.

In September of 2015 the FDA finally published its “Preventive Controls for Human Food” guidelines. As part of the FSMA it outlines the mandatory requirements being placed on all food manufacturers.
The most important aspect of the law that everyone needs to realize is that it applies to all food manufacturers. If you think your company is too small and these regulations don’t apply to you, please understand you could be making a costly mistake.

As with many of the guidelines that the FDA enacts they have set forth a specific time frame for companies to comply. The timeline is as follows:


Prior to putting a plan together you must identify the individual or individuals in your organization that are going to administer your program. The FSMA requires that your plan be written and managed by a qualified individual. Currently the only way to verify that an individual is qualified is to have your food safety administrator attend a certification course.

Hazard Analysis
Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls (HARPC) is a documented food safety program that you need to develop and implement for your facility. The first step toward developing a HARPC is to conduct a hazard analysis for every food product you handle in your facility—this is not limited to the items that you manufacture. The second step is to put in place preventive controls for each food product to ensure it will not become contaminated and unfit for human consumption.

Verification
Verifying the effectiveness of your plan ensures preventive controls are consistently implemented and sufficient. Verification includes evaluating the accuracy of process monitoring, calibrating instruments, such as thermometers, and reviewing records to verify monitoring and corrective actions are completed. Product testing and environmental monitoring by a certified third party are also reliable verification methods.

Recall Procedure
Your plan must contain details on your recall procedures. If a contaminated product is shipped, you must be able to identify where the product has gone and have the ability to perform a recall. A recall plan should include the procedures for identifying the contaminated product. Having important contact information in the plan will help move the process forward. Contacts should include the local health department, local FDA office, news media and anyone else that you may deem important to the process.

The FSMA covers a much greater spectrum of the food chain and more details than covered in this brief article. The realm of information and procedures that you are responsible for also cover such things as your supply chain management, good manufacturing practices, corrective actions and etc. The FSMA is no small task, it is designed to protect the consumer from obtaining contaminated products.

In order to operate a successful candy making business, it is essential that you are knowledgeable on federal regulations and take the proper action to ensure you are in compliance with FSMA guidelines. Visit fda.gov for more resources and updates.          

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, April 18, 2017

Tip # 229: From the Archives: Don’t Overcook Your Creams


During an RCI candy making course in 1971, the instructor discovered two students, although using identical formulas for rolled creams, were achieving vastly different results due to a variation in their cooking time. Keep reading to ensure your cooking time isn’t compromising the quality of your creams and other products.

            Cooking Time for Rolled Creams, By Fred Janssen, SuCrest Corp.
           
While teaching at the RCI Short Course on Retail Candy Making, it was interesting to learn the following from two of the students who were trying to make the same type of candy. In this case, rolled creams. After questioning the students, an interesting fact was revealed. In one case, the cooking time of the batch was 8 minutes and in the other, 45 minutes. Both were using the identical formulas as suggested by many in the trade and it was quite evident that the student who took the longer cooking time was not getting good results. There was a great deal of variation in the type of product that he was trying to make.

Rolled creams are dependent upon the crystalline structure or the sugar remaining in the cream and with the longer cooking time, excessive inversion took place which reduced the percentage or amount of sugar remaining in the cream, thereby causing a great deal of difficulty for the candy maker.

A good rule to follow in any cooking operation is that all batches should be cooked to its final temperature within 20 minutes. If this is not possible on the equipment, the size of the batch should be reduced so that this cooking time can be accomplished. If larger batches are necessary, consideration should be given to making changes by obtaining better cooking equipment.

It's important to be mindful of cooking times, and not just ingredient formulations, when adjusting batch sizes. The 20-minute rule can help candy makers keep their cooking times in check and prevent excessive inversion.

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.