Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Throwback Tip #253: Make Groundhog Day Sweeter


As one of our most popular posts from 2018, we’re bringing back this tip for Groundhog Day, just in case you missed it! Plus, we’ve added a bonus tip to make your 2019 celebration even sweeter!

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!
Groundhog Cupcakes by Bakerella on Flickr
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 we think you could really do without the cupcake—unless you already happen to sell 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—bonus points, 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 with GIFs

Tell your customers about your adorable chocolate groundhogs or other themed products by adding an animated GIF (pronounced "jif", like the brand of peanut butter, in case you're wondering) 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.

RCI Member Savings! 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.

BONUS TIP: Offer Winter or Spring Specials

If you don’t happen to have a bunch of groundhog moulds or other related products on your shelves on February 2, consider Groundhog Day as an opportunity to sell off any remaining winter-themed products (like snowmen and snowflakes) and encourage customers to welcome in spring with a fresh display of spring-related (think flowers and bright colors). You could leave it up to Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction to decide whether winter or spring confections are discounted, or offer a discount on both!
Don’t be afraid to get creative! Have fun with Groundhog Day this year and your customers will wish we celebrated this silly holiday more often!

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.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Tip #289: Make Chocolate-Covered Strawberries Last Longer


If you sell chocolate-covered strawberries for the holidays, more specifically Valentine’s Day, and have found yourself working from sunrise to sunset to keep up with demand, this tip is for you. 
RCI member, Luisa Chocolatiere shares her pro tips for extending the shelf-life of these delicate fruit confections to best avoid working yourself ragged while preparing for one of the biggest candy holidays of the year.
1.) Clear communication
Although this first step will not affect the longevity of your strawberries, it will help you better prepare for the holiday. Requiring advanced orders for chocolate-covered strawberries helps create expectations for your production needs. Clear communication to your customer base is key to ensure their expectations are met too. The beginning of January is a great time to start to taking orders for Valentine's Day.
2.) Gently clean and air dry
The way you clean your berries could be contributing to unwanted mold. Follow these step-by-step instructions to minimize moisture and bacteria.
  • Start by wiping away any dirt with a clean towel and discard unwanted mushy or moldy berries.
  • Gently submerge berries in a solution of cold water and non-pasteurized apple cider vinegar (use approximately 3 tablespoons for every one gallon of water) for five minutes. The acidity of the vinegar will kill spores and bacteria on the fresh berries.
  • Next, place the strawberries in a colander to drain excess water before air drying berries in a single layer on top of a dry towel.
  • Once the strawberries are dry, they can be placed in their original containers, which have since been cleaned and dried as well, until they are ready to dip.
3.) Chilled storage
To keep chocolate-covered strawberries overnight without the harmful effects of refrigeration, place dipped strawberries on containers, which are on top of gel ice packs and they can store for up to 48 hours.
These tips may seem simple, but they have the potential to completely transform the way you operate your business leading up to Valentinue’s Day—for the better. Now with all that extra time saved up, you may be able to devote more of it to other areas of your business or spend it with family and, hopefully, get more sleep on the morning of Valentine’s Day! Let us know in the comments below what you plan to do with the time you’ll save with this tip!

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 1, 2019

Tip #288: 3 Ways to Leverage Food Holidays


What do potato chips, caramel and wine have in common? They each have a holiday to celebrate their gloriousness! However quirky, National Potato Chip Day may give you something more exciting to talk about on March 14, like your chocolate-covered potato chips or an experimental batch of peanut butter and potato chip truffles.

If potato chips don’t exactly excite you, there is literally a holiday (sometimes several) for every day of the year. With that said, there's likely a few you'd like to sink your teeth into. But before you go scouring the internet to fill in your promotional calendar, RCI has already done the work for you!

If you’re an RCI member, you will receive RCI’s 2019 wall calendar as you renew your membership. Not only will you find all those fun (and a few off-the-wall) holidays, you can also expect all RCI’s events, industry events and federal holidays in there too. Not a member? Join RCI today!

Here’s a few ideas to get you started, once you’ve determined which holidays best suit your brand.

1. ) Get ahead
Since most people don’t have National Potato Chip Day marked on their calendar, let them know you'll be celebrating at least two weeks in advance, so they can make plans to celebrate with you!

2.) Give the media a story
Your local media is always looking for interesting stories to share and your crazy potato-chip concoction may be just the ticket to get your business some screen time. So, tell them all about your plans in a press release—personally delivering said press release with some samples wouldn't hurt either!

3.) Open your doors
When you find a holiday that’s both a great fit for your business and has some legs, host an event or encourage customers to host their own events to celebrate. If other local events are happening in your community, find a way to get involved.

The goal for promoting these holidays is to drive sales and generate buzz, so get creative and have fun with the holidays that make sense for your brand.

SNEAK PEEK: This is a sneak peek of the latest issue of RCI’s member-exclusive magazine, Kettle Talk, now available online. RCI members can login at retailconfectioners.org/kettletalk to see the full digital issue, as well as past issues.

Not a member? Click here to learn more about RCI’s resources designed to help retail confectioners and their suppliers grow their businesses.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Tip #287: The Best of 2018: Top 5 Tips of the Week


As we prepare to bid farewell to 2018, we’ve pulled the top five most-read tips from the year.
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. Start planning now to take advantage of all the groundhog hype at the beginning of February!


With the arrival of spring we can soon look forward to outdoor festivals, farmers markets, picnics and parties. 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.

3.) Throwback Tip #12: Celebrate American Chocolate Week
American Chocolate Week is one of our favorite weeks of the year! Here’s a few of our favorite ways to make the most of five whole days of chocolatey celebration.



We can all agree teachers deserve a holiday! Remind your customers to celebrate World Teacher Day’s on October 5 by thanking the educators in their life with sweet treats that are sure to earn your candy shop an A+.


Why limit Christmas cheer to only once a year? A summertime spin on Christmas could be a great opportunity for your business to heat things up this summer! Pick up tips here to tie in to your summer promotion planning.


We look forward to bringing you more great tips to help you build your business in 2019! Wishing you a safe and happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Throwback Tip #210: Red Hot Tips for Increasing Valentine’s Sales



While consumers are busy dreaming of sugar plum fairies and candy canes, the second largest retail season is not far off in many retailers’ minds.

This week we're sharing quick tips to jump start your plans for Valentine's Day, with actionable ideas to help you stand out from the competition.

Ring in the New Year with Red

Starting the day after New Year’s, begin the transition to Valentine’s Day by incorporating red into your retail space, website and social media pages. While everyone else is talking about New Year’s resolutions, make your e-blasts and direct mail stand out with gift ideas for Valentine’s Day, keeping consistent with a red color scheme.

Encourage Pre-Orders

Offer coupons, discounts or special add-ons to customers who place their orders in advance to aid in your holiday preparations and lock down sales.

Pre-orders are especially helpful if you plan to sell chocolate-covered strawberries. Since this delicate fruit confection has a very limited shelf-life, requiring advance orders will help identify expectations for your production needs. Clear communication to your customer base is key to ensure their expectations are met too.

Communicate Clear Last-Ship Dates

According to a survey conducted by Discover Card, only 10% of men wait until Valentine’s Day to purchase gifts, while 65% of shoppers make their purchases the week before Valentine’s Day. Use a call-to-action, such as, “order by February 4 to receive your gift by Valentine’s Day,” as a way to establish clear deadlines and avoid disappointment from procrastinators.

Designed to make your business stand out and create an easy and stress-free shopping experience, these simple tips can help you increase sales. Let us know in the comments below, if you have any red-hot tips for Valentine’s Day!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Tip #286: Make Softer Creams that Won't Dry Out


With the holidays upon us, we’re sharing a quick and easy tip for achieving softer creams.

Did you know the type of corn syrup you use can affect the texture of your creams? Get softer, creamier creams by using corn syrup with a higher dextrose equivalent (DE).

Problems with creams that dry out? Corn syrup with a higher dextrose equivalent will create greater humectancy (or moisture retention) within your creams.

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, December 4, 2018

Tip #285: The Best Business Investment You’re Not Making (and How to Change that in 2019!)

When is the last time you invested in your education? As an owner of a business it is easy to ignore learning opportunities and get lost in the details as you scramble to complete daily tasks before the sun sets. It is easy to make the budget decision not to invest in education, because something else is more important or pressing. Despite these beliefs, many would argue education is the best investment you can make in yourself, your team and your business.

Education comes in all different formats; print, online resources and webinars, seminars and workshops, certifications and courses and even in-person meetings such as trade shows or local networking events. You can purchase a new book on candy making (here’s a few of our favorites) or subscribe to industry-related publications like Candy Industry and Manufacturing Confectioner. You don’t have to read everything, but pick content that you find useful and relevant to your business.

In case you’re not already familiar, education is deeply rooted in Retail Confectioners International’s (RCI) mission, which is to advance the confectionery industry by offering members the knowledge to build sweet businesses from entrepreneurial passion. For over 100 years, RCI has developed a reputation as a valuable resource for small business owners both established and new to the industry. Through our member-exclusive publication, Kettle Talk, web resources, regional conferences, annual convention and expo, as well as education courses, we give confectioners the opportunity to take time out and focus on their knowledge of the industry and learn from others. With that said, we’re thrilled to share our month-by-month lineup of 2019 events, each designed to help you expand your knowledge to build an even sweeter business.


JANUARY: WINTER GETAWAY
RCI will kick off the new year by hosting a sold-out group of confectioners in Costa Rica for our Winter Getaway in January. Attendees will have the opportunity to unwind from the hectic holiday season while gaining valuable insight of their craft while exploring the origin or chocolate at local cacao plantations on this unforgettable trip. This event is currently sold out.

FEBRUARY: TRUFFLES+MORE
Following Valentine’s Day, candy makers are invited to attend RCI’s Truffles+More education course at Savage Bros. Co. in Elk Grove Village, Illinois (near Chicago). Join us to learn various formulations and trouble-shooting techniques for truffles, meltaways and nut pastes. In addition to classroom-style learning, gain hands-on experience in the kitchen making variations of these popular confections. Space is very limited, so register now at retailconfectioners.org/truffles. If you’re looking to elevate your candy making skills (or those of your staff), this is the course for you!


JUNE: ANNUAL CONVENTION & INDUSTRY EXPO
RCI’s Annual Convention & Industry Expo is our premier event of the year! If you’ve never attended an RCI event or if you haven’t been recently, our annual convention is like a mixtape of RCI’s greatest hits all in one! Connect with fellow candy makers, chocolatiers and suppliers looking to share ideas and grow their businesses at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, Connecticut June 3-7. See, touch and (in many cases) taste the latest and greatest equipment, ingredients, packaging and services (and more!) our trusted network of industry suppliers has to offer at our two-day expo. If it’s education your seeking, you can expect relevant sessions on topics covering production, marketing and business, all designed for the retail confectioner. RCI will conclude the week with behind-the-scenes tours of local candy businesses, which takes education to the next level. Look for more event details to come after the start of the new year. Click here to receive notification when registration opens.


AUGUST: CHOCOLATE BOOT CAMP & FALL REGIONAL CONFERENCE
The ever-popular Chocolate Boot Camp® course, which typically takes place in February, will now be available during the summer. Make your way to Wockenfuss Candies, in Baltimore, Maryland on August 5-8 for this brief yet, comprehensive, hands-on course taught by industry experts. Sold out for the last eight years, the course will give twenty-five students an opportunity to gain knowledge they can take back to their businesses. This course is great for both veterans and newcomers alike.
googoo.com
RCI is headed to Music City for its Fall Regional Conference in Nashville, Tennessee August 19-21. Here you can find a great mix of education and connection opportunities, combined with fun, local flair that can only be found in Nashville! Experience the sweet side of Nashville by touring local candy businesses, like The Goo Goo Shop, home of the iconic Goo Goo Clusters. Visit retailconfectioners.org/events for updates on all RCI’s upcoming event updates.

Don’t skip another year without investing in yourself and your business. Take advantage of the many industry-related events; attend a conference, send an employee to one of the upcoming RCI education courses, join RCI in Hartford or Nashville and connect with fellow candy makers. Focus on learning this year and watch your business benefit as a result. We hope to see you in 2019!

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.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Throwback Tip #128: Quickstart Seeding Process for $30 or Less


If you temper chocolate in small-batch tempering machines, save yourself the headache this holiday season with this week’s quick and easy tip.

Are you using chocolate wafers as seed for your tempering unit? Before putting them in the feed of the tempering machine, quickly (don’t overheat!) use a heat gun on them to form one large clump or block of wafers. By doing this, you will help keep the wafers from sneaking through the blade and over-tempering your chocolate.

See? Quick and easy!

Want more game-changing tips like this?
Register now for RCI’s Truffles+More course February 20-22, 2019 in Elk Grove Village, Illinois (just outside Chicago). Visit retailconfectioners.org/events to stay up-to-date with all RCI’s educational offerings in the coming year.

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.