Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tip #227: Tips for Disaster Preparedness

We all know spring showers bring May flowers, but they can also bring power outages, flooding and other incidents that could wreak havoc on your business. In the following excerpt from the third quarter issue of Kettle Talk in 2012, RCI member Brian Pelletier shares tips to help you prepare your business.

Do you have enough to worry about with your chocolate shop that you can’t sleep at night? Would you like more things to worry about?

For example, what would you do if a natural disaster like a flood or hurricane hit? What if your shop caught on fire? What if one or more employees is injured? What if your electricity goes out for an extended time? Or what about a much smaller crisis, like spilling a cup of coffee on the computer that has all your company financial data on it?

Experts recommend that every company has a Business Continuity Plan to ensure that your business is sustainable after a significant interruption caused by a disaster or any other disruptive event. That can be anything from a single component failure to a man-made or natural disaster that broadly impacts your company’s physical assets, buildings or people.

The first step in planning is to understand what functions are critical to your business, and how different disaster scenarios can impact you. For example, if your power goes out and you can’t make product but can keep your store open, can you still take credit cards as payment? The “what-if” scenarios for threats and vulnerabilities are endless, but it isn’t difficult to identify the critical points that can have the biggest impact on your company, and that you need to address.

The next step is to define your business continuity strategies. For example, how does the organization want the business to perform and what options are available? Do you have alternate facilities if you can’t use your current shop? If you lost use of your computer, do you have your data backed up somewhere? (And is that backup kept right next to your computer where it might be lost in the same disaster that destroys your main computer, or is it stored online in the “cloud” where you can easily access it?)

Once you have a plan developed, you need to communicate it. Make sure your employees know what they need to do if something goes wrong, and how they can best be in contact with you.

Some simple tips:
  • Have emergency equipment and supplies like fire extinguishers, first aid kits, and flashlights available and stocked up.
  • Conduct regular emergency and disaster drills with your employees – ask them some of the “what if” scenarios, and make sure everyone knows what they’ll need to do if disaster strikes. 
  • Train at least some of your staff in first aid and CPR. 
  • Make sure your business insurance is up to date and includes something about business continuity. 
  • Back up your business data regularly and frequently, to an offsite location.
  • Review your disaster plan at least twice annually to ensure the information remains current, including employee and vendor information.

The following organizations provide free preparedness information and tools as resources for small businesses:
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, March 21, 2017

Tip # 226: 5 Equipment Cleaning Tips for Candy Makers

As of yesterday, March 20, spring has officially arrived! This means warmer weather, longer daylight hours, blooming flowers and spring cleaning! Chances are you are least excited about the latter, so we’ve got some helpful cleaning tips for candy manufacturers taken from an article published in the January 2004 issue of The Manufacturing Confectioner and written by Susan Hough of Masterson Company.

Use Soap and Water
The most effective way to clean equipment is with soap and water. It is a real search and destroy mission that should not be taken lightly. Just scraping or using water alone will not be effective.

Oil Flushes for Oil-Based Products
If you are working with an all-oil-based product (and no sugars to help dissolve the product away), you may have to start with several oil flushes first before introducing water or chemicals. Without the oil flushes, the chemicals can extract out the oil, leaving behind solid masses cemented to the pipes or agitators of your vessel. If you absolutely cannot get water near your systems and have a completely dry process, you may want to try dry CO2 pellet cleaning.

Checklists Are a Must
Checklists for the system, identifying all the equipment requiring dismantling, cleaning and inspection, are a must. There are several ways of verifying the effectiveness of the cleanup. A good verification doesn’t trust just one verification method, but is successful through the collective use of several.

Use Your Senses
Especially when it comes to cleaning equipment exposed to allergens, it is important to visually inspect and use your sense of smell. As mentioned earlier, you need to open up and visually inspect every area possible. The sense of smell can be useful in the case of allergens such as peanuts. Even in very minute amounts, the smell of the peanut can be a telltale sign of a hidden cleaning issue. A further verification uses some of the more quantative tests available today. You could utilize ATP testers (especially if a particular allergenic protein has no test kit yet available). It should be noted that this method will not tell you how much PPM residue you have, and is not as effective on proteins that have been heat treated.

Protein Test Kits
Test kits for peanuts approved by the AOAC Research Institute as performance tested include Biokits Peanut Assay; Ridascreen Fast Peanut; and Veratox for Peanut. These kits can be used to test the actual product, do swabs of your equipment or test the rinse water off a system after cleaning. It should be noted that although many of them are relatively easy, they can take 45 to 60 minutes to complete.

After cleaning is completed, the system should be additionally inspected and signed off by a management person to verify the cleanup. The more eyes (and noses) involved, the less chance something will be missed.

Cleaning large equipment can be a daunting task. With proper cleaning methods and verification, you can rest assured you're following Good Manufacturing Processes (GMPs) and your equipment is ready for the spring season! Happy Cleaning!

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.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Tip # 225: From the Archives to Now: Easter Merchandising Inspiration

Photo courtesy of kimborup.blogspot.com/au

In celebration of RCI’s 100th anniversary, we have pulled favorite articles from the “archives.” In this excerpt from an issue of Kettle Gossip published in 1972, Dave Faurer of Wilbur Chocolate Co., shared Easter merchandising tips for candy makers. Although it's fun to reflect on how things (especially prices) have changed since 1972, many of Faurer's tips can be applied by today's retail confectioner. However, we've included some suggestions for updates to his merchandising ideas below.

Easter Merchandising

For most confectioners, Easter ranks second only to Christmas as a candy merchandising occasion. In some areas the Easter volume exceeds Christmas. As an occasion for the retail manufacturing confectioner to show his real skill in the art of candy making, Easter leads the list by far.

Timing – Easter falls on Sunday, April 2 this year (in 1972). Many merchants start showing some of their Easter items right after Washington’s birthday. Items like small chocolate-covered Easter eggs and 10, 15 and 25 cents eggs can be displayed or sold even earlier. This will include jelly eggs, marshmallow eggs, butter cream mix, etc.

About four weeks before Easter, your full line of Easter items should be on display. These would include your more expensive gift items, large eggs, gift baskets, etc.

Displays – The very nature of the items in your Easter line makes them easy to display. In themselves, they are so colorful that very little in the way of display material need be added. Basic colors for your display should be in the pastel shades. Usual color combinations are orchid and yellow, green (light) and yellow or pink and green.

It is extremely important that all signs are selected very carefully. To make sure that your signs stand out from the merchandise, you should choose the strongest colors in your display for the sign background. Good eye catchers are a super-large chocolate egg or a chocolate bunny or even an extra large size plush bunny.

Here are a few ideas which may help to create better and more effective Easter displays:

1972: A border of artificial daffodils and tulips can be very effectively arranged around the front of your windows

Now: For a more current take on this idea, use a cupcake stand,terra cotta pots and fresh daffodils to create a visually interesting Easter display.Photo from living.msn.com

1972: A good way to show your moulded eggs and rabbits is to use a large round glass, covered with either amber or green cellophane grass. Use a separate piece of glass for each group. Place the largest item in the center and surround with the smaller sizes.

Now: Consider purchasing real or artificial wheatgrass, which can be used to nestle products  and d├ęcor for fresh and colorful merchandising throughout spring and summer. Photo from bestorganicwheatgrass.com

1972: When displaying your eggs, cut one very carefully, cello wrap so customer can see what the egg is like inside. This is especially true of the fruit and nut centers.

Now: What’s on the inside counts, right? Instead of wrapping a cut-chocolate in cello wrap, consider displaying cut pieces on a glass dish or cake stand, topped with a glass dome. Glass domes of all shapes and sizes are super trendy right now and are relatively inexpensive at your local craft and hobby shop. And don’t think you have to splurge on a big, pricey dome. Even small and dainty domes can create an elegant display. Photo courtesy of kimborup.blogspot.com/au

In conclusion, Easter is one of the most fascinating (and exasperating) periods of the candy year. By careful thought in selecting items and merchandising them properly, you can capture the Easter market in your town.

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, March 7, 2017

Tip # 224: Troubleshooting: Hazy Chocolate Moulds

Are you a little hazy on what’s causing the buildup of a film on the surface of your chocolate moulds? You’re not alone. Learn what causes this common problem and get preventative tips on how to avoid it in this excerpt from RCI’s Mechanics of Chocolate Moulding course.

We all know the temperature of chocolate and, even, your workspace is important, but did you know the temperature of your moulds could also be affecting the quality of your chocolate?

Cold moulds can cause chocolate to stick to the surface of a mould because the chocolate has not had time to grow the proper crystals and shrink free of the surface. Moulds should be 75-80° F before coming into contact with chocolate. And, bonus, the solution to this problem is easy, because moulds within this temperature range will self clean. Repeated deposits will remove the buildup from the surface of the moulds.

Although cooking spray can work wonders for baking pans, never coat chocolate moulds with vegetable oil to prevent sticking. This may appear to help prevent buildup; but it will create early bloom on the surface of a moulded piece because of the incompatibility of the vegetable oil and the cocoa butter in chocolate. Compound coatings made with lauric fats, such as palm kernel oil, are even more susceptible to bloom than chocolate, if incompatible fats are mixed with them.

Now that you know your chocolate moulds like to be kept at a cozy 75-80° F, how do you check the temperature of a mould? An infrared thermometer "gun" will do the trick and can be found at any of your local home improvement stores. Click here to view best-selling infrared thermometers on Amazon. Prices range from $16 to $130.

Happy Moulding!

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.