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carol lang

Selling Chocolates at Shows and Farmers Markets

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I will be selling my choclates at a large event the first week of December.

I am in the process of planning my timeline to have everything as perfect as possible

for “show” day. Some of my concerns are shelf life, having enough product, and display.

I need all the helpful advice I can get. I am so new at this that I don’t know what questions to ask. I would be most grateful to those of you with experience and expertise with selling at chocolate shows if you would share some tips for success.


Edited by carol lang (log)

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Lior   

Hi!

Great! I can say that:

1. Keep bonbon variety down to no more than 15 if not less.

2. Refridgerate and then freeze to keep shelf life-wrap in nylon stretch or vacuum bags.

3. It is great to have ready made bonbon boxes to sell, you can prepare these in advance, wrap in the nylon stretch, place in a ziploc fridge and freeze.

4. Organize bars and such as the first things you make, bonbons last-if you can.

5. Besides having separate boxes and bars to sell, arrange some packages nicely wrapped- a box of bonbons, 2 bars etc all wrapped up nicely.

6. Have a display of bonbons and etcso people can also choose.

take photos for us! have fun and lots of success!!

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Hi Lior,

Thanks for all those tips, they will help me a lot. I am excited about doing this event but it is also a bit scary

because it is something new.

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Chocolot   

Take a box with all sorts of stuff you might never use but wish you had.

duct tape

masking tape

scissors

bandaids

pen/pencils

paper-clip board

change

copy of your license/health permits

bottled water

paper towels

are they providing tables and chairs?

what about skirting for the tables?

do you have to pay for electricity?

wifi

waste basket/box

gloves

signage

This is just the starting list.

Shows are a lot of hard work, but in the end, they are sort of fun.

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KarenDW   

When you are in production, keep any "hurt" bonbons or bars to use as samples. Store in separate, labeled containers for the show.

Learn the health-board rules for your region, with regards to sampling.

Decide whether or not you are willing to "trade" your product for other products at the same event.

Make a price list, and post it in your booth.

Depending upon the event, have some samples ready to share with other vendors, who may not have time for browsing, but may buy/trade once they have tasted your product.

Try and talk to one or two of the previous vendors, before the show, for set-up suggestions.

Better to be situated close to the door, and a bit cold, than to be warm, cosy, and LONELY at the back corner...bring a sweater and wear warm shoes.

Make sure you have BAGS for people purchasing multiple items. Offer gift bags or wrap and ribbon, if you think you'll have time.

Invite a friend or two to drop by during the day, if possible, so that you can take a break.

I usually try and set up a trial display at the beginning of the season, with various sizes of tables/booths.

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Lior   

Yes, a box with all sorts of items is excellent. Make a list. Bring lots of change with.

And yes, lots of water, as you will get thirsty-also because you get a bit nervous. I know that I put each type of bonbon in a plastic box and labeled it on the sides and top. I stored these under the table-each plastic box under the area of where that particular bonbon is displayed. So one on top of the other under the table under the display of those kinds. So if on the table you have two rows by six, under each kind you store that kind. So under the table you will have 6 rows of two boxes whereby one box is on top of the other. Hard to explain. You may want a sign up list for customers who want to recieve a newsletter.

Have helpers.

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Lior, Ruth, Karen

I don't know how I can thank you enough for all your help.

My fears are turning to excitement.

You have given me a focus for my timeline.

I know this is going to be hard to do but I feel much

more confident, thanks to all of you. :biggrin:

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Check local food laws. Is this a food show or a craft bazzar/farmers market? Do you have a retail food permit? Most states don't allow you to legally sell individual pieces of chocolate without a retail food permit unless the show is designated as a food show. Ive made my living the past three years off farmers markets and craft shows/flea market, and let me tell you - each state can confiscate ALL of your product on site if it isnt up to par with regulations. Also, Ive seen show organizers send vendors home for not having the proper labeling, etc. Poor soul! She had like 200 cupcakes!! Obviously, thats an extreme example, and I'll be the first to admit they are wayyyy to overbaearing on some markets, but it can happen. I've even heard of farm markets being shut down by the state for too many vendors not following the regulations on labeling, packaging, etc. They want you to have everything preboxed. The reason is that all food produced without retail food permits is required to be labled with the items makeup, which isn't done when being sold by the piece. I live in Ohio where the laws are generally considered some of the most lenient in the nation, so make sure to check around before you go and see what kind of enforcement the BOH has been doing and what their specific regulations are.

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I am in NY and I have my permits and insurance, labels and everything else needed. I rent a commercial kitchen for production. This is a food show and sale and the sponsor has spelled out the requirements very clearly.

It is a very important point that you have raised and I thank you.

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lebowits   

Carol -

Like you, I have just begun selling my chocolates at a local farmers market. In my case, the market had a set of requirements in that I needed to bring my own 10x10 tent with weights to keep it from flying off in case of a stiff breeze. I also went out and bought 3 5' tables at a local office supply store. When I set up, I drape my tables and and have a "runner" across the front table upon which I place 6" tiles for displaying the chocolates. I put out 3 pieces of each type on their own tile. I bought "matching" corner tiles which sit on the table at a nice angle to label each type. Clear mailing labels printed and applied to each corner tile make the labels look nice.

For storage, I bought a Cambro food container which holds standard size sheet pans. My first week, I took 6 full size pans loaded down with 2 types per pan. This turned out to be not just way too much product to sell, but was also very heavy. Remember to travel as lightly as possible. I now take 1/2 size pans each with 3 - 4 types on each. For now, I'm not putting out more than 12 - 14 different pieces. Some pieces will sell well, and others simply don't. One of my personal favorites, Bananas Foster simply isn't appealing to the people in any volume. You'll figure out pretty quickly what appeals to your crowd. Play to those tastes.

For the rest of my assorted stuff, I bought some waterproof containers with latching lids at Container Store. They cost $15 - $25 each but are invaluable given the chances of weather. I keep my empty candy boxes in one and put all my other stuff (clip board, table covers, disposable gloves, display tiles, label tiles, hand soap, paper towels, etc.) in another.

Don' forget to get yourself a cash box with some type of latch. It doesn't need to lock, but it's important to have something which closes so you can both keep an eye on it, and the wind won't take your cash away. My "bank" is $80 consisting of $1, $5, and $10 bills. I also keep quarters as I sell individual pieces for $1.50. All of my prices are inclusive of sales tax so I don't need to calculate the total and can keep prices in even $ increments. This saves me a great deal of hassle. Don't forget to count your cash box before you start and after. You should also track how many of each type of box you sell so you can reconcile your cash at the end of the day. I use a spreadsheet to enter in those numbers and make sure I've got the right total at the end. And of course, replenish your drawer after you count out for the next event.

Finally, I have two "directors" chairs which I take with me. These allow me to sit up higher when I'm not standing, or even to lean against them a bit so I can look people in the eye as they come by. Sitting down lower, keeps you out of view. It is important to engage people as they walk by. Simply saying "Hello" or "Good morning" can often draw someone in who would have simply walked by.

Best of luck to you. If you're in the same place week after week, it will take some time for people to figure out you are there. I'm now in my 6th weekend and my revenues have been steady but I'm now starting to get repeat customers.

If you have any other questions I can answer, send me a PM and we can talk off-line.

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Lior   

Gosh you guys have so many rules and regulations! I am certain we do, but they are never followed!! I suppose it is really in everyone's best interest. I would love to see a picture of your stands. I think I have posted a pic of mine, if not I will be happy to. Everything seems so organized, set and established in your neck of the woods. Despite the personal hassle it really is correct.

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Lebowits,

Thank you for an incredibly helpful post. It is so kind of you to share your hard earned experience.

My December event will be indoors and the sponsor provides an 8" table and a 6" table. I have to get my own table drapes and runners etc.

It sounds like you have a very attractive arrangement for your chocolates. You have some great ideas.

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lebowits   

Lebowits,

Thank you for an incredibly helpful post. It is so kind of you to share your hard earned experience.

My December event will be indoors and the sponsor provides an 8" table and a 6" table. I have to get my own table drapes and runners etc.

It sounds like you have a very attractive arrangement for your chocolates. You have some great ideas.

I've been meaning to take pictures but never quite get around to it. I'll see about remembering this weekend and post a few.

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Chocolot   

This is a picture of our booth at the Colorado Chocolate Show 2009. Pictured are my daughter and daughter-in-law. (they work cheap:-)

denverbooth.JPG

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This is a picture of our booth at the Colorado Chocolate Show 2009. Pictured are my daughter and daughter-in-law. (they work cheap:-)

WOW!!! Beautiful!!

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Carol -

Like you, I have just begun selling my chocolates at a local farmers market. In my case, the market had a set of requirements in that I needed to bring my own 10x10 tent with weights to keep it from flying off in case of a stiff breeze. I also went out and bought 3 5' tables at a local office supply store. When I set up, I drape my tables and and have a "runner" across the front table upon which I place 6" tiles for displaying the chocolates. I put out 3 pieces of each type on their own tile. I bought "matching" corner tiles which sit on the table at a nice angle to label each type. Clear mailing labels printed and applied to each corner tile make the labels look nice.

For storage, I bought a Cambro food container which holds standard size sheet pans. My first week, I took 6 full size pans loaded down with 2 types per pan. This turned out to be not just way too much product to sell, but was also very heavy. Remember to travel as lightly as possible. I now take 1/2 size pans each with 3 - 4 types on each. For now, I'm not putting out more than 12 - 14 different pieces. Some pieces will sell well, and others simply don't. One of my personal favorites, Bananas Foster simply isn't appealing to the people in any volume. You'll figure out pretty quickly what appeals to your crowd. Play to those tastes.

For the rest of my assorted stuff, I bought some waterproof containers with latching lids at Container Store. They cost $15 - $25 each but are invaluable given the chances of weather. I keep my empty candy boxes in one and put all my other stuff (clip board, table covers, disposable gloves, display tiles, label tiles, hand soap, paper towels, etc.) in another.

Don' forget to get yourself a cash box with some type of latch. It doesn't need to lock, but it's important to have something which closes so you can both keep an eye on it, and the wind won't take your cash away. My "bank" is $80 consisting of $1, $5, and $10 bills. I also keep quarters as I sell individual pieces for $1.50. All of my prices are inclusive of sales tax so I don't need to calculate the total and can keep prices in even $ increments. This saves me a great deal of hassle. Don't forget to count your cash box before you start and after. You should also track how many of each type of box you sell so you can reconcile your cash at the end of the day. I use a spreadsheet to enter in those numbers and make sure I've got the right total at the end. And of course, replenish your drawer after you count out for the next event.

Finally, I have two "directors" chairs which I take with me. These allow me to sit up higher when I'm not standing, or even to lean against them a bit so I can look people in the eye as they come by. Sitting down lower, keeps you out of view. It is important to engage people as they walk by. Simply saying "Hello" or "Good morning" can often draw someone in who would have simply walked by.

Best of luck to you. If you're in the same place week after week, it will take some time for people to figure out you are there. I'm now in my 6th weekend and my revenues have been steady but I'm now starting to get repeat customers.

If you have any other questions I can answer, send me a PM and we can talk off-line.

Steve, what a fabulous post. I thank you too! What detail... so helpful...

I have never done a show or farmer's market. I keep scratching my head as to how to keep the chocolates from melting (at an outdoor event or farmer's market). I have been considering getting some of those Cambro sheet size containers. Do the lids fit very tight? I freeze my chocolates and so far have been boxing them in assortments and freezing that way. I'd like to offer more choice to my clients but being home-based I don't go through inventory like a shop does. I was thinking of using these Cambro half sheet size containers to store different flavours in my upright freezer. I'm assuming they would hold 2 layers? I'm quite confident that with an absorbent pad on top - and if the lid fits tight - the chocolates would be just fine. I can then dip into the containers as needed and get whatever selection is asked for and thaw appropriately. Whatcha think? Would it work? :hmmm:

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lebowits   

Carol -

Like you, I have just begun selling my chocolates at a local farmers market. In my case, the market had a set of requirements in that I needed to bring my own 10x10 tent with weights to keep it from flying off in case of a stiff breeze. I also went out and bought 3 5' tables at a local office supply store. When I set up, I drape my tables and and have a "runner" across the front table upon which I place 6" tiles for displaying the chocolates. I put out 3 pieces of each type on their own tile. I bought "matching" corner tiles which sit on the table at a nice angle to label each type. Clear mailing labels printed and applied to each corner tile make the labels look nice.

For storage, I bought a Cambro food container which holds standard size sheet pans. My first week, I took 6 full size pans loaded down with 2 types per pan. This turned out to be not just way too much product to sell, but was also very heavy. Remember to travel as lightly as possible. I now take 1/2 size pans each with 3 - 4 types on each. For now, I'm not putting out more than 12 - 14 different pieces. Some pieces will sell well, and others simply don't. One of my personal favorites, Bananas Foster simply isn't appealing to the people in any volume. You'll figure out pretty quickly what appeals to your crowd. Play to those tastes.

For the rest of my assorted stuff, I bought some waterproof containers with latching lids at Container Store. They cost $15 - $25 each but are invaluable given the chances of weather. I keep my empty candy boxes in one and put all my other stuff (clip board, table covers, disposable gloves, display tiles, label tiles, hand soap, paper towels, etc.) in another.

Don' forget to get yourself a cash box with some type of latch. It doesn't need to lock, but it's important to have something which closes so you can both keep an eye on it, and the wind won't take your cash away. My "bank" is $80 consisting of $1, $5, and $10 bills. I also keep quarters as I sell individual pieces for $1.50. All of my prices are inclusive of sales tax so I don't need to calculate the total and can keep prices in even $ increments. This saves me a great deal of hassle. Don't forget to count your cash box before you start and after. You should also track how many of each type of box you sell so you can reconcile your cash at the end of the day. I use a spreadsheet to enter in those numbers and make sure I've got the right total at the end. And of course, replenish your drawer after you count out for the next event.

Finally, I have two "directors" chairs which I take with me. These allow me to sit up higher when I'm not standing, or even to lean against them a bit so I can look people in the eye as they come by. Sitting down lower, keeps you out of view. It is important to engage people as they walk by. Simply saying "Hello" or "Good morning" can often draw someone in who would have simply walked by.

Best of luck to you. If you're in the same place week after week, it will take some time for people to figure out you are there. I'm now in my 6th weekend and my revenues have been steady but I'm now starting to get repeat customers.

If you have any other questions I can answer, send me a PM and we can talk off-line.

Steve, what a fabulous post. I thank you too! What detail... so helpful...

I have never done a show or farmer's market. I keep scratching my head as to how to keep the chocolates from melting (at an outdoor event or farmer's market). I have been considering getting some of those Cambro sheet size containers. Do the lids fit very tight? I freeze my chocolates and so far have been boxing them in assortments and freezing that way. I'd like to offer more choice to my clients but being home-based I don't go through inventory like a shop does. I was thinking of using these Cambro half sheet size containers to store different flavours in my upright freezer. I'm assuming they would hold 2 layers? I'm quite confident that with an absorbent pad on top - and if the lid fits tight - the chocolates would be just fine. I can then dip into the containers as needed and get whatever selection is asked for and thaw appropriately. Whatcha think? Would it work? :hmmm:

I've made a concious decision NOT to freeze product and to make smaller batches. In general, I make 64, 96, or 128 piece batches depending on how an item is selling. For the products I'm making, I get between 6 and 8 weeks of shelf life, but don't like to keep things longer than 4 - 6 so this gives the customer some time to consume them. I store all my product at room temp on a "speed rack" with a cover since I rent kitchen space and don't want other things floating onto my stuff.

To carry and serve out of, I bought a Cambro "Camcarrier" (Code 1826MTC) which holds 6 full size sheet pans or 12 1/2 size pans. As I learned my lesson NOT to take more than I really need, I generally take 4 1/2 pans with 12 - 13 products. This leaves room at the top of the carrier for a 6th pan on which I can put a freezer pack wrapped in several layers of paper towel. The paper towel absorbs most of the condensation and since I'm using 1/2 pans, I push this pan to the back of the carrier so condensation doesn't fall directly on top of the tray directly below.

Now that the weather has turned cooler, I don't even bother with the freezer pack.

BTW... I did take some pics yesterday and will upload them ASAP.

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lebowits   

So here are the promised pics of my farmers market setup.

A view to a tent, me in my chair...

gallery_47724_6785_81807.jpg

An array of goodies...

gallery_47724_6785_39641.jpg

License, prices, boxes, and stock...

gallery_47724_6785_64242.jpg

Inside the stock container...

gallery_47724_6785_51637.jpg

Hand washing station...

gallery_47724_6785_15972.jpg

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Steve, thank you so much for sharing. Your set up looks beautiful and professional! I appreciate the 'behind the scenes' photos. As I said before, I have never done a farmer's market as I can't imagine how I would keep the chocolates from melting! Your Camcarrier is a fabulous idea!

I really like your tile display. Do you find your display chocolates melt in the summer months? I'm in the Interior of BC, Canada and we have a dessert climate here in the summer - very hot. I was thinking if I ever did a farmer's market I would make my sample pieces out of that horrible wax based fake chocolate - and maybe even add more wax! Then I would have to pray that those sample pieces don't accidently end up in a box. :shock:

Thanks again for posting your photos - it's so helpful for those of us who have yet to venture into the market scene.

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I love the pictures, Steve.

The tiles make the chocolates look great.

Your set up seems very organized and trouble free.

How long did it take you to design such an attractive,

yet uncomplicated "store". I know it would have taken me tons

of hit and miss before coming up with such good ideas.

Thank you so much for sharing

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Lior   

Wow to chocolot and wow to Lebowits!! Thank you sooo much. I hace never seen this cambro half tray thing. Is there a url for me ? I appreciate it a lot. I see how lovely and organized. I will certainly start selling in boxes and not displaying all as is common here.

I willpost an older picture and then a more recent one with my "tiles".

Thank you both ever so much. Such fun. The green and brown is an eye catcher and stunning.

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Both those booths look fabulous. So professional.

Give the popularity of TV chef's these days I wonder if Steve wearing a chef's jacket would bring more people over to talk and sell even more.

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Lior   

The wine festival- an oldy but note how we display our bonbons out in the open along with all those dust particles and who knows what else!! :blink: My son is far left, his friend is in the middle.

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Lior   

In the above photo I am near the little square plates where I give explanations on chocolate and tastes of the different kinds and percentages.

Last year I did a backyard artists' sale at our local vet's backyard. It was smaller and I used my new glass tiles that my friend, a fusion glass artist custom made for me.

No more open displays for me. Thanks for teaching me that!!Ganache Display.jpg

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