Wednesday, May 27, 2020

How to Create a More Efficient Candy Kitchen

Looking to improve the efficiency of your candy kitchen? Rethinking the layout of your kitchen is a great place to start. RCI member Greg Power with Las Olas Confections and Snacks shares tips, plus which areas to focus on for the most impact in this week’s post.

 Visualize

When reviewing your production layout, first, take measurements of your equipment and space. Draw a diagram of your space on paper; create scale cut outs of equipment and other movable items so you can move the items around easily. This will allow you to visualize the best placement of your equipment and help with layout options to maximize production and product flow.

Your production space should be enclosed and it should not open directly to outside areas; this will help with security and reduce exposure to outside elements. Smooth, walls, tile cove base and sealed concrete floors or tile flooring are all preferred for ease of cleaning and washing down. Storage racks should be off the ground and away from the walls (check for local health codes for how far off the ground and how far away from the walls is required). Any non-food contact equipment that can be stored or installed out of the production area is preferred and may open up additional kitchen space if stored elsewhere. Air compressors, boilers, cleaning equipment, etc. should all be stored away from production.

Production

The kitchen production area is the beginning of your entire process; which is why outflow from the kitchen should be smooth and effortless as the product moves to your production lines. If space permits, your kitchen should be separated, but adjacent to your slabbing or table room. This setup is the most efficient process for getting product off of the tables and on your production lines. If your tables are water-jacket cooled and you have a temperature-controlled cooling room available (at least 60˚F/15˚C), this will offer the most efficiency for cooling your products as quickly as possible from batch to production. You want to remove the heat from the product as fast as possible without sweating it.

Flow

From slabbing, product should go straight into enrobing or coating. This area should be as close to the slabbing or cutting area as possible. If you are hand dipping, multiple stations can be set up adjacent to the slabbing area. From enrobing or coating, products should flow straight into cooling tunnels then into the packing area. After packing, product may be stored in a cool, dry place for several days at 65˚ F/18˚C before transport.

Equipment

If space permits, avoid turns and curves within the process. Fewer transitions and handling of product will reduce labor. All equipment should be on legs, stands or wheels off the floor and away from walls; it should be easily accessible from all sides for easy cleaning and maintenance.

Production space should be limited to items needed for a specific run, excess equipment, cooling racks and raw materials. Work-in-process can reduce your ability to run efficiently and cause increased labor inefficiencies. Fine tuning some of these areas could have a surprising impact on the efficiency of your team.

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.

Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Freeze Chocolate Without Risking Bloom

The mention of freezing chocolate products not too long ago was looked upon by candy makers as taboo. The two main concerns were bloom and loss of flavor.

Today, with new freezing systems and a better understanding of how to freeze products, it has become more common in the industry. Some of the largest manufacturers freeze products to keep up with seasonal demands. Keep reading for pro tips for successfully freezing and thawing chocolate in just a few simple steps, plus maximum storage times for both filled pieces and solid chocolates.

Freezing

1. Prepare the product

  • Shrink wrap or wrap as tight as possible, making the package air tight.
  • If you use stock boxes, it is best to double-shrink wrap them.
  • Don’t have a shrink wrapper? A double layer of plastic wrap will work as well.
2. Maintain a stable freezing and thawing process.

  • Most household or small commercial freezers can consistently maintain temperatures with short thaw cycles, if any.
    • Opening and closing freezers increases humidity in the units, thus the need for defrosting.
  • Larger operations should utilize freezers that have defrosting cycles.
    • Proper freezer drainage and regular maintenance is key to ensuring stability.
    • Evaluate defrosting time regularly. If this process takes too long, the packaging could get wet. If it is too short, the cost of freezing will increase due to the use of power. 

Thawing*

*This may be the most important part of freezing.

1. Remove product from the freezer

  • When removed from the freezer, product should be stored at 60˚ F/ 15˚ C, with limited humidity.

2. Create air movement around the thawing package

  • Smaller operations can remove a stock box from the freezer and place it on a counter with a small fan blowing on the package.
  • Larger operations can put a pallet on a rack with a fan blowing on one end.
  • Do not open the package or remove the wrap until the product temperature rises up to room temperature.
  • When opened at room temperature, the product will look and taste the same as it did before freezing.

For best results, thaw and sell frozen products within the recommended times below.

  • Filled pieces and truffles should be 3-4 months.
  • Solid chocolate pieces should be 6-8 months.

Freezing may not make sense for every company, as it is a major part of planning and operations for the companies that practice this method. You cannot hurry this process, but when executed properly it will increase shelf life by a few months and will not harm your products.

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.

Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Dad's Favorite Things List: Sweet Gift Ideas for Father's Day

Don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate dads in a big way this year! Father’s Day is June 21st and we’re sharing sweet gift ideas that appeal to just about every dad and grandpa out there!

Mr. Fix It

For the dad that likes to tinker and fix things. He may have a toolbox full of tools and gadgets, but does he have a toolkit made completely of chocolate?

Credit: Nothing But Chocolate

The Fisherman

Give Dad a fish story he’ll never forget. How about a life-sized chocolate-moulded fish so sweet his pals will have to believe he’s telling another tall tale! Looking for tips to perfect your moulding techniques? Read this past blog post.

Credit: Munson's Chocolates

The Executive

Give hard-working dads and grandfathers a tie they’ll actually love. Click here to check out a tutorial on how to create shirt-and-tie treat holders as ready-to-give gifts.

Credit: Doodlecraftblog.com

The Foodie

Have some fun with the foodie dad by faking him out with a sweet twist on his favorite foods. The only way to improve on a good, old-fashioned hamburger would be to make it all out of chocolate, of course.

Credit: LindyPopsChocs

The Beer Enthusiast

For the beer-enthusiast dads out there, RCI members like Joy Lyn’s Candies and Hilliard’s Chocolates have found that confections like brittle and caramel really do pair well with beer.

Credit (left to right): Hilliard's Chocolates and Joy Lyn's Candies

The Wine Connoisseur

Since a bottle of wine would be too predictable, why not dip the whole bottle in fine chocolate? Sure, wine is fine, but wine and chocolate is even better!

The Daring Dad

These treats aren’t for the faint of heart, but for the thrill-seekers and daring dads who have ever wondered, “what does a chocolate-covered jalapeno/pickle/cricket taste like?” It can’t be too bad, after all, it is covered in chocolate!

Credit: Wickles Pickles


 Host a “Pin-to-Win Dad’s Sweet Dreams” Contest

If you're looking for an opportunity to increase your exposure on Pinterest, consider hosting a "Pin-to-Win Dad's Sweet Dreams" contest. Start by asking participants to create a Pinterest board full of their dad's favorite treats from your website. Require entrants to include your company name in the description (for brand awareness purposes) and email you the URL to their board or post a link to your Facebook page (Check out this Pinterest contest for ideas of how to communicate the idea to your followers).

Appeal to shoppers by offering gift ideas they can’t get from big box stores. We hope you find at least a couple ideas to apply to your business and are inspired to dream up a few more of your own. We invite you to share your creative Father’s Day gift ideas in the comments below.

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.

Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

10 Ways to Make Mother’s Day Sweeter than Ever




With many mothers wearing more hats than usual and grandmas missing visits from their grandchildren, consumers are looking for ways to make Mother’s Day bigger and sweeter than ever in 2020. This week, we’re sharing fun ways for consumers to celebrate and feel connected even when apart.

Limited-Time Offers
Bring back seasonal confections for a limited time and require advance orders. If you typically offer caramel apples during the fall or chocolate-covered strawberries for Valentine’s Day, consider bringing these seasonal favorites back for the week leading up to Mother’s Day.

One-Stop Shop
Since it’s difficult to stop by multiple retailers at this time, think of ways to provide a one-stop shopping experience. Bundle chocolate with gift items and remind consumers if you offer gift wrapping and greeting cards. Partner with other local businesses, like florists and coffee shops, to expand your reach while supporting fellow businesses and ease the strain if you are short staffed.

Treats to Ship
Bundle warm-weather treat for consumers who may need to ship gifts, but don’t want the extra expense required for shipping chocolate in the heat. Check out our blog post for 5 Sweets that Beat the Heat. These treats are good options if your community allows sidewalk sales or food trucks to operate.

Gourmet S’mores Kits
Create gourmet s’mores kits and share tips for outdoor enthusiasts to create memorable camp-in experiences. Check out this past blog post for ideas on how to take your s’mores to the next level. The Washington State Parks Foundation offers programming for viewers to enjoy camping activities from their living rooms and back yards.

Subscription Boxes
Create a sweet subscription box, giving shoppers the option to answer a survey to help select the recipient’s favorite treats. This ensures a steady supply of sweet treats for Mom and reoccurring sales for you.

Take-and-Make Treat Kits
Invite families to make memories together with take-and-make Mother’s Day treat kits. Along with instructions, share a link to your video tutorial for them to follow along.

Ice Cream Sundae Kits
If you sell ice cream, create ice cream sundae kits as a way to upsell pints paired with candy toppings, chocolate and caramel sauces and decorative sprinkles. Make your own “magic” chocolate shell sauce by adding coconut oil to melted chocolate.

Virtual Tasting Kits
Create virtual tasting kits with tasting guides in sets of two. Consider offering add-ons at a discount so the whole family can experience tasting together virtually. Partner with a local liquor shop, winery or coffee maker to pair chocolates with Mom’s favorite beverages.

Customizable Gifts
Give shoppers the opportunity to customize their gifts by offering options to build their own care packages, choose the recipient’s favorite color ribbon or packaging/gift wrap. Use free tools like Canva and Vecteezy to design beautiful custom wraps for chocolate bars or boxed chocolates.

Pin It to Win It
If you aren’t already taking advantage of Pinterest to promote and sell your products, now is the time! Now, more than ever, shoppers are relying on social media for news, inspiration and entertainment. Create Mother’s Day themed boards and post purchasable gift ideas perfect for moms with a sweet tooth. Click here to learn more.

Although many holidays and celebrations look different these days, embrace the opportunity to think creatively and continue to evolve your business. Share in the comments below, creative ways you plan to celebrate moms this year.

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, April 28, 2020

3 Sweet Ways to Celebrate May Day



Welcome the arrival of spring by celebrating the sweet traditions of May Day! May 1 has been long recognized by cultures around the world, marking the return of spring and symbolized by bright colors and fresh flowers.

3 Sweet Ways to Celebrate May Day

May Day Baskets
During the 19th and 20th centuries, May Day baskets were made of paper and filled with flowers, candies and other treats to be hung on the doors of friends, neighbors and loved ones on May first. The tradition was to knock on the door, shout “May basket,” and then run (nationaltoday.com)—while we are still practicing social distancing, we can't think of a better way to connect with loved ones and friends.

May Day is a great opportunity to encourage customers to creatively gift your confections. Below is inspiration to create your own sweet May Day baskets. Click here to download a cute, printable May Day Basket template. The blog, Skip to My Lou, has shared loads of simple ideas for making your own May Day baskets.

Photos: Skip To My Lou, Regina's Candies, Oh Yay Studio
Candy Bouquets
May Day is often represented by bouquets of fresh flowers, but with a few supplies you could make paper flowers featuring your confections. If you have individually wrapped candies, like foil-wrapped truffles or caramels or taffy wrapped in wax paper, put your own sweet spin on this Candy Bouquet by It’s Always Autumn. All you need is crepe paper (or tissue paper), a hot glue gun and sucker sticks.
ItsAlwaysAutumn.com
Maypole Dance

Although the origin of the maypole is unknown, this tradition is thought to date back to medieval times when people would dance around trees with bright ribbons as a way to welcome good crops (nationaltoday.com).

Invite your social media followers to submit fun photos or videos of their home crew doing their own Maypole dances for a chance to win free treats in return for the ensuing smiles and laughs.


via GIPHY

This age-old tradition of celebrating the new life, nature's bounty and the sweet surprises it can bring may be just what people need to warm their hearts and put a smile on their faces.

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, April 21, 2020

Food Trucks Can Be Sweet



At a time when many retail shops are closed, food trucks not only offer access to consumers, they give businesses the flexibility go to where consumers are. For example, if you have a food truck or branded vehicle, consider visiting local neighborhoods, musical ice-cream-truck style, to sell your products. Other businesses have asked their social media followers to private message their addresses to be added to the delivery route. Share your route on social media and let people know when to expect you. First, check local regulations to ensure this activity is permitted.

For further inspiration, RCI member Anna Dolle Bushnell with Dolle’s Candyland shares how this multi-generational family business turned inspiration from their grandfather’s Kandy Kar into a more modern version of selling their popular treats on-the-go.

Having been in business for over 100 years, my family is fascinated with using bits of our rich past in order to create a unique and personal approach to business today. All of our packaging has traces of our vintage candy boxes, our tried and true recipes remain the same, and we love to use old relics of our business’s history in today’s decision making. In a world where business can get swallowed whole in advertising, online marketing, website management and the like, my brother, Andrew Dolle, and I decided to revive the simple “Kandy Kar” concept that our grandfather had in the 1940s.

The Inspiration
Way back when, our grandfather, Rudolph Dolle, manufactured and sold salt water taffy from his beloved Kandy Kar. Unfortunately, we do not know much more about the car simply because our grandfather had long since passed before my brother and I were born. However, one single picture gave us the inspiration to revitalize the concept of using a mobile unit for advertising, sales and fundraising opportunities.
In 2013, over the course of nine months, our modern-day Kandy Kar came to be. The trailer was custom built and outfitted with everything needed for caramel popcorn manufacturing and sales. A simple gas stove, triple sink and ingredients storage was permanently built in. Custom made shelves were made to attach to the outside windows of the “Kar” in order to provide for added merchandising space when the trailer is parked.

In addition to caramel popcorn, a variety of our best-selling candies is offered for sampling and sales. Our famous salt water taffy, fudge and caramel apples are manufactured and prepackaged in our plant in Ocean City, Maryland to make storage and merchandising in a small area possible. In addition to these items, space is available on board for the manufacturing of two additional products. Dependent upon the event and the projected consumer, we are able to manufacture cinnamon roasted nuts as well as cotton candy. Since these machines require little space and can run off of standard electricity, they are fun options to offer customers of different demographics.

Expanded Reach
Within the past year, we have taken the Kandy Kar to local events, including music festivals, wine and beer fests and seasonal/holiday fairs. It also has been featured at charity events and several weddings that have wanted to feature a local “foodie” flair. Most importantly, Dolle’s Kandy Kar is a wonderful mode of advertising. People unfamiliar with our brand can see, smell and taste our products in a multitude of locations, not just at our brick and mortar shops. We also use these unique advertising opportunities to distribute brochures and company information to inform potential and life-long customers about our family business, our history and our products.

Carrying On Traditions
Although we have no idea what happened to the original Kandy Kar, we enjoy the feeling that we are carrying on a unique family business tradition. We imagine that manufacturing salt water taffy aboard the original Kar must have been a tricky, sticky and hot endeavor. In today’s Kar, we often think what our grandfather would say if he witnessed air conditioning, electricity, and running hot and cold water located on a mobile unit, not to mention payments being swiped on smartphones!
We have certainly enjoyed the reception that we have received at each event the Dolle’s Kandy Kar has been. We love hearing the excitement of fair and event goers when they discover that they can enjoy their favorite Ocean City treats at events around our region, and we love keeping “what is old is now new” traditions alive!

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, April 14, 2020

The Stealth Marketing Tool That Creates Crazy Loyal Customers


Now that Easter has passed and we look forward to Mother’s Day, we’re sharing a powerful marketing tool from retail experts, Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender of Kizer & Bender. Take time now to make meaningful connections with customers loyal customers now and reap the benefits for years to come.

Years from now someone will spend a gazillion dollars to study American life online and wonder who these people were who desperately need to lose weight, perfect their relationships, look younger, make certain body parts larger than life, buy fake designer goods, and grab those PHDs we so richly deserve but have not earned.

Sigh.

That’s a typical day of email for us. 700 messages: 80% junk that gets deleted ASAP and 20% actual mail.

Snail mail isn’t much better. Our mail box is typically brimming with bills, offers from companies we've never heard of, and lots of “You have already been approved” credit card applications. On a good day there’s mail that arrives in a handwritten envelope.

Guess what we open first?

The telephone isn’t much better. At least ten times a day we answer the phone with a smile only to be greeted by silence and a recorded message that's supposed to encourage us to act immediately. Instead we just hang up the phone.

We all have far too much impersonal communication in our lives. Most of us rarely receive handwritten notes or letters so it’s a big deal when we do. Anything handwritten gets opened first – there are studies that back that up. It’s the personal touch that gets our attention.

We have shared our Impact 8 technique in our very first Retail Adventures seminar and have continued to share it ever since. Know why? Because it can make you the most visible person in your company or the most talked about store in your community. Impact 8 has elevated some retailers to celebrity status and all in the amount of time it takes to have a cup of coffee each morning.

There are two parts to Impact 8. Part I involves a personal telephone call to four customers you spoke to or worked with the day before. This isn’t telemarketing – you are not allowed to talk about business unless the customer brings it up. If you happen to get the customer’s answering machine it’s okay to leave a message – you’ll make their day.

Here’s a sample conversation:

“Hello Mrs. Customer? This is Your Name at _________________.”

After the customer has had a chance to respond, you say:

“I enjoyed speaking with you yesterday and I just wanted to take a moment and thank you for your business. I know that you have lots of choices, and I thank you for choosing my store. If there is ever anything, I can do for you, please do not hesitate to call me anytime.”

Call four customers per day and watch what happens. But that’s only the first part of Impact 8.

To implement Part II, you’re going to need note cards that are blank on the inside. Go for standard greeting card size, not the smaller common “Thank You” card version. You can use fun off the rack cards or create a custom version – it’s up to you. You will also need the names and addresses of four customers you spoke or worked with the day before because these customers are going to get a personal note from you.

There are a few rules:

1. Each note must be handwritten. Remember, handwritten mail is always the first mail to be opened. It’s easy to try and fake it with a service that imitates real handwriting but trust us, people know the difference.

2. You must address the envelope by hand. You’re only doing four a day so this isn't a big deal.

3. You must use real stamps. Weird or interesting stamps – The USPS offers lots to choose from, you can check them out here. You might even consider using different denominations to make your envelope really stand out.

Your note can say something like this:

“Dear Mrs. Customer,

I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for your business. I know that you have a lot of stores to choose from and I appreciate your choosing _________________. I have enclosed my business card, if there is ever anything, I can do for you please do not hesitate to call me anytime!”

If you implement Impact 8 just four days a week, you will impact 32 customers per week; 128 customers per month; and 1536 customers per year. And if those customers tell just ten others that’s 15,360 people. The word of mouth advertising and good will you will generate is immeasurable.

The cool thing about Impact 8 is that it operates under the radar so it’s rarely noticed by your competition – they’re busy looking at your ads and social media posts. All they will notice is less cars in their parking lot and more cars in yours.

Copyright Kizer & Bender | All rights reserved.

Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender are consumer anthropologists, keynote speakers, authors, consultants who have helped thousands of businesses in the retail and service industries since 1990. Gain more expert advice on what retailers can be doing right from Kizer & Bender’s Retail Adventures podcast and weekly webinar.

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, March 31, 2020

Make Marshmallows Like a Pro


If things have slowed down for your business, take advantage of any downtime by refining your craft of candy making. If you don’t make your own marshmallow, this is a great product to work towards perfecting.

There’s nothing quite like homemade marshmallow. If you don’t make your own marshmallow, now is the time to experiment with recipes and techniques. This week, we’re offering expert tips for cutting, dusting, enrobing and packaging marshmallows. Plus, a bonus marketing idea!

Boiling Corn Syrup
This tip will help prevent chocolate-covered marshmallows from cracking. Here’s why: most 42 DE (dextrose equivalent) corn syrup contains a small amount of yeast bacteria. This is a common problem with marshmallows, because the corn syrup is added to the sugar slurry (or bob) after it has been removed from heat, so it doesn’t get warm enough to eliminate any yeast found in the corn syrup.

The solution, bring corn syrup to a very low boil. Just as it begins to boil, remove it from heat. Do this step early in the day, allowing it to cool to room temperature before adding it to the cooked portion of the marshmallow. A fellow candy maker did this and never had a cracked Easter egg again.  

Cutting
When cutting small batches of marshmallow, RCI members have recommended the following ways to be most efficient:
  • A guitar cutter works, but it really depends on how soft your marshmallow recipe is. As an alternative, a sharp pizza cutter works well too. – J. Sofia, Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate
  • We use a lightly buttered, sharp, thin-bladed knife. [We re-apply the butter] every 2 or 3 rows. It's a bit slow, but eliminates the need for corn starch, which I found made the marshmallows difficult to coat. –W. Spence, Spence Candies

Dusting
Dusting marshmallows is an important step to preserve that soft and pillowy texture that we desire. Traditionally candy makers use powdered sugar or corn starch to keep marshmallows from drying out and becoming hard. Aside from the cloud of dust they leave everywhere, a coating of powdered sugar can make your already sweet marshmallows too sweet and corn starch can make it difficult for chocolate to stick to the marshmallow.

As an alternative to the traditional corn starch and powdered sugar, try replacing them with dextrose or fondant sugar (such as Amerfond® Fondant Sugar). Both products will help you achieve the desired affect and with less the mess. For marshmallows bound for the enrober, adding a little dextrose to the top and bottom will also help the chocolate stick.

Enrobing
If air bubbles are a problem when enrobing square confections, like marshmallows, send them through your enrober corner first. Your products will receive better chocolate coverage from the fountains on the enrober and you will decrease the chance for bubbles to appear on the tops.

Packaging
Have you ever noticed condensation (or worse, mold) on the inside of your marshmallow packaging? If so, you may be cutting and packaging your marshmallows too soon. Of course, you want your marshmallows to be as fresh as possible, but marshmallow needs to breathe for a while or else the warmth may create moisture and you may experience mold on your product. A general rule of thumb is to let marshmallow sit overnight before cutting, dusting and storing it.

Marketing Your Mallows
While people are spending more time at home, share ideas for gourmet s’more recipes that your social followers can make at home with your products. Click here for 5 creative s’more ideas. Package your fresh, homemade marshmallows, along with your chocolates and graham crackers, and sell as a fun, family activity to make together at home.

If you’ve ever questioned whether making your own marshmallow is worth the hassle, these expert tips will not only make your job easier, they will leave your customers wanting more of these fluffy confectionery wonders!

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.