Hi all. I'd love to hear from those of you who have sold your chocolates at farmer's markets. I have some memory of a prior discussion about suggestions for keeping the temp constant, but can't recall specifics (point me in the right direction please if you know the thread).
I would also appreciate any sense of demographics/psychographics you might have formed at farmers' markets. For instance, for those of you who sell this way, what impressions do you have of the audience/customers? Where do you think they fall on the sophistication and price continuums?
Anyone doing a mobile chocolate unit yet? If so, are you using a hotdog-style cart? A catering pickup truck? A full size food truck? Something else?
And finally, anyone have a sense of health dept. regs regarding mobile units when no heating is required (i.e. chocolates only)?
Thanks very much! --Robyn
The health department regulations are going to vary state by state, county by county, and city by city (where is Scandia?). The only way to find out is to go ask, or if you are lucky, go on-line. NYC government bureaucracy is messed up in a lot of ways, but the nyc.gov web site does an excellent job of letting any who wants to open a food business in NYC know that they need to know to open any kind of food business. Unfortunately, none of that applies to where I live in Westchester if I wanted to open up exactly the same business in Westchester.
The only way to know is to ask your local health department. Oh, and keep in mind that there may be state and/or county permits and/or licenses that may be required as well as local ones.
As for the type of mobile unit you're talking about ... decide what you want to do, then choose the vehicle (pun intended) that will let you do it. A small hot-dog cart may be good only for selling prepared items. A food truck would mean that you can prepare stuff to order ... if that's what you want to do. Another thing to consider is that except for storage (ingredients, finished product to be sold), a food truck, kitted out properly, could be large enough to produce product for a million dollar plus business and could cost less than the same amount of space in a commercial structure.
As for farmer markets, there are a number of ChocolateLife members who've started successful businesses at the markets and I will let them tell their stories ...
Thank you, Clay. As always, I appreciate your comments and insights here. I have a shop, licensed commercially for wholesale (and retail is allowed) by the Ag Dept. In Minnesota, Ag usually licenses food establishments that are not restaurants. I will definitely call and ask my Ag guy. Would still value thoughts, experiences, etc from those who are farmers' market veterans.
We sell chocolate bars every week at 2 local farmers markets in Hawaii. Temp control is definitely an issue, especially in the summers in Hawaii. We keep all the bars in a cooler with ice packs, put dummy bars out on display (cardboard wrapped in foil & labels) that won't melt, and keep small amounts of samples in sampler trays with ice underneath.
A bigger problem for us is that we want to display our beautiful molds, but unless we can make them out of some other material that won't melt in the heat, that's not possible.
If anyone has figured out a somewhat durable material that is also food safe and they feel comfortable putting in their chocolate molds their using for other things, please, let us know!
There is food-grade silicon used to make ... molds. It can probably be colored, too. Available through Chef Rubber, among others.
Thanks for the tip, Clay. I've made some molds with silicone but the compound always comes in garish colors of purple or blue and as nothing sticks to silicone, trying to paint this is impossible. Paint peels right off. The mold companies won't explain how to color silicone to your preferred color. They'll do it for you if you order 50 lbs of mold compound but I don't need 500 sample bars!
Things to remember, that I did not realise with mould copy's, when doing market research is:
1. Some children will inevitably put the copy in their mouth.
2. People get really disappointed if the product looks different to the copy.
3. Colour and appeal are actually very important, an ugly copy will impact sales negatively.
I reckon mixing food grade beeswax with cacao powder may provide a similar sheen / lustre and also make the beeswax melt at a higher temperature. Whether the result is convincing and appealing will take experimentation.
You might want to try something like this: melt compound chocolate (which appears to have a melting temp of 110 or so) and soy wax together and mold. I tried this with some bon bons and they survived just fine for a few hours in the low to mid 80's, out of direct sunlight. They got soft but did not appear visibly melted and re-gained their shape when cooled. And, they look just like chocolate:
Hi Nat, Just wondering which island you are on. I live on oahu and am just getting started in the chocolate trade, still very much in learning mode and if you are on Oahu I might come check out your chocolate at farmer's market.