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Hello!  I am new on the list and enjoying reading all the posts on the forum.  I'm trying to put together a plan to start selling my chocolate in a small way (since my pottery business is full time) at farmers markets.  Does anyone do this and if so, how do you keep your chocolate from becoming a puddle?  I'm assuming coolers but... if the customer can't see the chocolate how do you convince them to buy it?  Good photos?  Thank you in advance! Tracy

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Hi, Tracy.

When I used to do summer markets, I found the easiest solution was to place ice blankets (like this one under half- or quarter-sheet pans with acrylic lids. I kept most of my inventory (along with extra ice) in containers in a cooler, and displayed a small number of chocolates on the table, replacing the chocolates and the ice as necessary. I also had a tent with a reflective back, and made sure that I was situated with the sun behind me. I never lost anything to heat, despite many days being 100F or more. The market, btw, ran from 8 to 1 -- not the hottest time of day.

I also knew another chocolatier who only displayed fake chocoaltes (styrofoam dipped in Merkens coating) and kept all his inventory in a cooler, taking it out as needed. But I thought that was kind of cumbersome, among other things.


PS: Almost forgot to mention -- I placed the ice under an overturned pan or riser, then placed the display pan on top of that. That kept the chocolates from getting *too* cold, and it also cut down the condensation.
Thanks Elena, that's all very helpful. The farmer's mrkt now sounds like a do-able way to go. Very good point about the layering of ice and pans to reduce condensation.
Thanks from me too Elena. I have been looking into the same thing and it's good to hear that you managed just fine in VERY HOT temperatures. We get very hot temps. where I live in the summer and I've been questioning whether or not it will be feasible to do the market. I decided on the 'fake' chocolates for display (coating them in compound chocolate mixed with parrafin!) - but I wasn't sure what I was going to dip. I was thinking wood - but styrofoam would be so much easier.
I was concerned about condensation on the 'real' chocolates going from the cooler into the hot temp. Did this cause any problems?
Also, how did you deal with maintaining the chocolates for your clients as they walked around the market and made their way home? Did you wrap boxes/bars with insulated wrap?
Hi, Lana. Although my chocolates held up reasonably well on very hot days, I definitely sold more chocolate on the cooler days. If people were planning to eat the items immediately (I provided napkins), it wasn't a problem. For larger purchases, I always offered to hold onto the chocolates until the people were ready to leave the market. (Make sure they pay you first!) But if that wasn't an option, I provided insulated envelopes (see and very small gel packs wrapped in bubble wrap. The little gel packs last about an hour in a hot car, and the bubble wrap keeps the chocolates from getting too cold. And always remind the customer to keep the chocolates out of the sun. You'd be surprised how many people forget that!

As for condensation from the rapid temperature change, by going from the cooler, to a moderately cool tray, then to the customer, the temperature change was somewhat moderated, which reduced the condensation problem. Something I forgot to mentioned earlier: I layered ice packs and terry towels on the bottom, sides, and top of the cooler, but the ice never had direct contact with the containers of chocolate. Makes a big difference.

Wrt the chocolatier I knew who was using the fake samples, I did notice his "real" chocolates often looked dull. It may be that his chocolates were not properly tempered in the first place; but I always assumed it had more to do with the rapid temp change and poor handling. So you might consider running a few tests first. Possibly double-insulate the chocolate in the cooler? And of course, for any immediate consumption, you might want to remind your customers that the chocolate will be better appreciated when it warms a bit.

One final comment: I don't know about your farmers markets, but the ones I attended always expected us to have samples. My first week, I ran out of samples in about 30 minutes, and I didn't sell a thing. I call it the Costco effect. And despite my two comments recently about Costco, I don't have anything against them other than the fact that they've made it acceptable for people to grab food off someone's table, stuff it in their mouths, and walk away without so much as a "thank you." It doesn't actually matter to many of these people what the food is or whether it's any good; it's FREE, so it must be taken. Anyway, the next week I made a large sign with some pretty photos and the words "Samples happily provided on request." Then, when I handed out samples, I was able to educate the customer about my product and actually explain to them why they might want to buy it. It's much more gratifying that way.

Good luck!

Aren't you a gem! Thank you so much for explaining your experiences and providing links. It's so helpful! I actually think I can do it now :)
Great advice to run a few tests to see what actually will transpire. I'm very aware of what drastic temp. changes does to chocolate so I will try to have my 'cooler' on the warm side. And I'm so happy for the insulated bag link! That tops it all off.
I'm going to bug you again if I can... where did you find very small gel packs? I've only seen the usual sizes.
I hear you about samples. Our market doesn't provide samples so people don't have that expectation (thank goodness). I am happy to provide a sample to someone who is showing interest but I certainly wouldn't advertise it. Another chocolatier I know provides samples of ganache on those small ice cream test spoons. She keeps small tubs of different flavours. I think that's a great idea. The big work for me is hand dipping and decorating and putting them in cups... Making the ganache is the easy part.
I got my ice packs through Cold Ice -- At the time, they were local, so they were easy to get. I used the 8 oz size, though I can't recall whether they were +10F or the -10F. I also can't recall the price (and my accounting from those years is deeply archived), but I'm pretty sure it was not significant.

It looks like Cryopak ( has an office in BC, so they might be a good place to start. You can buy these through Amazon and other retailers; but for the quantities you'll likely need, it's best to get them wholesale.

Interesting about the ganache samples. There's a cupcake store here that sells "frosting shots," but as good as a mouthful of buttercream might be, it's only mildly representative of the full cupcake experience. :-) I should think it would be much the same with ganache. Nonetheless, I imagine people quite enjoy it.

I used to cut my chocolates in quarters or so and hand those out as samples. That way, the taster got all the elements, especially with the layered chocolates. But it was a bit of work. And as you say, the ganache *is* the easy part. I hand dip and decorate, as well, and that can be a real workout some days!
I sell my pottery at craft shows and there are many food vendors there. The chocolate booths mostly seem to dice up their product and give very small samples (handed to the customer with tongs). Otherwise, they'd be wiped out. I had a friend who made chocolate sauce and he was so disgusted at his first show at the amount of product he felt he had to give away just to make sales.

I chuckled when you mention the Costco phenomenon of free samples. I was at a wholesale trade show in Chicago where food items, as well as household goods were being shown to shop owners. There were two aisles of food (with samples of course), then you round a corner and the gift items started. Well, the first booth people came to from the food aisle was a booth of very life-like stuffed animals, mostly cats. One of the kitties was in a crouched position so the sales person put a bowl of kitty food in front of it to heighten the life like effect. Well, I watched a woman come around the corner, not bother to even look at the items in the booth and simple grab a big handful of kitty food and stuff it into her mouth as she kept walking. Once the food was in there she did hesitate and look back at the booth. To her credit she kept her dignity and swallowed it. Bleck! Sorry to go off topic..... won't do it again I promise!
That's hilarious! Sometime's there's justice....
Hi Tracy, you might consider contacting Sarah Hart, on this site. She owns Alma chocolates in Portland OR and has been selling at her local farmers market for years. She actually started just selling at the farmers market, now she has a wonderful shop but she still sells at the market. She would be a good person to contact.

I am thinking of selling my chocolate at a farmers market near where I live too so this discussion is timely, thanks!

-Mark Sciscenti
Hey Mark, she has a lovely website and some extremely unique creations. I love her global icons w/24k goldleaf! Clever, clever, clever. Thanks for pointing her out! Tracy
Just found this discussion. I do farmers markets throughout the summer. It is a great way to keep money coming in during the slowest time of the year. I have a shop, so most of the people who come visit us at the market know what I do in my shop and if they don't know us I can tell them about it. At the farmers market, We do things that we do not do in our shop. We do "festival type" things like frozen bananas dipped in chocolate, chocolate dipped strawberry kabobs, our own version of frozen hot chocolate, etc. Things you can walk around with and eat... Our customers love it and they know to go to the market to get these things...made fresh right in front of them. On cooler days we do an amazing hot chocolate, caramel apples, and we will then start bringing in products from our shop...candy bars, chocolate covered nuts, mendiants, etc. It keeps me from having to deal with melting so much. It seems to keep customers coming back to see what's new too...because we will dip fresh fruits that are in season. A bag of fresh blackberries in white chocolate, raspberries in dark, or dark chocolate figs...etc. I love the market. I love the comments on sampling too! I like the idea of sampling ganache...a lot of people don't quite understand what all goes into making truffles. I never sample them...and I have really quit sampling just about anything. I had a lady last week at the market get mad at me for not sampling to her...but she was the only one who asked for a sample. Everyone else seemed excited to BUY something. I was so happy to hear about the lady that ate cat food mentioned earlier! That is awesome! You don't get samples of food you are ordering at a cant just sample any product at Walmart...but I agree with is a Costco or Sams syndrome that people have. It drives me crazy! What we do is so specialized...I just can't give it away anymore. I have been burned by doing that in the past. People stop coming to buy things and come for samples...even other vendors started coming at the end of the day to see what I had left over after I gave out fresh berries that had been dipped in chocolate that didn't sell. It was upsetting. They buy them now because they love them! I do give the other vendors a small discount is like a big family...
If you do stick to selling your chocolates throughout the summer, I think Elena has some great tips!
Another thing about sampling...My husband reminded me about how Fudge shops are known for giving samples. Oh the many times I have seen people stop by for the sample and not buy while on vacation to tourist towns...Gatlinburg, TN, the Atlantic City Boardwalk...etc. I wonder how much is actually given away. There is a small Fudge shop here where we live and they display a huge sign in the window boasting "FREE TASTE". I can't help from picturing a giant block of fudge a salt lick, for the customers to go in and take a nice big taste...or lick. Shoo dee doo. I blame them along with Costco for the "freebie hunters". They have lost their appreciation for the finer things...and I think it is pretty inconsiderate to always ask a small business for free samples! Owning a business is tough...and Very expensive! Somebody has to pay for all those samples! Ha Ha! Sorry to go on about this! Sampling is a difficult subject.


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