I'm new to this group and am in the process of starting up a truffle business. Once I find a rental kitchen, I can register my business and create a website. So I still have some work to do before officially getting started. I finally found a kitchen space to rent, but it's a monthly commitment versus paying an hourly fee. So I'm trying to figure out if I can swing the monthly cost in the beginning.
I wanted to get some thoughts on farmers markets. Selling product at a local farmers market seems like an excellent way to advertise and sell to the local community, but I'm not sure about how easy it would be to display the product. Has anyone tried to sell truffles outdoors? If so, how did you deal with warm weather that could potentially melt the product? I thought about getting a display case that I could keep cool with a generator, but that seems like more of a hassle than it's worth.
I just started my chocolate business this spring and I've been selling at a Growers Market here in Albuquerque, NM since late May. The market is on Saturday mornings from 7:00 to noon, and heat is a big issue by the middle of the morning. I use a Cambro carrier that fits half sheet pans and I got some Cambro freeze-paks that fit 2 to a shelf (so they're small enough to fit in my home freezer). I put the freeze paks in the top slot and load up about 300 truffles on 4 trays, wrap them with plastic wrap and use a plastic sheet pan cover. This keeps the product in great shape for the whole day. For my display I use clear acrylic/plastic trays with flat covers. I freeze blocks of ice in 1 gallon ziplock bags, put 2 blocks in each tray, put on the cover and drape this with pieces of table cloth cut to size. I then put small plates on the ice trays and put out about 3 pieces of each flavor for display.
I also got one clear dome cover for a tray, and on that one I lay out tuffles in rows - I usually bring about six flavors so six rows cover the tray and the clear dome keeps it cool enough to protect the chocolates.
All of this is under a 10x10 Easy-Up type tent - direct sun is deadly even if its not to hot. I've only had one day that was "to hot for chocolate" (projected high of 103F) It gets about 95 this time of year, and its about the limit, but I haven't lost any product to melt down yet.
Wow Tom, that's both awesome and horrible.. haha.
My thoughts EXACTLY!!!
I sell at farmers markets in Sydney Australia. The temperatures can be up to 40 degrees C (104 F) and above and it is challenging. You need to look after your stock but even more is the problem that many people won't buy when it gets hot as they rightfully fear that their chocolate will melt. The problem with the guy in the picture is that he WILL get high relative humidity which will damage the chocolate as the rH increases as the dew point is reached. It will be in the range of 85% rH. Also it is a clear signal to buyers that there is a problem.
I chill my chocolate to around 18C (64F) and pretty much hold it there all week. When I go to the markets I take it in polystyrene boxes and only display a few bags at a time, swapping them back to the boxes as they begin to warm. Chocolate holds its coolness quite well and this gets me through the day. I also watch VERY carefully where the sun is coming from and ensure that it never touches the bags.
I also picked up on Clay's thoughts in shipping in foil-lined bubble wrap and I make bags up with this material to give to Customers so they feel protected. Also picking up on Clay's idea, I seal the bubble wrap with a heat sealer so that no warm air can get in. So far no-one has returned with a problem - although this could indeed only last a short time in a hot vehicle.
Keep everything as low as possible too - heat rises.
The above has worked for me at farmers markets and also expos where at times the heat can be intense (in Melbourne last year we had three days above 38C (100F) and I lost very little stock. That WAS before I worked on the bags and sadly few people bought.)
I used to think so too Tom. However I use two of these to cool the product in my pans and one day I accidently left one on for a while and when I returned I was surprised to find that my product was wet! So I inserted my rH meter down the tube and whereas the room was at 43% rH the air coming from the A/C was a staggering 85%! I called the manufacturer and they explained to me that it was simple physics where the dew point was reached and the rH shot up. I don't really pretend to understand exactly how that happens - seems like black magic to me where more water is released than seems to be there in the first place - but the engineer assured me that it was fact. I suppose it lies in the term "relative" humidty. I just know that it's very bad for chocolate as it makes it wet and yucky!
Doubtless some more technical person out there" can clear it up!