Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Tip #312: 4 Ways Distributors Can Help Your Business

Have you ever wondered if working with a distributor would benefit your candy business? In this week’s post, RCI member, Linnea’s Candy Supplies sheds light on a distributor’s role, as well as some of the ways a good distributor can offer value to confectioners.

Manufacturers are not always able to service every customer as well as they would like and that’s where distributors can help. Whether due to a manufacturer's geographic location in relation to their customers or their ability to help with the administration of sales, customer service, inventory and logistics, having distributors lets a manufacturer do what it does best. Make product. To be successful, a distributor needs to add value to the products it sells.

Manufacturer’s lead times can be difficult for confectioners to contend with, especially during holiday seasons. Lead times can be anywhere from several days to several weeks. A distributor usually has product in inventory available for immediate order fulfillment.

A distributor should have a wide range of products that complement each other and meet the needs of confectioners. Having the ability to combine products from various manufacturers all in one shipment can significantly reduce shipping costs. Product bundling also saves time. Placing one order is much faster than placing several.

For many confectioners having a lower minimum order means they can order the quantities they need, not the quantities they have to. Requirements for precious storage space are reduced and their cash is not tied up in excess inventory.

The burden of keeping a large inventory is shifted to the distributor allowing confectioners to use just-in-time strategies and smaller orders on a more frequent basis.

There is a misconception that prices from a distributor will always be higher than buying direct from the manufacturer. Many distributors have prices that are comparable and sometimes lower than buying direct from a manufacturer. Distributors purchase products in large quantities from manufacturers and get discounts based on large volume orders or quantities committed to by contract. With this discount, a distributor can offer products at competitive prices.

Another misconception is that if a customer stops buying from a manufacturer and gets their products through a distributor; they are not as important to the manufacturer and will lose contact with them. While it is true the distributor will be assuming the customer service role, the manufacturer’s technical support, expertise and knowledge will always be available either through the distributor or directly. Manufacturers value their customers and want them to be successful whether they buy direct or through a distributor.

Distributors are faced with many challenges. Being able to accurately forecast, not only levels of inventory for thousands of products, but also planning for lead times and the logistics involved in replenishment is critical for a distributor’s success and the success of its customers. Good communication with the manufacturer and the confectioner is vital.

Another challenge is being efficient at getting products to customers fast, especially during the busiest parts of the year. A distributor needs to have a great team working together from the time the order is placed until it reaches the customers door.

In today’s business environment, now more than ever, a distributor creates value for manufacturers and confectioners alike.

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, August 20, 2019

Tip #311: 5 Must-Try Fall Flavors…that don’t involve Pumpkin Spice

Rumor has it Starbucks will officially begin serving up their coveted Pumpkin Spice Lattes earlier than ever—August 27, if you’re curious. That’s only a week away! If you choose to go by the “more official” calendar date to mark the first day of fall, you’ve got until September 23 [insert sigh of relief here].

Regardless of when you choose to acknowledge the true arrival of fall, it won’t be long before it’s time to say “goodbye” to cool and refreshing flavors like watermelon and citrus, and “hello” to warm and cozy fall flavors like, well, pumpkin spice. Thanks to Starbucks, you can expect to find pumpkin spice in everything from coffees to cookies, candles to skin care, and, yes, even deodorant. Click here to check out some of RCI’s favorite pumpkin spice ideas.  

Even if you draw the line at trading in your favorite deodorant for the seasonal variety, there’s something comforting about fall flavors, but you don’t have to limit yourself to pumpkin. Keep reading for a list of equally craveable flavors to fall in love with this fall.


Apple Pecan Caramel Bark, by Hilliard's Chocolates
Pumpkin may reign king of fall, but one might say the apple is queen. This certainly isn’t a surprise if you already make caramel apples, but you may consider different ways to incorporate the unofficial fruit of fall, by mimicking the flavors in apple cider or warm apple pie.

RCI member, Hilliard’s Chocolates, evokes all the fall feels with their Apple Pecan Caramel Bark. Presented at a past Candy Clinic, the bark combines white chocolate, cinnamon oil, dried apples, caramel and cinnamon sugar for a welcome fall treat. RCI members: Login at retailconfectioners.org/candyclinic to view past presentations like this one.


Land O'Lakes
Take your rich and buttery confections to the next level with brown butter, which is essentially a magical transformation that happens moments before it becomes burnt butter—naturally Martha Stewart has a solution for fixing burnt butter, click here for video. The nutty and complex flavor of brown butter will elevate any recipe. Check out this recipe for Browned Butter Salted Caramel Sauce by TheChunkyChef.com.

Real Simple
Quite possibly a distant relative to the pumpkin spice latte, chai tea is a strong-flavored tea with a hint of sweetness. Ginger and pepper add a kick of spice, which is evened out with earthy notes from cardamom and cloves, plus a dash of cinnamon. Why not try this Food Network recipe for Chai Chocolate Truffles, which Giada De Laurentiis compares to a “giant warm hug.”

Beer is a great addition to any caramel and brittle recipe, but if you’re already incorporating beer into your confections try experimenting with the darker beers of the season. Take note of seasonal beer varieties like porter and stout, which will soon replace the lighter ales of summer.

RCI member, Joy Lyn’s Candies partners with a local brewery to create a peanut brittle made with Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale. Coined as “Beer Brittle,” this popular confection is made in small batches and offers a subtle hint of hops and malt.

The Kitchen McCabe
If your customers love your caramel apples, get ready to knock their wooly socks off this fall with caramel-dipped pears. Experts agree pears that are not quite ripe with long stems for dipping are best--the most popular varieties being Bosc, Anjou, Comice and Seckel pears. Unlike apples, most pears (Seckel being an exception) don’t take well to having sticks inserted into them, which is why a sturdy stem is important. Check out this recipe for Caramel Dipped Pears from TheKitchenMcCabe.com.

It’s undeniable, the pumpkin spice trend isn’t going anywhere…at least until Starbucks launches their holiday-themed drink menu (enter: Peppermint Mocha), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other great fall flavors to peak shoppers’ interest. We want to know, what’s your favorite fall confection? Please share 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.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Throwback Tip #213: 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 “the product will bloom” or “the taste will be lost.”

Today, with new freezing systems and a better understanding of how to freeze products, it has become commonplace in the industry. Some of the largest manufacturers freeze products to keep up with seasonal demands.

In this excerpt from a past RCI regional conference, RCI member Mike Koch, of Morely Candy Makers/ Sanders Candy, offers 4 simple steps for successfully freezing and thawing chocolate, plus maximum storage times for both filled pieces and solid chocolates.

1.     Prepare the product
·         Shrink wrap or wrap as tight as possible, making the package air tight.
·         Double shrink wrapping stock boxes is the best method if you use that type of packaging.
·         If you don’t have a shrink wrapper, a double layer of plastic wrap will work.

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, product packaging could get wet. If it is too short, the cost of freezing will increase due to the use of power. 

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 degrees Farenheit, 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 the 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 is not for everyone, but for the companies that do freeze and do it right, it is a major part of their planning and operations. You cannot cut corners or hurry this process. It is a way for smaller confectioners to purchase products and reach the minimum manufacturer requirement. It will increase your shelf life a few months and will not harm the 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.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Tip #310: Extend the Shelf Life of Caramel

Caramels are one of the most popular candies, usually characterized by a smooth, chewy texture. In an excerpt for RCI’s Kettle Talk magazine, Randy Hofberger of R&D Candy Consultants shares how to avoid common problems like grainy texture or hardening that can develop as caramel ages.

When formulating your caramel recipe, the most common rule of thumb is to use more corn syrup solids than sucrose solids. This should be on a solids basis, for example, you need at least 1.25 pounds of corn syrup in your formula for every pound of sugar (sucrose).
All of the sugars have to be dissolved before the completion of the cooking cycle or they will become nuclei or "seed" for graining to start. To have all of the sugar crystals dissolved, there has to be sufficient moisture in the formula—at least 20% moisture in your caramel premix to properly dissolve sugar crystals. One of the best ways to ensure a fully dissolved caramel premix is to heat it to 160˚F–180˚F while agitating and before starting the cooking process.
If reworking scrap caramel, it is best to add it to the premix at the beginning of the cook cycle with sufficient moisture (remember the 20% moisture premix rule). If you have fresh scrap that is free of grain, this can be added at any time of the cooking process.
Different caramels procedures and recipes may require you to add milk during the cooking cycle. Make sure all of the milk is added before the end of the cooking process. Adding milk after the cook cycle may not allow the lactose in the milk to dissolve and this will promote caramel graining.
If you have a gas-fired cooking kettle, you will want to wash down the sides of the kettle after a full rolling boil has been established. This is essential to, once again, dissolve any sugar crystals that may be on the sides on the kettle. Also make sure that the boiling level of the caramel is above the scrapers or sugar crystallization will occur.
After the cooking procedure is finished, stop the agitators in the cook kettle. Continuous agitation or excessive handling of the caramel will cause it to grain.
Hardened caramels are a common texture concern, which can happen when the product loses moisture. Ways to manage moisture and maintain shelf life include; adding humectants, coating the caramel in chocolate and using good, sealed barrier packaging.
As a general rule, lowering storage temperature by 18ยบ F will double shelf life of caramel.
Caramel hardening and moisture migration can occur when a drier inclusion comes in contact with a higher moisture caramel. Adding crisped rice or pretzels to the caramel will eventually cause these inclusions to get soggy and the caramel to become hard. A simple solution, if your operation permits, is to put the dry inclusion, such as crisped rice, in the chocolate that enrobes the caramel center. Chocolate acts as a moisture barrier to keep the crisped rice crunchy and the caramel soft. Putting a chocolate or specialty fat layer between caramel and a cookie base will, likewise, help keep the two components with their original texture.
Great caramels require great effort. With these tips, you can ensure your caramels stay great and your efforts aren't wasted.

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.