I have a product that is enrobed. I use good quality chocolate. I only know my experience with the product that it is fine at room temp in the 60's, low 70's but I start to worry after that. Not a big deal at home but what about in a retail environment. I don't need to refrigerate due to any ingredients but I find myself preferring it. This may be an issue when it comes both to perception on the part of the retailer and availability to their customers if I present my product as being in need of babying. Are there hard and fast rules, guidelines, what do you do when considering humidity in a retail environment. I've seen competitors use lower quality chocolate and assume that is their approach from both a cost perspective and shelf life perspective but I don't want to give up quality.
Quality Chocolate and Shelf Life plus need for refrigeration at retail level
You bring up some interesting points with shelf life. What I currently do for retail sales is to make an extra box that will be for display only. The owner of the shop puts it out with a sign about the chocolates (the fillings, the ingredients, etc.), and the sign directs potential customers to inquire at the counter to purchase a box. There is a cooler at the counter, and the chocolates are kept there. Your comment on the availability to the customer is very true--this method of storing the chocolates discourages any impulse sales. Worse for sales, I seal each box in its own clear plastic bag and include a note that the chocolates should be allowed to come to room temp before opening the bag; bitter experience tells me condensation will certainly form otherwise, but I have had no issues with humidity with my method. I know that experts recommend against refrigerating chocolates, but an owner of a shop will be determined to keep them as long as needed to sell them, and I am concerned about shelf life enough to insist on refrigerating. All it takes is one spoiled ganache to ruin a reputation, and maybe even somebody's health. People are used to drugstore boxes of chocolates that will last practically forever and don't tend to think of bonbons as "spoilable." I have found my system to work well in two different shops (one a florist, the other a lunch spot), and if the staff calls attention to the existence of the chocolates, they do sell. I think one key is having the box on display so customers can see what they are getting.
I have a product that is enrobed. I use good quality chocolate.
The issue is less about the chocolate and mostly about what you're enrobing, and specifically what is called water activity, or aW. The higher the water activity, the shorter the shelf life. This is because water is where the organisms that cause mold to grow and dairy to go off exist.
Refrigeration is the single best approach to extending shelf life but as Jim points out it can be an impediment to impulse purchases if the product has to reach room temp before opening and eating for best eating experience and so that condensation does not form.
If refrigeration is not really an option then your next best bet is to use techniques and ingredients that reduce aW. If you don't know what your water activity there are devices to measure it - one common one is called the Pawkit. If I recall correctly, there is a lot of information on controlling aW in Peter Greweling's book.
clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/