Summer is a wonderful season for many, as we turn our faces to the sun and the warmth soaks into our bones, creating a lift in everyone’s spirits. In 2022, we experienced the hottest days recorded for the UK, and if this is a continuing trend, the question on everyone’s lips is what do I do with my chocolate stocks during the summer.
Summer, is not particularly kind to those of us who are chocoholics, as those perfectly tempered chocolate bars with their sharp snap, rapidly descends into a molten gooey mess of soft oozing chocolate. As a retailer, you need to protect your chocolate stocks and with the soaring energy costs, the luxury of air-conditioning may be a bridge too far. So, what actually happens to chocolate and what can you do about it.
Chocolate doesn’t respond well to changes in temperature, and if you consider the cocoa butter, and sugars in a bar of chocolate, it makes sense. Imagine you’ve popped a piece of chocolate in your mouth, and you let it sit on your tongue (tough to do I know) As the chocolate melts, it changes from a solid to a semi liquid phase, dissolving the sugars as it mixes with your saliva. As the melting sugar, cocoa and milk solids coat your tongue, the chocolate releases its aroma, so you experience the full flavour of your chocolate….hmmm. So, when you consider that, it makes sense that changes in temperatures affect the quality of the chocolate you and your customers want to enjoy.
The damp and cold temperatures (found inside a fridge) or very cold, humid conditions can result in a sugar bloom once the chocolate is placed in a warmer atmosphere – this is when the sugars in the chocolate are attracted to the moisture (condensation)on the surface of the bar so rises to the surface and then dissolves. When the moisture evaporates you are left with the dusty appearance of the sugar crystals. Whilst it’s safe to eat, it’s unsightly and does affect your taste experience.
In hot weather, the opposite of this, but with very much the same results is fat bloom. It’s similar in nature to sugar bloom but is when the cocoa butter warms up and begins to melt, separating from the cocoa solids. As it begins to set again (solidify) it works its way to the surface of the chocolate, leaving unsightly greyish streaks, or white blotches. So consistent cool temperatures are necessary to prevent this happening.
Prolonged periods of exposure to light can also affect your chocolate – consider a chocolate bar in a clear cellophane wrap, exposed to the light. Much like sugar bloom, there is another scientific reaction which can take place when chocolate is exposed to sunlight or fluorescent light called photooxidation which can cause an unpleasant flavour to develop – the same as can occur in butter, milk cheeses and other foods. The colour of the chocolate also changes under these circumstances, as in the image below: the whiter lolly on the left has photoxidation, and is much paler then the rich buttery colour of the lolly on the right.
As we imagine warmer days, you need to give consideration to how you are going to look after your chocolate and here are a few tips;
- Order little and often for the peak months of summer so you aren’t storing large amounts. Your suppliers should support you in this.
- Store your chocolates in the coolest area of your store, or storeroom, only keeping one of each out on display to minimise damage.
- Avoid displaying near a window, even in winter, as the sunlight can affect the quality and taste of your chocolates.
- Don’t put your chocolate in the fridge as this also compromises the taste and quality for your customer.
- Check your temperatures, chocolate likes to be stored around 15-18 degrees, with low humidity or moisture in the environment.
- After a particular spell of hot weather, check your stock to see if there’s any bloom, and remove it from sale, as you don’t want to let your customer experience a poor tasting chocolate. You may want to consider using it in baking, or to create iced or hot chocolates, as it is unsightly, but will be fine to use up in baking etc.