Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tip # 223: Celebrate Something on a Stick Day

Did you know March 28 is National Something on a Stick Day? Yes, it may be another quirky food holiday but there’s no denying it is a fun excuse to invite your customers and social media followers to visit your store…as if we need another reason to eat more chocolate!

Opportunities to join in on this celebration are endless! You could go the more daring route that involves bacon or anything deep fried or try something fail-proof that you know everyone will love…chocolate-covered sandwich cookies!

If you have ever tried to insert lollipop sticks into any number of sandwich cookies, you probably felt about as efficient as a tortoise. Thanks to a quick and easy tip shared by RCI member, Kimberly Mitchell with Olympian Candies, you can pump out as many chocolate-covered sandwich cookies on a stick as your heart’s content and still have time to decorate them for National Something on a Stick Day! Inserting wooden popsicle sticks into double-stuffed sandwich cookies will make this process much easier and efficient than using lollipop or sucker sticks. With a little embellishment, wrapped in a clear candy bag and tied with a pretty little ribbon, Olympian Candies can’t keep their chocolate-covered-sandwich-cookies-on-a-stick on the shelf!

Olympian Candies uses flower pots, foam and shredded paper
 to display their cute, spring-themed sweets-on-sticks!
Here’s some other decorating ideas for your chocolate-covered sandwich cookies.
Photo credits (top to bottom and left to right): premeditatedleftovers.com, indulgy.com, Lillian Hope Designs
thepinkflour.com, Makoodle, Inside Bru Crew Life, Sprinkles for Breakfast, DippedInSweetness, A Taste to Remember
Stay connected with RCI through Facebook for more tips and inspiration dedicated to the retail candy maker. Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tip # 222: Give Your Candy Shop the WOW! Factor on a Budget

Photo via chickaniddy.com

Spring is the perfect time to freshen up your merchandising displays. Save money by finding new uses for old items to create eye-popping displays with “wow factor!” Old ladders, tables, or wooden crates can make for unexpected and memorable ways to display your confections.

Before you spend any money, take a look at items currently used in your store, tucked away in storage or even at your home that could be repurposed or upcycled with a fresh coat of paint. Next, visit a local flea market and use your imagination to search for anything that could be a vesicle to display your products.

Take tips from RCI’s 2016 Merchandising Essentials course when seeking display pieces that help satisfy one or more of the following five design principles:

  1. Focal Point - Every display or category/department should have a focal point or a center of activity, interest or attention.

Old windows can be reimagined to create a stunning focal point as a glass-enclosed display case. Photo property of re-store.org

  1. Balance (symmetrical or asymmetrical)Symmetrical balance is created by repeating the reverse of a design (or a mirror image) on the opposite side of the vertical axis. Symmetrical balance is considered formal, sophisticated and easy to visually digest. Asymmetrical balance is more informal, yet dynamic, achieving balance through contrast, using different elements that have equal weight.
An open trunk or small suitcase can be repurposed into shelving to create the perfect opportunity for a symmetrical display. Check out remodelaholic.com for tutorial on how to create a bookshelf (pictured above) out of an antique trunk.
Upcycle tired tables with vibrant paint to create an asymmetrical balance display, like the ones from resene.com pictured above.

  1. Pyramid Merchandising – This principle is achieved by creating a pyramid of product, with the top being the focal point that attracts attention. This is a very effective and foolproof merchandising technique.
Here's an example of pyramid merchandising created by repurposing an old ladder as a shelf. Learn how to build your own by viewing a tutorial at lovegrowswild.com

  1. Repetition - Create a striking and clean display through the repetition of many of the same or similar products.
The repetition of inexpensive, painted wooden crates used by chickaniddy.com makes an impact as a wall display. 
  1. Harmony – A pleasing combination or arrangement of different things will make your customer feel comfortable and at ease.
These repurposed tables by The Painted Hinge and Gelbach Designs have been cut in half and mounted on the wall to create eye-pleasing and space-saving displays. Visit thepaintedhinge.com for a step-by-step tutorial.

With an open mind and a little elbow grease, you can breathe new life into old furniture and flea market finds to create merchandising displays that will get your customers saying “WOW!” without breaking the bank.

Stay connected with RCI through Facebook for more tips and inspiration dedicated to the retail candy maker. Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tip # 221: Caramel Cures: Avoid a Sticky Situation

Known for its characteristically smooth and chewy texture, caramel is one of the most popular and beloved candies. However, even caramel’s biggest fans are not willing to risk dental work for sticky caramel. If creating an unhappy customer isn’t enough, caramel that is too sticky can also lead to difficulties during the manufacturing process, thus creating a very sticky situation.

Below we’ve identified the top seven common causes for sticky caramels and possible solutions, presented at RCI's Caramels, Toffees & Brittles course.

  1. Not enough fat – Increase the percentage of fat and/or the amount of milk being used in the recipe. A minimum of 8% fat is recommended when making caramels. 
  1. Excessive inversion – Inversion occurs when sucrose (a disaccharide) is broken down into glucose and fructose. This can be caused by extended cooking times (especially under acidic conditions) and the use of the enzyme invertase. Increasing reducing sugars will add to the flavor and color of caramel – but too much can cause excessive stickiness.

    Check the pH of premix, water and other ingredients, including scrap, to identify excessive inversion as the problem. Caramel premix should have a neutral pH (6.8-7.0). 
Two possible solutions for adjusting pH levels:
a)     Add low-pH flavors at the end of cook sequence or use buffered flavors.
b)    Increase premix pH with the addition of basic salts, such as sodium bicarbonate, sodium citrate (both considered natural and should be approximately 0.1% of batch)

  1. Not enough milk – A minimum of 3.7% milk protein solids or higher is recommended
  1. Low cooking temperature – Increasing the final cooking temperature slightly will produce caramel with a harder texture. Even one or two degrees can make a significant difference. Additionally, do not allow the moisture from the cooking process to drain back into the kettle.
  1. Too much corn syrup – Too much corn syrup can create a tender caramel, but also lead to stickiness and lack of body. Adjust the ratio of sugar to corn syrup (reduce the corn syrup or dextrose equivalent of corn syrup)
  1. Too much humidity – An overly humid environment can make caramel sticky and create a less than desirable layer of scum on its surface. Too avoid exposure to excessive humidity, pack and store cooked caramel away from steam kettles and in an area with a relative humidity of 40-50%.
  1. Lack of emulsifiers – The addition of mono and diglycerides (generally 1-1.25%) will produce caramel that is less sticky.
Great caramel doesn’t happen by accident. With all the factors that play into the science of making caramel, even one or two degrees, for example, can mean the difference between coveted caramels and a sticky mess.

Make your customers stick, but not your caramels! Registration for RCI’s Caramels, Toffees & Brittles course opens tomorrow, February 15. This three-day intensive course is designed to help candy makers (RCI members and non-members) understand the science behind recipe formulations and learn troubleshooting techniques for caramels, toffees and brittles. Participants will gain hands-on experience in the kitchen making variations of these coveted confections for several different applications.

Visit retailconfectioners.org/caramels for more information and to register for the course, starting February 15. Note: This course is limited to the first 24 registrants and is expected to sell out quickly.

Stay connected with RCI through Facebook for more tips and inspiration dedicated to the retail candy maker. Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Tip # 220: Here’s How to Clean Chocolate Moulds the Right Way

Did you know chocolate moulds that aren’t cleaned properly can cause chocolates to lose their desired smooth and glossy shine? Follow these five easy steps from Tomric Systems, Inc. to ensure your plastic moulds are cleaned properly and produce perfectly glossy chocolate masterpieces every time.

  1. Wipe moulds with a soft cloth in clear, warm water.
  2. DO NOT use an abrasive cleanser. If moulds become coated with cocoa butter, wash with a mild, grease-cutting detergent. Use detergent sparingly and avoid scratching the inside surface of the moulds.
  3. Rinse in clear, cool water.
  4. Dry and store in a cool location.
  5. Use moulds at room temperature.
Although maintenance is minimal for plastic moulds, it is important to perform these simple steps at the end of each holiday season to get the most out of your chocolate moulds.

Stay connected with RCI through Facebook for more tips and inspiration dedicated to the retail candy maker. Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.