Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Throwback Tip #247: How To Make The Inspector’s Nice List (Part 1 of 3): Don’t Forget that Spot!

Food safety never takes a holiday. In fact, the holidays are an especially important time to ensure food manufacturers and retailers are taking necessary precautions to ensure their products are not only delicious, but safe for consumption.

Whether a confectionery supplier or candy maker, your company should be prepared for an inspection from your perspective regulations agency at anytime of the year. In a past article published in Kettle Talk magazine, Patrick Huffman, former president of The Warrell Corporation, shared the following tips that could mean the difference from your candy business making it on the inspector’s naughty or nice list.

OVER, UNDER AND BEHIND
Areas over, under and behind equipment can be missed and will always attract the inspector’s attention. Simple installations that can be easily cleaned are always better than equipment with lots of hoses and wires that can get built up with chocolate.

TUNNEL VISION
The inside of a cooling tunnel is another area you can expect an inspector to look, in addition to air filters and any area with tape on it. These areas can collect dirt, insects (and their offspring) and cause problems if not checked and cleaned regularly.

SPOT CHECK
Regarding your retail stores, nothing sells better than a well-lit and spotlessly clean display. Fingerprints can be a normal problem every time a customer points to a product in a glass case. Keeping floors, air vents, and the entire store neat may be the best way to convince customers that they are in the right place. Cleaning behind fixtures is just as important as cleaning the front of fixtures.

Keep your business on the nice list this holiday season, by checking your list twice to ensure you don’t forget that spot!

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Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Throwback Tip #82: Add RCI’s Classifieds Page to Your Web Favorites


Looking to buy or sell used confectionery equipment, post a confectionery job or purchase or sell a confectionery business? Start by adding the Classified Ads page on the Retail Confectioners International website to your website browser favorites as a quick reference.

The Classified Ads page is consistently one of the most viewed pages on RCI’s website. Both RCI members and non-members are invited to post an ad, in any of the following categories:
  • For Sale
  • Wanted
  • Job Postings
Updates are made to the page on a regular basis and you’ll find a variety of used equipment and supplies available for purchase at any given time.

So, what are you waiting for? Take a moment to visit the Classified Ads page and add it to your web browser’s favorites. Then, when you have equipment to buy or sell or a job to post, be sure to post it with RCI.

Crave more? If you like what you read here, 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. 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.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Tip #321: Stand Out with Instagram-Worthy Holiday Treats


How Instagram-worthy are your holiday treats?

Sure, they taste delicious, but how would a potential new customer know if they’ve never tasted your confections? No surprise, social media, like Instagram and Facebook, can be an effective tool for reaching consumers, however if A.) you’re not sharing photos of your products on your social media sites daily or B.) they don’t stand out from other holiday gifts, you could be missing out on a massive opportunity to gain new customers this season.

A study by Forbes has shown that 78% of consumers’ purchases are impacted by companies’ social media posts. So, if you’re looking for a boost in sales, consider transforming these classic confectionery treats into holiday showstoppers to help your business standout this season.

Rice Cereal Treats
Cookie cutters aren't just for cookies. They also make a great tool for creating fun seasonal chocolate-covered rice cereal treats. Make the most out of your collection of cookie cutters, by repurposing common shapes to create new and unique designs. After realizing that their gingerbread man treats weren’t selling as well as other designs, Bomboy’s Home Made Candy gave the tired cookie cutter new life by turning it upside down and transforming it into Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. This little reindeer proved to be a hit!

Make fall and summer designs last into the holidays! If you have cookie cutters shaped like a ghost or even an ice cream cone, just flip them upside down to transform the shapes into cute elves. Did you know a pumpkin cookie cutter can be repurposed to make a jolly Mrs. Claus?
Rudolph by Fab Art DIY; Mrs. Claus and Elves, Food Network; Ice Cream Cone Elves, Baker Stock by Bearfoot Baker
Caramel Apples
Traditionally a fall treat, a little creativity can help transform caramel apples into a festive holiday gift. For inspiration, mimic Santa’s jolly belly by adding his signature black belt and big gold buckle around a red caramel apple coated in red sprinkles or luster dust. Bring Frosty the Snowman to life by adding a jumbo marshmallow to the top of a caramel apple before dipping them both in white chocolate. A few chocolate chip “buttons" and a red licorice scarf will help tie it all together. Lastly, add candy eyes, a red nose and antlers, of course, to create everyone’s favorite reindeer out of a classic chocolate-covered caramel apple. There’s lots of ideas online for creating Rudolph’s antlers—from the easiest to the most realistic, you may want to try pipe cleaners, pretzel twists or sugar cookies for your antlers.

Santa Apples, Baked with Love; Mrs. Prindables Reindeer and Snowman; Reindeer with Pipe Cleaner Antlers, Design Dazzle
Need help perfecting your caramel apples? Check out these past blog posts for tips on making caramel stick to apples or learn why you should flip your caramel apples upside down.

Marshmallows
Jumbo marshmallows make a quick and easy canvas for creating holiday magic. Put three jumbo marshmallows on a stick, coat them in white chocolate and decorate to make marshmallow snowmen pops that are too sweet to pass up. Click here to watch a tutorial by Two Sisters Crafting. All you need to make adorable gingerbread marshmallow pops are, your choice of caramel-coated marshmallows or marshmallows covered in peanut butter confectioner’s coating, some piped white chocolate and tiny sugar decorations.

Snowmen, Two Sisters Crafting; Gingerbread Men, Munchkin Munchies
Sandwich Cookies
If you don’t think of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer when looking at your favorite sandwich cookies, changing your perspective may increase your holiday sales. When RCI member Vande Walle’s Candies coated Nutter Butter sandwich cookies in chocolate and embellished them with a pair of candy eyes, pretzel twist antlers and a bright red nose, these cute reindeer treats reportedly “flew out the door,” they were so popular with their customers! For another spin on this idea, try substituting the Nutter Butter cookies with Oreo cookies on a stick.

Nutter Butter Reindeer, Vande Walle Candies; Oreo Reindeer, Oh Nuts!
More than ever, consumers are looking to social media for unique and memorable gift ideas this holiday season. Posting photos of your festive holiday treats on social media regularly will help your company capture the attention of consumers while they’re making their shopping list this season.

Crave more? If you like what you read here, 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. 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.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Throwback Tip #169: Share This Reading List with Young Chocolate Lovers

Just as it’s never too early to start reading to children, it’s never too early to teach them to appreciate the art of chocolate making. Giving your customers access to books that teach children about how chocolate and candy is made - in a language they can understand - is just the start to creating the next generation of consumers that know the difference between what’s on your shelf and the shelf at the convenience store down the street.
  
Here’s some recommended books to add to your shelves.
Candy Making for Kids is a creative and fun book full of easy-to-follow candy recipes for kids. From traditional favorites such as toffee and fudge to whimsical creations such as candy caterpillars and candy play-dough, kids of all ages will absolutely love these delicious and cute treats. Perfect for children’s parties, holiday parties, packaging up for friends, or simply enjoying at home, these recipe ideas are sure to become a family favorite!
When George and the man with the yellow hat stop to shop at a chocolate factory store, George becomes curious about how chocolates are made. Though he begins to follow the factory tour, George is soon off on his own to investigate.
How does a cocoa bean turn into tasty chocolate? Follow each step in the food production cycle—from planting cocoa trees to eating a sweet treat.
Bean to bar... to book! Join a charming little girl named Coco as she goes on a magical journey to discover how chocolate is made. Guided by the gentle, loving hand of her favorite chocolate maker, Coco learns the sweet secrets to confection perfection.

Crave more? If you like what you read here, 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. 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.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Tip #320: Protect Your Business from Email Scams


Would you ignore an email from your boss or CEO?

A staff member at Dietsch Brothers Fine Chocolates & Ice Cream in Ohio recently received an email from who he thought was one of the owners of the company requesting he purchase five $200 Best Buy gift cards to reward some of the team. This particular co-owner had just celebrated their retirement, so the request didn’t seem unreasonable. However, after further communication, the Dietsch staffer realized the email was not coming from the owner at all and was actually a sophisticated email scam.

As it turns out this is a real-life example of a growing financial fraud known as Business Email Compromise (BEC) or “CEO Fraud.” BEC is an email phishing scam using fake email addresses that look like they’re coming from the CEO or leadership of the organization. As stated by the FBI, BEC scams are “more sophisticated than any similar scam the FBI has seen before and one—in its various forms—that has resulted in actual and attempted losses of more than a billion dollars to businesses worldwide.”

CEO fraud specifically resulted in $2.3 billion in losses to U.S. businesses between October 2013 and February 2016, according to a 2016 report from the FBI. This type of fraud has tripled in the last three years and jumped another 50% in the first three months of 2019.

Common tactics may involve a scammer impersonating the CEO or someone in another leadership role requesting a wire transfer, gift cards or employee tax information. These types of email scams are effective because they rely on “fear the boss” thinking; all employees want to do their job and what is asked of them. Therefore, a request from their CEO or highest leader in the company is something they likely won’t decline. “[Scammers] know how to perpetuate the scam without raising suspicions,” FBI Special Agent Maxwell Marker said. “They have excellent tradecraft, and they do their homework. They use language specific to the company they are targeting, along with dollar amounts that lend legitimacy to the fraud. The days of these emails having horrible grammar and being easily identified are largely behind us.” 

How to Spot a CEO Email Scam
Thankfully, for Dietsch Brothers, the target of this scam recognized a red flag that ultimately saved the family-owned business $2,000. Protect your business by educating your staff on how to identify this type of email fraud. Below are common trademarks of a CEO fraud email scam, identified by Fraud Watch International:
  • Spoofing legitimate email addresses, using a domain similar to that of the targeted business.
  • Using an urgent tone, commanding request is done “ASAP”.
  • Stating the CEO or CFO cannot be disturbed during a meeting or may be busy and unable to respond during the email exchange.
  • Implying the sender is using a mobile device to write the email, by including the phrase “Sent from my iPad”, in lieu of the corporate email signature.
    • Note: This trick is particularly effective, because implying that the email is sent from a mobile device excuses poor English, misspelling, or lack of a legitimate email signature, which are usually triggers to recognize phishing emails. It also helps strengthen the sense of urgency: if it wasn’t pressing, the sender would have waited until they were back at their desk. Hackers might also do their homework to find out when the executives are travelling for business, making their scam even more credible to their victim.
  • Cyber criminals do the research to know what type of request is most legitimate-looking to avoid raising suspicion.
Train Your Team
Create awareness of potential scams that may pose a threat to your business. Share the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Studies with your team. Click here to download.
  • Create a clear policy for your team regarding how money and sensitive information is shared. Always require a check-in with leadership before steps are taken.
  • Train staff to double-check email addresses, not just the sender’s name. Look for email addresses that are close, but not exact — For instance, a phishing address may come from an email with @gmail.com at the end or ".co" rather than the expected ".com" or ".ca"
  • Encourage staff to always question emails requesting fast actions, whether they seem unusual or not. The Better Business Bureau suggests most fraud cases could have been avoided with a phone call to the individual believed to be sending the email.
  • Keep computers updated with antivirus software and consider investing in anti-phishing software to help protect your network and email systems. 

With businesses of all sizes being targeted, and this type of fraud activity continuing to grow, your business can never be too prepared. Educate your staff today by sharing this blog post. For more information read our sources:
Crave more? If you like what you read here, 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. 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.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Tip #319: Grow Your Email List


Even the best email campaign will fall flat if it is sent to an email list consisting of contacts that don’t have any interest in your brand or don’t generally buy candy—this can happen if you purchase an email list. Although purchasing an email list is certainly a quick way to gain volume, don’t expect quality leads. Building an email list of individuals who opt-in, or voluntarily give their email address, is always the best approach because it will ensure your list consists of consumers who have a genuine interest in your brand and value what you have to say. Keep reading as RCI members, Melissa Wedman with Mollycoddled Hashslinger and Jayni Wunderlich with Graham's Chocolates, share four tactics they use to build a quality email list.

POP-UPS
When used correctly pop-ups can be both effective and well-received by customers. Despite the bad rap these little attention-grabbing boxes have developed since Google started policing pop-ups deemed disruptive to its users, Sumo.com says “well-designed pop-ups have the potential to convert 9% of visitors that encounter them.”

When creating pop-ups for your website, messaging must be brief, relevant and add value to visitors of your website. If you use a pop-up to encourage customers to subscribe to your email newsletter, consider adding bulleted details about what they’ll receive such as special offers, new product notices, updates on special events you’re attending (like a farmers’ market or charity event) or maybe even holiday gift guides.

Melissa: A pop-up request appears after five seconds of opening any page on our website (the use of cookies, ensure it doesn't keep reappearing while navigating multiple pages of our website) that says, "Join Our Email List! Stay connected with us for promotions, recipes & more!" and includes a close-up of our signature caramels.

GIVEAWAYS
Everyone loves getting free stuff, right? That's what makes giveaways a great way to build your email list quickly. However, choosing the wrong giveaway can leave you with a large list of unqualified leads. Sure, giving away a new car is guaranteed to get you a massive list, but focusing on prizes that appeal to your customers will help ensure you gain contacts that are interested in your products and not just free stuff.

Jayni: We build our email list by having contests to win a free box of chocolates during the holidays and then collect their emails to use for future email blasts. Once gathered, we send email blasts out on occasion to promote holiday products. We use MailChimp and really like their service.

Melissa: We give away prizes at special events and pop-up shops we participate in. As an added opportunity to build our email list, our giveaway slips include a box for customers to check if they’re interested in receiving our monthly newsletter. We have found that the people who join our email list from these slips more actively read our newsletters and become strong followers through social media as we've had the opportunity to build a rapport with them in person. Comparatively those who subscribe directly through a social media platform or as a result of an online purchase or through one of our wholesale accounts do not seem to have the same level of brand loyalty.

SIGNUP FOOTER
Adding a signup footer to the bottom of your website is a simple and less-intrusive option to build your email list. Many of your loyal customers may already be scrolling to the bottom of your website looking to easily subscribe to your email list.

Melissa: The footer of each page of our website includes a "Stay in the Loop" section with our social media icons/links as well as a place to input your email address. If someone is new to our website and declines the entry pop-up request to be added to our newsletter, the footer is always visible as they're spending more time on our website.

EVENT OPT-INS
If you’re already hosting events like tours, parties, classes or tasting events that require attendees to register in advance or purchase tickets, simply adding an opt-in box to the registration or checkout process will help you capture contact information for consumers interested in your brand. Offering the option to subscribe to your email list (or not) will help to more accurately reflect the success of your email messaging.

Jayni: We sell tickets to our special events online and collect email addresses along with those purchases. For instance, we host a wine and chocolate tasting every year during a wine festival in our town. By selling our tickets through our website, this allows potential event goers to visit our website, and sign up for our newsletter during check out.

Your email marketing campaign is only as good as your email list. Communicating with the right audience will help your business increase sales, generate new customers and retain loyal customers.

Crave more? If you like what you read here, 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. 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.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Throwback Tip #166: Never Make Caramel Corn Again…without this ingredient!

Photo: Land O'Lakes
There's something warm and comforting about caramel corn in the fall--but sticky, clumpy caramel corn is no fun at all! After reading this week's quick tip, you will never want to make caramel corn without this ingredient!

If your caramel corn sticks together and becomes difficult to separate, adding lecithin will help. Randy Hofberger of R&D Consultants advises mixing lecithin with a little oil and adding this mixture at the end of your caramel corn recipe. This will help the caramel spread apart easier and save you the hassle of manually pulling it apart. 

Allergy Alert! It is advised that individuals with soy allergies do not consume products that contain lecithin. Although lecithin is a byproduct of soy, there is always a chance soy protein will find its way into lecithin. Lecithin derived from sunflower or canola are more allergy-friendly alternatives to soy. 

Don’t cry over spilled lecithin.
Resist the urge to clean spilled lecithin with a damp cloth or spray cleaner, which will cause it to gum-up and make it worse. Instead, cover the spill with sugar and it will clean right up.

Make It Festive
With the quick addition of ingredients like pretzels, roasted nuts, candy corn and colorful candy-coated chocolates this sweet and salty treat is easily be transformed into a festive trail mix for fall parties, trips to the pumpkin patch and tail gate parties.

Crave more? If you like what you read here, 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. 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.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Tip #318: Enhance Your Confections with Gourmet Sea Salt



In recent years, the application of sea salt in confections has evolved from strictly artisanal to mainstream in the candy industry. According to Synergy Consultants, sea salt was introduced to nearly 1,350 food products in 2010 alone. If you have not yet jumped on this bandwagon, you may be missing an opportunity to engage consumers and increase sales.

RCI member, Boehm’s Candies of Issaquah, Washington first introduced gourmet sea salt to their confections in 1999. At the time they wondered if it would be a quickly passing fad. Today, the candy maker carries a variety of confections featuring distinctively different gourmet sea salts, contributing to at least 100 pounds of finished product every week to satisfy customer demand.

Pulled from an article in RCI’s Kettle Talk magazine, Bernard Garbusjuk attributes the trendiness of sea salt to our love of the sweet and salty combination. “In our production, we have tested different salt profiles for various confections, but we believe that the most complementing marriage is between caramel and salt. If you are very careful balancing a recipe, then it can also work well for solid chocolate pieces.”

With the growing popularity of sea salt in a variety of applications, featuring a gourmet sea salt with a unique color, flavor, coarseness and even origin will help you create a more signature product. Keep reading for three of Boehm’s favorite gourmet sea salt varieties, as well as recommended applications for each.

Hawaiian Sea Salt Blend
Natural sea salt blended with the rare alaea sea salt from Hawaii. The alaea salt can be identified by its distinct red color achieved by mixing with volcanic clay.

Boehm’s standard sea salt caramels are topped with a blend of two different salts from the Hawaiian Islands. The alaea salt is from the island of Kauai and has a distinct red color from the volcanic clay, and the white salt is from the island of Oahu. The finer grain of the salt from Oahu will disperse in your mouth somewhat faster than the coarser alaea salt and the blend of size and color give the caramel an elegant, upscale finish.

Ilocano Asin
A mild, mineral rich sea salt from the pure seawaters of Pangasinan, Phillippines. Bright, crisp flavors powered by underlying minerals combine in this complex and well-balanced salt.

At Boehm’s they created a thin wand of twisted caramel (about the length of a licorice stick), covered it in chocolate and finished it with the Ilocano Asin salt. This caramel and sea salt “stick” satisfies customers who want a more robust salt profile. Simply because of how you eat it, it can taste remarkably different than the square sea salt caramel.

Smoked Alder Wood Sea Salt
A Pacific sea salt is slightly smoked over red alderwood.

As part of their boxed chocolates, Boehm’s adds a caramel with smoked alderwood sea salt to represent the Pacific Northwest. Consider sourcing a sea salt that reflects the flavors and ingredients representative of your area.

If you can brand a unique sea salt product with a distinctive flavor or coarseness, or from a special region (Himalayan, Mediterranean, etc.), you may be surprised how it effects your sales compared to if you use a non-descript sea salt.

If you’re wondering where to get your hands on gourmet sea salt, Boehm’s Candies recommends SaltWorks® and xroads Phillippe Sea Salts®. SaltWorks offers a variety of salts in fine to coarse grain and in many flavor profiles. Xroads Phillippine Sea Salts® delivers unique culinary sea salts that enhance a broad range of flavors while empowering small communities.

Crave more? If you like what you read here, 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. 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.