Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tip #105: Thank Your Staff for Hard Holiday Work

Now that the holiday season has passed, and before you begin forging ahead preparing for Valentine’s Day, this week our tip is to be sure you take time to thank your hard-working staff. Remember that your staff has different personalities. Some may feel appreciated with a verbal thank you; some may appreciate a card while others might enjoy a cup of coffee or other treat. Use a variety of methods to be sure your employees know they are valued and appreciated for the hard work and extra effort they put into making sure your business had a successful holiday season.

Need proof that it works? Check out this great infographic that illustrates the value of appreciating and thanking your employees:

The Business Value of Thank You

Explore more infographics like this one on the web's largest information design community - Visually.

Happy New Year!!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tip #104: Take a Break and Enjoy Your Family & Friends

From home to home, and heart to heart, from one place to another. The warmth and joy of Christmas brings us closer to each other.    - Emily Matthews

Today is Christmas Eve!

While we know you are likely still working hard to get your customers home with their favorite sweet treats for their families, today’s tip is to enjoy Christmas with your own loved ones. When you walk out the door of your office or store today, take a deep breath and leave everything else behind you to deal with on December 26 (or whenever you return to work). Focus on being 100% present to enjoy this special season with the ones you love most.

Merry Christmas, sweet friends!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tip #103: Remind Employees of the Value of Customer Service

You may have more customers in your store this month than a typical month. Therefore, it’s imperative they have a great experience so that they return. That’s why this week’s tip is to remind your employees of the importance and value of great customer service. Below are a few items from a 2012 blog tip about customer service  to consider reviewing with your employees:

  • Don’t just greet customers – greet them with a smile.
  • Thank customers for their business and invite them to come back again.
  • Be proactive – go to the customer in the store to offer assistance.
  • Ask customers who call the store if they may be placed on hold rather than assuming and saying “Hold, please.”
By providing exceptional customer service, you just may turn that customer who walked in by chance into a new regular who visits your store for treats throughout the year.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tip #102: Get Customers to Celebrate National Chocolate Covered Anything Day

Did you know this Monday, December 16 is National Chocolate Covered Anything Day? This week’s tip is to get your customers’ creativity involved in celebrating this fun candy holiday.

  • Social Media - Ask customers fun questions on Facebook and Twitter such as, “If you could cover anything in chocolate, what would it be?”
  • In Store – Have a suggestion box in your store. Customers can suggest items for you to cover in chocolate. Then, on December 16 sell some of the items in your store as unique holiday gifts. You might get a new best seller suggested! (Note, be sure to include a disclaimer that any used suggestions won’t be credited to the person who provided the idea.)
  • Website– If you’re able to easily implement sales on your website, have a one-day special on some or one of your best selling chocolate covered items. Be sure to use social media and email to let your customers know they should visit your website to celebrate this candy holiday on December 16!

Please share with us in the comments some of the fun or funky items you end up covering in chocolate to celebrate this fun holiday!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tip #101: Keep the Chocolate Curtain on Enrober Close to Centers

Out of respect for confectioners’ busy holiday schedules, December’s blog tips will be quick tips.

Have you had issues with air pockets showing up on your enrobed confections?  This week’s tip is to be sure the chocolate curtain on your enrober is as close as possible to the centers or confections being enrobed to avoid air pockets. If the curtain is too far above your centers, then there is more of an opportunity for air pockets to form.

This tip was shared at our 2013 Chocolate Boot Camp education course. Learn more about this hands-on course for confectioners at retailconfectioners.org/bootcamp.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tip #100: Review the Past 99 Tips

Celebrating 100 Tips!

We’re celebrating 100 tips on the RCI Tip of the Week blog this week!

Celebrate with us by using this tip to look back over the past 99 tips. Use the blog archive at right or the search function to find tips by topic (label). From merchandising to candy holidays to marketing and employee management, we have covered a lot of ground since our first tip on January 4, 2012.

We hope you have enjoyed our tips and learned as much as we have along the way. Please take a moment to share the RCI Tip of the Week blog with someone you know; link to www.retailconfectionersinternational.blogspot.com and let others in the confectionery industry know about this FREE resource provided by Retail Confectioners International. We look forward to continuing to provide you with fun, quick and useful tips to help simplify the lives of confectioners!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tip #99: Celebrate National Candy Cane Day All Month

Did you know the day after Christmas is National Candy Cane Day? In honor of these holidays, this week’s tip is to celebrate National Candy Cane Day leading up to Christmas. To help you celebrate, we’ve gathered a few creative and easy ways to include candy canes in your product mix and presentation.

Hot Chocolate or Coffee Stirrers

Candy Cane Tree (Great for window display!)

Candy Cane Marshmallow

Candy Cane Popcorn

If you have creative candy cane ideas to share, leave us a comment below!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tip #98: Optimize Your Marketing Emails Using Images

You’re busy sending out emails to your customer list but are you thinking about how the emails will be viewed depending on elements such as email service providers and screen size? This week’s tip is to take time to optimize your marketing emails for the images you are using.

First of all, be sure you are including images in your email campaigns, especially since you create such beautiful confections! And don’t forget to be sure they are great photos – it will make a world of difference!
See this recent blog tip about why you should invest in having high quality photos of your products.

Next, be sure your images are optimized for web. For example, check to be sure it has the right file size, type and format to avoid your receiver getting upload errors. Your email marketing service provider should provide the guidelines they recommend. For example, no larger than 350KB and no wider than 800 pixels wide is what is recommended by Constant Contact. Anything larger than that and they will likely automatically shrink the image for you which may result in loss of quality.

Additionally, remember that many email programs automatically block images until the receiver chooses to download them. Therefore, it is not recommended that every call to action be included in an image. Instead, utilize both images and text to tell your customers to “Order Online Now” or whatever it is you would like them to do in response to your email.

You are now ready to send effective email marketing messages using photos. If you have additional tips for email marketing, please leave them in the comments below!

RCI Members:  Are you taking advantage of the Constant Contact Email Marketing discount you receive as an RCI member? Just sign in to the RCI website and click on Member Programs under Member Resources for details.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tip #97: Stay Informed and Get Involved in Legislature

In honor of today’s Election Day in the United States, this week’s tip is to stay informed and get involved in legislature as it relates to and affects your business. Whether it is from a local, state or national level, it is up to you as a business owner to speak out on behalf of the interests of your business.

State and Local
Your state and local chambers of commerce will have a variety resources and information for you on legislature that affects businesses in your local and state area. For most chambers, you may visit their website for information on current legislature. Be sure to also visit with the staff and volunteers of the chamber about how you can get involved to make your voice heard.

Govtrack.us is a website that helps you to research pending federal legislation in the U.S. that might impact your life or business. Quickly view information by doing a search on relevant topics or specific bills moving through Congress.  You may also sign up to receive email updates to track activities for the bills or topics that matter most to your business.  Another important part of staying informed is to know who is representing you in Congress. Visit www.house.gov or www.senate.gov to find the most up-to-date contact and voting information on your members of Congress.

For our Canadian friends, www.parl.gc.ca provides a wealth of information on Senators and Members of Congress in Canada as well as current bills before Parliament.

As Thomas Jefferson said, “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.”

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tip #96: Require Consistency from Your Suppliers

Your customers expect that each time you make a product that it will look and taste the same way as when they purchased it the last time. Your product is just as good as the ingredients you use to make it. Therefore, this week’s tip is to require your suppliers to be consistent with their own products.

Many times we hear from small businesses that they don’t feel they have the ‘clout’ to demand anything from their suppliers because of their size. However, we always remind those businesses that their own livelihood and success is dependent on the quality of their raw materials. Therefore, as a paying customer they have just as much right as any other business to require a consistent product from their suppliers.

As part of requiring consistency of your suppliers, be sure to regularly test each supplier shipment for consistency in characteristics such as taste, size and odor. Remember, if your raw materials and suppliers are dependable, you increase the chances of your finished product being consistent as well. And a consistently delicious product will keep your customers coming back for more!

This tip was inspired by an article in our Good Manufacturing Practices series found in all four 2012 issues of Kettle Talk. RCI members may access past issues of Kettle Talk by signing in as a member on the RCI website

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tip #95: Back Up Your Company Files Off-Site

This week’s tip is to take the time to implement a system to back up your company files in more than one location. For example, many companies think that having their files on a server in their facility is secure enough. However, if your office is destroyed by a fire or natural disaster, you will have lost all of that important information. Instead, be sure your files are securely backed up in another location so you can quickly access them in case of emergency.

A number of options are available for backing up your company files. From remote data backup services to storing files on the numerous cloud services available, you will need to find what works best for your company. You may find that it is a combination or hybrid of more than one of the options in order to best meet your information security and data storage needs. Regardless of what you choose, no company should take the risk of having no off-site back up of their files. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tip #94: Use Bracelets to Decorate a 2-Piece Box for Seasonal Gift

As we mentioned last month, at each of our events, we take attendees on behind-the-scenes visit of area candy stores and suppliers. It’s one of the most anticipated parts of the event week as it’s a great time for attendees to find ideas to take back to their own stores. And it’s where we found this week’s tip!

This week the tip is very simple and also very versatile. It is to use jewelry such as bracelets to accent a small two- or four-piece box of chocolates. You can get very inexpensive seasonal or fun plastic bracelets that wrap perfectly around a small box to make it a fun gift and a great seasonal display. And, since the bracelet wraps around the box rather than attaching to it with glue, when the season has passed you can easily remove the bracelet and replace with a new one without damaging the box.

Do you have quick and versatile ideas for using small boxes? Please share them in the comments below!

This week’s tip was taken from ‘Creative Uses for Small Boxes’ in our January/February/March 2013 Kettle Talk. RCI members may access past issues of Kettle Talk by signing in as a member on the RCI website

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tip #93: Take Advantage of Small Business Saturday

Are you ready for Small Business Saturday on November 30, 2013?

Small Business Saturday is a day dedicated to supporting small businesses on one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year.  Situated right between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s a great opportunity for you to promote your store to holiday shoppers as a local business.

American Express and Constant Contact have put together great online kits to help small businesses promote themselves and Small Business Saturday leading up to this special day. From downloadable signage to sample copy and outlines, these kits are great places to start planning your marketing efforts.

We hope these tools help to make this year’s Small Business Saturday an extremely successful day for your stores!

RCI Members: Be sure to check the October/November/December 2012 Kettle Talk issue for more tips on marketing Small Business Saturday in your store!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tip #92: Four Creative Candy Corn Confections

National Candy Corn Day is just a few weeks away (October 30). Therefore this week’s tip includes four creative candy corn-themed confections to incorporate in your fall product mix.

1. Candy Corn Marshmallow 

Do you have creative candy corn ideas? Share them in the comments below!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tip #91: Hire a Gift Designer

At each of our events, we take attendees on behind-the-scenes visit of area candy stores and suppliers. It’s one of the most anticipated parts of the event week as it’s a great time for attendees to find ideas to take back to their own stores.

During our Canadian Chocolate Tour in September 2012 and recent Annual Convention & Industry Expo in June we visited confectionery retail stores that had designated gift designers. Attendees were consistently “wowed” by the beautiful displays and merchandising in these stores so this week’s tip is for you to hire a gift designer for your own retail candy store.

Gift designers are focused solely on the presentation of the products and displays in your store. Their job is to take your delicious candy products and turn them into beautiful gifts that your customers can’t resist buying. It’s about more than just wrapping paper – it is creating a theme, designing a shopping experience for your customers.  

If hiring someone solely for the purpose of designing gifts isn’t something you can do, then consider making it a seasonal position or incorporating it into an existing position. You’ll be surprised at the difference having an individual focused on designing your items will make when it comes to the presentation of your products.

One other tip: once you hire someone, be sure to give him or her freedom to be creative and come up with new and original ideas. Share your vision and brand strategy and then step out of the way and be amazed at what is created and the exquisiteness it adds to your displays.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tip #90: Increase Your Popcorn Shelf Life by Air Popping

A couple weeks ago we posted a tip on a fall favorite – caramel apples. Another favorite treat during the holiday season, and a growing snack trend this year, is popcorn. This week’s tip is quick and will help increase the shelf life for your popcorn.

To increase shelf life, we suggest air popping your popcorn. Because popping with oil increases the chance for rancidity, if you air pop your popcorn, the shelf life of your product is increased.  It’s that simple but it works!

While we’re sure your popcorn is so good it’ll be flying off the shelves, we hope this quick tip will help you be able to pop your popcorn ahead of time so you can meet the demand for this great treat!

P.S. We’re having a great week in Buffalo, New York for our Fall Regional. Be sure to check out event photos on the RCI Facebook page!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tip #89: Save Time Finding Emails and Contacts with Xobni

As the holidays get closer, we know that means you are getting busier and busier. Therefore this week’s tip will help you find emails and contacts in your email quickly so you can make the most of your time.

Xobni is a free tool that works with Microsoft Outlook, Gmail, Android and iPhone to help users search and discover all of your contacts, including emails and files exchanged. You can instantly view each contact, complete with photo, job title, company details and email history.  That’s right; you can get forget about tirelessly searching by keyword or date for a specific email or attachment. With Xobni, it’s easier and quicker than ever.

Watch this quick video for a glimpse into how Xobni works for Outlook or view these videos to see it work within Gmail, Android and iPhone. Download and set-up time is minimal and worth it for the time you will save with this great tool!

Note, Xobni was recently acquired by Yahoo! which means company and service changes are taking place over the next year. At this time, there are still free versions and paid versions available to meet your needs.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tip #88: Increase Caramel Apple Value with Packaging

It’s that time of year again! That’s right, it’s almost fall which means it’s time for caramel apple madness for most candy makers. This classic fall treat has been a favorite since its creation in the 1950s. This week’s tip is to take time to evaluate how you package your caramel apples.

As with any confection, packaging plays a large part in how your customers view your products’ value. Therefore, it’s safe to assume it’s the same with your caramel apples. Whether you are making the “typical” caramel dipped apple or coating your apples in various toppings such as nuts and chocolate drizzles, selecting the right packaging will create even more value for your customers.

One of the best options we’ve seen used for packaging caramel apples is a small box that protects the apple, stands easily for display and has a plastic cut-out for customers to view the apple.  Oftentimes candy makers will place the apple in a plastic bag and tie a large seasonal bow at the top; however, while an apple covered in nuts is probably safe in this type of packaging, the caramel of other apples will become stuck to the plastic. While the flavor is not compromised, the presentation definitely is which is reflected in the value perceived by your customers. Looking for more ideas? Do a quick internet search for images under ‘caramel apple packaging’ to get your creative juices flowing.

So, take a few moments to evaluate your caramel apple packaging this fall. Remember, the value your customers perceive is directly related to the price they are willing to pay for your products.

P.S. Are you headed to the Philly Candy Show this weekend? Be sure to stop by booth #518 and meet the RCI staff!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tip #87: Partner with Local Schools

This week we've got a great tip to help you expand your brand’s reach in your area: partner with local high schools and universities to create products using their colors and/or logos for sports teams and other extracurricular activities.

Because logos and mascots are typically trademarked, we suggest first talking with a representative from your local schools to request permission for use. If you receive permission, the possibilities are limitless, from using transfers of their logo on chocolates and truffles to using the logo or mascot on product packaging just to name a few applications.

If you’re not able to use logos and mascots, there are still opportunities for expanding your reach by using the color schemes. By pairing confections with the colors (i.e. red and white jelly beans) you can still create a fun display area to encourage support of your local elementary and high schools and universities.

Looking for how you will get the word out once you have these great themed products for purchase? Connect with your local Parent Teach Associations (PTA), even providing them with coupons and fliers to distribute at their meetings or via their email distribution list. Additionally, you could send mailers and get in contact with fraternities and sororities at your local university or college.

If you have additional ideas or success stories for partnering with local schools, please leave a comment below!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tip #86: Get Ready for World Chocolate Day

Did you know World Chocolate Day is in two weeks (September 4)? This week our tip is for you to get ready for this fun candy holiday that has great potential to draw a crowd to your store.

Meet with your team to make a plan. Plan for: extra production so you don’t run out of chocolates, in-store specials and promotions, ample employee coverage on the floor and creative ways to get customers in the doors to buy your chocolates.

Promote the great specials and products you’re going to feature on World Chocolate Day. Some ideas to promote your celebration of this holiday include: post great pictures on Facebook, create your email marketing campaign, get customers to help spread the word and consider sharing chocolates with local radio shows for listener prizes.

Stock and also merchandise your store well so that chocolate items are the feature products everywhere your customers look on World Chocolate Day. If you don’t already, consider giving out free samples to encourage passers-by to come into your store and discover a wonderful world of chocolate.

At the end of the day you’ll be able to high five your staff and enjoy the fruits (chocolate-covered, of course) of your labor!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tip #85: Enrobe Square Pieces Corner First

This week we have another quick and easy tip to help you make quality confections. If you are enrobing square confections (i.e. toffee, marshmallow squares, etc.), 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.

Do you have a quick and easy enrobing tip? Please share it with us in the comments below!

Connect with us! Have you liked Retail Confectioners International on Facebook or followed us on Twitter? We love to keep in touch with fellow confectioners through social media. Like or follow us and we’ll like and follow your business back!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tip #84: Four Tips for Succession Planning Success

Succession planning is one of those business items that no one wants to attack but no business can afford not to. Many owners and managers don’t want to face the fact that they will not always be there to lead the organization. Others are afraid of the inherent confrontation and decisions to be made in the succession planning process. Regardless of the reason, succession planning is too important to your business to leave unaddressed. To help you get started, this week’s tip is four in one: Four Tips for Succession Planning Success.
  1. Take time to make a plan. This may sound obvious but so many businesses just coast onward in hopes that they will have someone in place when the time comes, or worse they assume the leader in place will always be there. Get out your calendar and make time for succession planning.
  2. Expect emotions. Whether you’re in a family business or not, you can safely expect to encounter emotions when moving through the succession planning process. If you expect emotions, you can pre-empt them and focus on communicating through them.
  3. Utilize objective third parties. Because you expect emotions, it’s valuable to have an objective third party as part of the process. He or she can help you think of things in a new, different way and hopefully come to the best conclusions for the company, not just one or two subjective and outspoken individuals.
  4. Make it ongoing. Don’t just develop a plan and then not touch it until the moment comes to name a successor. Continue to revisit the plan and make adjustments. The plan should be referred to along the way as you select a successor and prepare that person to take your place.

Additional succession planning resources may be found on the International Succession Planning Association (ISPA) website. A representative from ISPA presented at our 2012 Spring Regional in Jacksonville, Florida and shared additional resources just for RCI members. (Members of RCI may access these worksheets and resources as part of past education session links by signing in to the RCI website.)

Has your business been through a succession planning process? If you have additional tips to share from your experiences, leave them in the comments below.

RCI Members: Each 2012 issue of Kettle Talk, our quarterly membership publication, included a series on succession planning. RCI members may view digital copies of the publication by signing in to the RCI website. Then navigate to Member Resources, Publications and click on Kettle Talk.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tip #83: Boil Corn Syrup for Marshmallow

Since August 10 is S’mores Day and August 30 is National Toasted Marshmallow Day, we’re providing a quick marshmallow tip today.

Have you had issues with chocolate-covered marshmallows cracking? We’ve got a quick solution for you: boil your corn syrup for the marshmallow to get rid of the yeast. Here’s how it works, according to our expert panel:

Most 42DE corn syrup is contaminated in a small way with yeast bacteria.  It doesn’t affect most products because the yeast is killed when the syrup is cooked above a boil.  The problem comes when you are using it in marshmallow. -  the syrup is added to the bob* after it is removed from the fire and never gets warm enough to kill the bacteria.  To fix this, pre-weight the corn syrup for the marshmallow into a copper kettle and bring it to a very low boil.  Don’t allow it to come to a rolling boil because that would remove too much moisture.  Just as it begins to boil it should be removed from the fire.  Do this early in the day and allow it to cool to room temperature before it is added to cooked portion of the marshmallow.  A fellow candy maker did this and never had a cracked Easter egg again.

*What’s a “bob?” The bob is the sugar slurry that is cooked prior to adding the other ingredients.  Bobs for cooked creams and fudges are pretty much the same - the flavor or texture comes from the added ingredients (i.e. chocolate into chocolate creams, strawberries into strawberry creams, etc.).  Bobs are the basic beginnings for most cooked candies.

This tip was shared during an expert panel at an RCI regional event. Retail Confectioners International has great events just around the corner to help you stay connected! Visit retailconfectioners.org/events for information on our 2013 Fall Regional in Buffalo, New York and 2014 Winter Regional in Barbados this January.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tip #82: Add RCI’s Classified Ads Page to Your Web Favorites

Looking to buy or sell used confectionery equipment, post a confectionery job or purchase or sell a confectionery business? Then be sure to utilize this week’s tip to add the Classified Ads page on the Retail Confectioners International website to your website browser favorites.

The Classified Ads page is consistently one of the most viewed pages on our website. Both RCI members and non-members are invited to post an ad and available categories include For Sale, Wanted and 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.

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.

Looking to get more familiar with the RCI website and the resources available there? Check out this blog post that lists some of the popular industry resources.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tip #81: Heat Tops to Cap Shell Moulding

This week’s tip is quick and easy, yet it’s one you’re going to love if you do shell moulding at your candy store.

Have you had problems with filling leaking through after you have capped your shell moulds? We’ve got a simple fix for you that was shared during our 2013 Chocolate Boot Camp course. Before capping with chocolate, gently use a heat gun or blow dryer on low to the tops of the shell moulds to make the hardened chocolate sticky. Then, quickly put the back end chocolate on to help it adhere together and close well. No more leaks!

Want to learn more tips and tricks on moulding? Retail Confectioners International is hosting a Mechanics of Moulding course in Buffalo, New York this September. Find schedule details and register online today at retailconfectioners.org/moulding.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tip #80: Choose One Message with Email Marketing Specials

When you send emails to customers, are you providing product specials, promos and coupons? If so, pay close attention to this week’s tip to choose one message with email marketing specials.

According to RCI partner Constant Contact, you should only provide one choice for ‘Click Here to Buy Now’ in your emails. Oftentimes, business owners create an email with multiple offers thinking that the more offers available, the higher the likelihood that the reader will select one. However, in research by Constant Contact, they found that response rate is much higher from readers when they don't have as many choices to select from.

Therefore, when crafting your marketing emails, select one message you would like to convey. For example, if you are aiming to promote your ice cream, make the entire email about ice cream. Consider including customer comments, tips for ice cream toppings and inclusions, links to order online and one special promotion. Be sure to include great pictures but bear in mind that some email providers automatically block images so test that the email message is conveyed even if images are not displayed. Make the promotion or special very clear by providing the link multiple times once within the email.

If you are using an email provider such as Constant Contact, you will be able to immediately see the response from your readers. Monitor statistics such as how many people opened your email and even see exactly which links were clicked on most by readers. Of course, the loudest statistic will be the number of promotions or specials purchased through the links within the email.

RCI Members:  Did you know you can receive an EmailMarketing discount with Constant Contact?
Not an RCI member?  Join today and receive member benefits, including a discount with Constant Contact 

Check out additional email marketing tips on the RCI blog! Tips include Welcome Your Email Subscribers, Five Ways to Grow Your Email Marketing List, Create Customer Value in Your Email Marketing

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tip #79: Refresh Yourself by Reading More

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”  - Harry S. Truman

When is the last time you read a book to help you be a better business owner and leader? This week’s tip is to head to your local bookstore or library and pick up a book today!

A variety of topics within the business realm are available, from management to change innovation to marketing to leadership and more. By reading a book on these topics, you open up your mind to new ideas and processes for your company. In addition, as you become a better leader and manager through reading and applying what you learn, the better you will be able to lead your organization and team to continued success.

Seth Godin, business guru, has a helpful post about how to read a business book, including deciding before you even start that you’re going to change three things about how you work. By making a goal before you open the book, you’re less likely to read and then put it down without ever implementing the ideas and knowledge gained from the book. Reading without implementing would be quite a waste of your time!

We understand that your time is limited and you are likely wearing multiple hats. Therefore, we’ve found a resource that will help you pick a great book from the hundreds of business books available. Check out “The 100 Best Business Books of All Time” for a quick synopsis of some of the greatest business books and how they can help your business. Find the ones that cover topics you need most and start reading today!

Wondering why we focused on business books when we’re writing for candy makers? Don’t worry; you know we love confectionery books, too!  We’ve already provided a great list of must-reads for confectioners as a weekly tip last April.

P.S. Happy Canada Day and Independence Day to our Canadian and American readers! (Canada Day – July 1, Independence Day – July 4)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tip #78: Four Ideas to Have Fun with Licorice

Over the past year, the popularity of licorice as a treat has continued to grow. This week we’re encouraging you to get creative with this classic favorite. Remind adults why they loved this treat so much when growing up and reintroduce it in new ways to the younger generation and you may find new faithful customers.

Below we’ve provided a few ideas we found online along with some of our own ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
  • Chocolate Storybook creates and sells a chocolate covered licorice stick using red Twizzlers. It’s even beautifully presented!
  • Have fun with packaging! Dylan’s Candy Bar sells bin-like containers full of licorice while Southern Season has put together a licorice sampler that also presents itself as a tray when the lid is removed.
  • Licorice is created in a variety of colors so package and display them according to the seasons. For example, pair red, white and blue for Memorial Day and Independence Day; black and orange varieties for Halloween; brightly colored varieties for Spring and Summer; and, of course, red and white or red and green for the Christmas season.
  • An assortment of licorice shapes are available world-wide. From Scottish terriers to lighthouses to sea creatures, you may be surprised by what you can find. See what’s available and what your customers would like (i.e.starfish are great if you are by the ocean) and provide them in your store. Be sure you present them in a way that draws attention to the unique shape.

If you have additional unique or fun licorice ideas, please share them in the comments below! As a reminder to members, the RCI Buyer’s Guide is a great place to find licorice suppliers.

P.S. If you’re not with Retail Confectioners International in Cincinnati this week for our 93rd Annual Convention & Industry Expo, be sure to check out our Facebook page for event photos!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tip #77: Partner with Local Businesses

This week’s tip will help you increase sales of your candies outside of the retail store.  By partnering with local businesses, you could increase sales and spread the word about your quality products.

Find which retailers in your area are running promotions via the paper, radio or social media and approach them to offer your products as their promotion. For example, if a customer makes a purchase, instead of just a coupon, the customer receives a two or four-piece box of your candies along with it. While customers appreciate coupons, remind the local retailer that the customer will also remember that they went the extra mile by providing quality chocolates. You both win!

Another great local partner could be car dealers. Put together a “Thank You” sample gift to show car dealers what they can purchase from you to give to new car owners. Let them know they may customize a gift basket with their corporate promotional items such as pens, coffee mugs, etc.

If you have ideas for other local partnership for candy businesses, please share them in the comments below!

Members of Retail Confectioners International: This tip is part of a past Kettle Talk article titled How to Increase Your Candy Sales (January/February/March 2011 issue).  Access digital versions of this issue and other past issues of Kettle Talk by signing in to the RCI website as a member. Then, navigate to Publications under the Member Resources tab and click on Kettle Talk.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tip #76: Use the Right Chocolate for Inclusions

We have another very quick tip for you this week. It’s all about making sure your chocolate is perfectly tempered for the best results.

Using inclusions in your chocolates? From nuts to coconut to dried fruits, the possibilities are endless for items to include or mix into chocolate and create unique flavors and presentations. However, did you know that you should use slightly under tempered chocolate when using inclusions? Because inclusions are room temperature they could easily, and quickly, over temper your chocolate when adding them to perfectly tempered chocolate.

What does this mean for your chocolate inclusion creations? Chocolate that is not in temper effects the final product in terms of bloom, texture and even the glossiness of the chocolate. Therefore, take this week’s tip to heart and pay close attention to the temper of your chocolate when using inclusions.

This tip was provided at our 2013 Chocolate Boot Camp education course. Find information on additional courses and events hosted by Retail Confectioners International on our website.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tip #75: Take Advantage of Suppliers’ Show Specials

In light of our upcoming 93rd Annual Convention & Industry Expo, this week’s tip is to save money by placing orders at industry tradeshows.

In addition to seeing new product innovations and meeting suppliers and fellow confectioners face to face, you can save money on items such as packaging, machinery and ingredients by attending industry tradeshows. Many exhibitors will provide show specials just for those who take advantage of placing orders while at the show. For example, you could secure a reduced shipping rate, free product samples, or deep discounts by placing the same order you were going to place when the need arose a couple months from now. Note that most suppliers will allow you to place an order and arrange for later shipping dates so you could even place your Christmas order and know it will arrive at a later arranged date.

Who will you meet at our upcoming Industry Expo?   View the floor plan here, including exhibiting company descriptions and show specials to plan your orders! And make plans to be at the RCI Industry Expo in Cincinnati, June 25 and 26!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tip #74: 4 Free Tools for Managing Projects Online

As a candy store manager and/or business owner, you have a number of projects on your plate at one time. Therefore, this week’s tip provides some of our favorite tools to manage projects online. One of the benefits of using online tools is that you can access the information from nearly anywhere and team collaboration is amplified. Plus, the online tools below have accompanying smart phone apps, making access even easier.

  1. Trello – Trello is a simple and visually pleasing way to organize projects. Add images, checklists, due dates, attachments and more to keep your projects organized. You can have multiple boards, or projects, and organize tasks, or cards, within the boards in whatever fashion you choose. Additionally, assign collaborators to tasks to easily track who is responsible for different pieces of the project.

  1. Freedcamp –  Freedcamp provides project templates to help you get started as well as a group wall to communicate with all users within your projects.  The system also makes it easy to choose what your employees and clients can see with a fully customizable user permission system. Freedcamp includes a great dashboard providing an overview of projects, important tasks and recent activity.

  1. Teambox  – Teambox has thought of nearly everything when it comes to project management. Keeping track of conversations, workloads, files and notes and documentation are just some of the features. Users may also view a Gantt diagram of a project’s status, share calendars and connect projects via email.  Teambox is free for up to five users and utilizes a “pay as you grow” structure for more than five users.

  1. Evernote – Evernote is essentially an idea board for managing projects.  It’s great for visually focused projects. For example, if you’re looking to redo your packaging soon, you may begin collecting photos, links, documents and notes about what you want your new packaging to look like and accomplish.  Note that Evernote is great for you to organize projects and ideas, but to collaborate with others, you’ll want to use Evernote Business which is fee-based.
Now, pick one that works for you and have fun project planning and organizing for your company!

If you have additional project management tools you’ve used successfully, please leave us a comment below – we’d love to hear what they are and why they work well for you.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tip #73: Get Creative for National Macaroon Day

National Macaroon Day is May 31 and this week’s tip is to get creative and have fun with this confectionery holiday. We’ve gathered a number of pictures and links below to help get the creative juices flowing. If you do something fun and unique with macaroons in your candy store, be sure to share it in the comments below!

Detailed Design: Animal Print

Fun Colors:
Light & Feminine

Don't Forget the Classic:
Coconut Macaroon

Unique Pairing:
Cupcakes & Macaroons

Great Presentation:
Make a Cake
Source: google.com via Sarah on Pinterest

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tip #72: Use Stainless Steel Crowbar to Break Chocolate

We have a quick Good Manufacturing Practices tip for you this week. When you receive pallets of chocolate or the 10-pound bars of chocolate from your chocolate supplier, you need to break them into smaller pieces to melt down and create your store’s confections. How do you go about doing that? 

Many candy makers will break the chocolate into smaller pieces by smashing it with a hammer. However, if you are using a wood handled hammer, you risk the wood chipping off in the process and small shreds of wood landing in your chocolate. Additionally, if you are using a rubber handled hammer, it likely has small crevices in it that can easily hold chocolate and create bacteria as time goes on.

Therefore, this week’s tip is to use a stainless steel or titanium crowbar to break your chocolate into pieces for melting. It is still a good idea to clean the crowbar on a regular basis, but with no other element such as wood and rubber on the bar, it will be much easier to ensure it is completely clean and sterilized and ready for safe use with food.

P.S. This tip was shared during our recent Chocolate Boot Camp.  View photos of this RCI education course on our Facebook page!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tip #71: Offer Military Discounts in Honor of Armed Forces Day

Armed Forces Day is a holiday for U.S. citizens to come together and thank our military members for their patriotic service in support of our country. This year it will be celebrated on Saturday, May 18.  In honor of this holiday, this week’s tip is to provide a military discount or great special just for military members and their families on this special holiday or even the week leading up to it. From half off, buy one get one, or even a special free gift, the possibilities are endless.

We’ve provided this tip early in May so you have plenty of time to plan and promote the specials and discounts you create. Be sure you spread the word via social media, word of mouth, fliers and even send a press release to area media.

Another idea to show appreciation to the U.S. military on this day (or any day!) is to visit your area veterans’ center with a special delivery of chocolates and candies from your store. Take a moment to thank the veterans present and let them know how much you appreciate their services.

Are you located outside of the U.S.? You can still utilize this tip! Find out if your government has dedicated a day to honor the military in your country and join in with a discount or special in appreciation for their service. If your country doesn’t have a specific day, why not select a day and start one in your candy store? 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tip #70: Educate Your Employees on Chocolate

Do you realize your front-line staff is asked a variety of questions by your customers? From how your confections are made to where the chocolate comes from, customers these days are more inquisitive than ever about how the products they consumer are made. Therefore, this week’s tip is to take time to train and educate your employees on how chocolate and your particular confections are made.

Below find a few ideas to help you begin creating a training program:
  • Let employees get to know you, the owner, as well as the head candy makers (of course, oftentimes that is one and the same). If you have small company, consider a quarterly lunch with the newest employees to introduce them to how you came into the business and why you are passionate about it. Then, they will be able to tell your customers how and why the owner is passionate about quality confections which will help build trust and value for your company.
  • Put together a list of required reading and do monthly or quarterly quizzes. The restaurant industry does this for servers – trainees have to take a test on the menu before they are allowed to be on the floor taking orders. You can create a variety of quizzes, from how your company’s confections are made to where and how cocoa is grown. Of course, you can make it fun with prizes, rewards, etc. for the top scoring employees.
  • Utilize thestoryofchocolate.com. This website has great information and videos for your employees to discover the origins of cocoa and gain an appreciation for the farmers that grow the beans. Rather than expecting employees to visit this site on their own time, consider providing time at the beginning or end of the day that they can use a company computer to view specific videos, articles, etc. to make it a formal part of your training program.

As you educate your employees regarding how confections are made, they will be able to provide valuable information to your customers as they are perusing your store.

RCI Members: Peter Higgins of Purdy's Chocolates presented on the program they use to train their employees to be chocolate experts last fall at our Canadian Chocolate Tour. Access the session handout by signing in to the RCI website as a member. Then, click on Past Education under the Events & Education tab.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tip #69: Mark Cook Temperatures on the Thermometer

This week’s tip is quick and easy, and it’s going to make your candy making life easier! 

You likely already have a book near your kettles that says precisely which temperature each of your candies should reach and for how long. We suggest taking it one step further and marking the desired temp for your most common candies right on the thermometer. This takes guesswork and estimations out of the picture and ensures your staff is aiming at the right temperature for each candy.

As you know, one or two degrees can make a huge difference when it comes to candy making. So, use today’s tip to do everything you can to keep the quality of your candies consistent.

Using a digital thermometer? Consider hanging a chart nearby for your candy makers to quickly reference and ensure accuracy.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tip #68: Celebrate National Jelly Bean Day

Each month there are so many great candy-themed holidays to celebrate. One very fun day is coming up next week, April 22 – National Jelly Bean Day! This week’s tip is to have fun and celebrate!

Four fun ways to celebrate National Jelly Bean Day:
·       Post jelly bean trivia on Facebook and Twitter. Even better, make it a contest and whoever walks into your store with the answer gets free jelly beans (set a standard weight that is free).
·       Post colorful pictures of jelly beans on Pinterest and Instagram, reminding your followers they can buy them at your store (remember to make the pictures high quality!) (will link to last week’s post about pics)
·       Deliver ‘thank you’ packages of jelly beans to local heroes – fire, police and ambulance departments. Be sure they know it’s from you and that they are appreciated!
·       Recently RCI member Jelly Belly Candy Company revealed a candy calculator on their website. It helps you figure out how much candy you need for favors, parties or candy buffets. Check it out here. And then share with your wedding and party planning customers and remind them to come to you to fill their candy buffet!

Do you have more fun ways to celebrate National Jelly Bean Day? Share them in the comments below!

National Jelly Bean Day is one of many fun holidays noted on the annual RCI wall calendar provided to our members. If you’re not an RCI member, learn more about the many benefits of joining today.

P.S. We’re having a blast this week at our Historic Pennsylvania Chocolate Tour - check out photos on the RCI Facebook page!!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tip #67: 5 Reasons to Invest in Product Photos

Pictures speak a thousand words, right? Then, why is it that we visit hundreds of retail candy maker websites each year that either have no photos of their products, or they have low-quality, un-appetizing photos?  By not having beautiful photos for your customers (and potential customers) to view, you may be missing out on countless sales opportunities. Yet, provide appetizing photos on your website, and those who land there won’t be able to say no to the sweet temptation.

Do remember that more often than not, your smart phone or home digital camera is not going to provide the correct lighting, resolution and quality you need for your marketing materials. You need a professional. We understand that professional photography is not exactly cheap. That’s why this post is titled 5 Reasons to Invest in Product Photos. A professional photographer understands aspects such as lighting, space, etc.

If you’re thinking, “Where will I use these photos besides my website?” we’ve got you covered. Here are five great uses for excellent product photos:
  1. Website – online store, homepage, background
  2. Print Marketing Collateral – brochures, business cards, catalogues
  3. Facebook (social media) -  cover image, photo albums, posts
  4. Store D├ęcor – enlarged and framed pictures, photo canvases (possibilities are limitless!)
  5. Industry Publications – illustrations for articles (They will give your company credit thus building your brand.)

So, grab some of your best-looking product and find a photographer. If you use them wisely, we believe you’ll see a great return on investment in no time.

P.S. Have you made plans yet to join RCI and fellow confectioners in Cincinnati this June? The RCI Annual Convention & Industry Expo is the place for industry collaboration and idea-sharing. Meet your suppliers face-to-face at the free Industry Expo and then receive education and gather ideas at the convention. Find all the details at retailconfectioners.org/annual. Hurry - early-bird registration ends May 24!