When a delighted customer purchases a box of assorted chocolates from your shop, ideally, the box of chocolates would be consumed right away or at least within a week. In the event they are stored away in a cupboard for a special occasion or (dare, I say) forgotten, do you know what your products would look or taste like in two to three, or even four months? This week’s tip offers reasons for obtaining retention samples and advice on how to do so.
It is important to know and understand the shelf life of your products and collecting retention samples is the best way to test product limitations, so you can adjust recipe formulations if issues arise or advise customers on the best timeframe to enjoy your products.
When testing the shelf life of your product, variables, like packaging, must remain the same. For example, when testing your products, make sure they are stored in the same packaging they would be sold in. If they are shrink wrapped before selling (which is highly recommended), shrink wrap the product before storing them for testing. Anticipate how your customers would store your products, if not consumed right away. Would they store them in the refrigerator or in the pantry? Consider a reasonable length of time a consumer may store your products before consuming them. If you are unsure, ask a small group of loyal customers or friends and family.
Over time, enlist experienced tasters (this could be staff members or, again, frequent customers) to review your products for consistency and quality. If you run into issues with product quality, RCI members can login to pose questions to fellow members on RCI’s online forum, List Serve.
Regularly retaining samples of each batch could prove useful if you ever experience a product recall or customer complaints. At a past Chocolate Boot Camp course, RCI member, Candy House Gourmet, shared that they regularly take three samples of every product, label them each with a lot code and freeze the samples in a Ziploc freezer bag for four months. If a customer calls and complains, they can reference the quality of the product when it left their facility.
This week’s tip may require some extra steps and additional storage, however, the benefits of taking a proactive approach to quality assurance often outweigh the risks of not practicing such precautions. Comment below if you take retention samples of your products and what you’ve gained from this practice.
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