Archive for April, 2008

BonBonBars on the LATimes Green Living Blog

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

Check it out — Katie Ricketts, the community/market organizer for the Southland Farmers’ Market Association, has written a wonderful post about her experience with me and my BonBonBars on the “Emerald City” Green Living Blog of the LATimes. You can also follow the SFMA link above to read about their “Celebrate the Market” Gala Dinner and Auction on May 18. In addition to many other fantastic things, they’ll be auctioning off a basket of my candy bars and marshmallows.

And yes, I do respond to “marshmallow lady!” 🙂

And thanks so much to everyone for the caramel feedback! I’m going to respond to the new comments and post the results of my recipe trials before the weekend.

BonBonBar in Complex Magazine

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Complex Magazine (“The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide for Men”) is the first magazine to feature one of my products. My Passion Fruit Marshmallows are in their April “Green Issue,” which features “420 Products That Make a Difference.” They’re pictured on page 46, among the tongue-in-cheek “Apocalyptic Survival Tools.” In the case of forest fires engulfing the entire west coast of the US, the editors recommend toasting up some of “BonBonBar’s Passion Fruit Marshmallows as Mother Nature finally brings closure to the East vs. West rap beef.”

So, it’s a goofy mention, but in the unpretentious spirit of BonBonBar. And part of me is amused to have “marshmallows” mentioned in the same breath as the word “beef.” Hopefully next: “bacon.”

Developing the Summer Collection: Caramels

Friday, April 18th, 2008

It’s coming very close to the brink of scary melty chocolate season hot weather, and I’ve decided to partially fight it and partially give in to it. Fighting it means insisting on overnight shipping with gel packs and insulated boxes until mid-to-late October for all candy bar orders; only SoCal orders could still go Ground and Priority Mail.

Giving in to it means playing with a new line for BonBonBar — caramels. Like my marshmallows, they’re not ruined by heat, and last for a long time, to boot. Ironically, though, it’ll mean spending my summer standing over sweltering pots of boiling sugar (followed by lots of wrapping and twisting).

Like candy bars, I think that caramels are an under-developed area of confectionery that could be enjoyed a lot more. There are Kraft cubes, of course, as well some artisans making better ones with cream, butter, and salt and some flavors — coffee, chocolate, and some fruits (esp from Europe).

But there’s so much more than can be done! Real caramelized sugar has a complex flavor that goes with so many others flavors…. and since the majority of my bars have caramel components, they can be converted to caramels, for something like bare candy bars.

I’ve begun developing a few so far, and I think I’m going to aim for 5 flavors. And as always, I’m putting together packaging. They’ll either be candy-bar sized or bite-sized, in some form of cellophane.

My ideas so far are:

Malted Chocolate Caramels – in honor of the Malt Bar. The original malt bar actually had caramel in it, so it’s nice to bring it back.

Salted Caramel Nut Chocolate Caramels – this is like a stable version of a melted Caramel Nut Bar, with Almonds, Walnuts, Pecans, Cacao Nibs, and Maldon Salt.

Single Malt Scotch Caramels – I’ve made this with Balvanie, and it’s crazy delicious. I’m actually torn on whether or not to add salt. Unlike my Scotch Bar, I don’t think this one will involve chocolate.

Cinnamon Almond Caramels – Also. Crazy. Delicious.

Chocolate and Vanilla Caramels – A layer of chocolate and a layer of vanilla, inspired by a scoop of each in an ice cream cone. The layers could be parallel or swirled.

Rum Caramels – Maybe with Mount Gay Spiced Rum. Maybe with brown sugar, too, if it needs it.

Honey Walnut Caramels – I’m addicted to Bill’s Bees honey from the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, and would love to feature one of their honeys in these (I already use their Orange Blossom for my Orange Bar)

Orange Caramels – Maybe with a layer of pecan nougat, too, like in my Orange Bar.

Pistachio-Cardamom Caramels – Possibly with apricot.

Salted Honey Peanut – If I can deal with my peanut issues (my understanding is that conventional peanuts are heavily sprayed with pesticides b/c they’re very susceptible to mold damage, which makes me a little scared of organic peanuts, too)

Coffee-Hazelnut

Any other ideas? If I develop your idea, I’ll send you a free package!

Weekly BonBonBar Photo: The In-Store Demo

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

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As I walked towards the Market Gourmet in Venice on Friday to hand out samples of my BonBonBar products for the first time in a store, I worried about my karma. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d bought a new product after being given a sample by a company’s rep in a store. Granted, I haven’t come across those types of samples much recently in stores and I buy very little prepared foods, but still… If I used myself as a barometer, the forecast was bleak… I inwardly copped to buying mostly out of habit, taking samples and running, and/or averting my eyes… and was willing to forgive anyone who did the same.

When I got into the store, I saw that only a few candy bars out of the 36 that I’d delivered on Monday had sold, and the marshmallows were still well-stocked, too. I’ve learned that introducing a new product with a relatively short shelf, small size, and high price in a store is tricky — how can you make it stand out from ALL the other products? how can you make it sell? how can people know that it’s good and worth it when they’ve never heard of it before? Customers whose eyes skim along the shelves — often in search of something that they know they want — don’t know about my products or me or my blog or website. Talking and tasting is really key in introducing new products.

Now when I go shopping in stores, I consider the hope behind each and every product sitting on the shelves… Behind each of them is a team of people — large or small — that hopes that all of the hard work of design, production, salesmanship, shipping, and so much more will have been worth it and you will want to pick it up, carry it to the register, take out your wallet, and give money in order to own their product.

I also wonder if the products are part of an order that came in months ago or that week — not out of spoilage concerns, but as a measure of how well it sells.

So, I set up a couple cutting boards with my candy bars and marshmallows on a table near the store’s chocolate display, and across from the side of the register. There were samples of the store’s guacamole, pico de gallo, and chips on the table next to mine. The first few customers had eyes only for the chips and dip, which admittedly, were excellent, but this unexpected competition was a little awkward. Sure, my confections could be the “dessert samples” of the table, but most people took a sample and walked away, or if they lingered, I had to time my own “Would you like to sample some candy bars and marshmallows?” in a perky yet unassuming tone just as they seemed to finish chewing.

But then things looked up. Customers came along who wanted my samples. I found that asking “Would you like to try some candy bars and marshmallows?” got a generally positive response, but adding “I make them myself” got an overwhelmingly positive response. People lit up immediately.

And from what I could tell, people generally loved them. And that’s when it’s really fun. That’s when you’re in it together with people — not as seller and customers — but as fellow appreciators, casually conversing. I’ve been very lucky with my products — people often get very excited about them and want to savor them and tell others about them. It reminds me of when I started this blog to tell others about culinary school and the good food that I was sampling, and it completely amazes me that now people are talking and thinking about my own candy bars and marshmallows in the same way.

One office nearby was especially abuzz about the lady giving out samples at the store — you can read Angie’s post about her take on the bars and marshmallows here (written the very same day! and be sure to check out her hair clips and artwork, too). Also, two different people left the store and returned with others to have them try samples.

When I left, my shelf space was proudly barer. And incidentally, when I delivered more bars two days ago, a customer called to have 8 of them put aside for her to pick up this week.

Of course, I’m happy that they sold, but I’m really happy about giving people food that I consider to be good and seeing them enjoy it. I just loved being in the store — I didn’t want the demo to end and I’m looking forward to going back.

And I really didn’t mind if someone sampled them and didn’t buy it, or didn’t want to try a sample, or didn’t like them (I was happy to give as many diff’t samples as people wanted, b/c it’s rare to love a company’s whole product line). It’s awkward for a second, but I know that everyone has their own palate… and they’re new products…. and they’re expensive (honestly, I was afraid that people who sampled and immediately took one, all happy and excited, would return it once they looked at the price on the bottom, but no one did). Maybe they’ll come back and buy another time, or tell someone about it, or fondly remember one nice bite… or not at all. I know what it’s like to sample food in stores, munching and walking away, sometimes remembering and sometimes forgetting about the product.

I did some eye-averting of my own, though. It didn’t seem right to stare and smile at people as they ate the samples. It’s awkward, and I think it affects how they taste. I want them to taste it fully before reacting, and I don’t want to rush that. I’m actually a little wary of people who immediately start praising them once it hits their tongue — how could they process all the flavors so quickly? Maybe the marshmallows can hold up to that — their flavors are quite up front — but chocolates work more on a time-release of taste principle, I think.

And my sales-speak usually focuses on the origin of the ingredients and a bit about technique. I need to focus more on what interests each individual person. I don’t want to chatter away, but I do want to talk about what matters to them.

And the most dangerous part of doing a demo? Having hours to discover new products myself in the store that looked so good. I got a buttermilk blue cheese from Wisconsin that was amazing on whole wheat bread.

Where to Buy BonBonBars Now

Monday, April 7th, 2008

More BonBonBars are available in more stores than ever this week…

Market Gourmet in Venice is carrying my entire line available for retail — Caramel Nut Bars, Orange Bars, Scotch Bars, Vanilla Marshmallows, and Passion Fruit Marshmallows. I will also be in the store to do a demo this Friday, April 11, giving out samples during lunchtime, starting around 11:30am.

Joan’s on Third (between the Beverly Center and The Grove) now has my Caramel Nut Bars, Orange Bars, Vanilla Marshmallows, and Passion Fruit Marshmallows.

Chefmakers in the Pacific Palisades will be restocked with my Caramel Nut Bars, Vanilla Marshmallows, and Passion Fruit Marshmallows on Wednesday. I’ll be working there this Friday afternoon and evening, too.

And in San Francisco, The Candy Store will have my Orange Bars this week in addition to the Caramel Nut Bars and Vanilla Marshmallows that they already carry.

I’m honored to have my confections in each of these stores — surrounded by other interesting, quality products that have been assembled by the friendly and enthusiastic people who make the stores happen.

And for those outside of LA and SF, you can always get my candy bars and marshmallows through the BonBonBar website. Please note that the Malt Bar is only available through my website… and also that hot weather is on the way, which means that soon I will only ship candy bars Ground and Priority Mail to Southern California. All other destinations will have to go Next Day. All packages will have to be insulated and with gel packs, which I’m trying to make as eco-friendly as possible, but it’s tough. I may develop a line of caramels that can ship more slowly during the summer… but while tasty, they won’t exactly be handmade candy bars.

Enjoy!