The Herald, Sharon, PA Published Sunday, Feb. 11, 2001
outlook 2001


Daffins relies on tried and true for quality

By Theresa Harkless Woods
Herald Writer

Sometimes the old ways of doing things are better and so-called advances in technology should be ignored if it jeopardizes the quality of your product.

According to Gary Sigler, Daffinís Candiesí operations manager and nephew of owner Jean Daffin, the recipes used today for most of their products are still those "old family recipes." New advances in raw ingredients have, for the most part, been ignored in favor of the quality of the old recipe.

Sigler said that in the past 10 to 15 years, modern technology has affected the chocolate industry in three major areas: raw materials, chocolate processing equipment and packaging equipment. While Daffinís has grasped the improvements in both types of equipment, they have not made changes in most of their raw materials because Daffinís is more concerned with the quality of the product.

Sigler said that in raw materials, there have been three types of changes: fondant sugar, fat substitute and artificial sweeteners.

According to Sigler, of these, the only one that Daffinís uses is artificial sweetener, and this is used only in their sugar-free products. These are specifically created for those who enjoy chocolates, but need to restrict their sugar because of health reasons.

He said that some manufacturers now use fondant sugar, a pre-cooked sugar, in order to shorten the manufacturing time and eliminate the need for a skilled candy maker. According to Sigler, "Daffinís still cooks all our candies from scratch," because the quality is better.

Daffinís has also rejected the use of a fat substitute for the cocoa butter in chocolate. Sigler said, "Because chocolate has cocoa butter in it, it is very, very temperature sensitive. By taking the cocoa butter out and using a fat replacement, you donít have to go through the procedure of conditioning the chocolate the way you would if you were using a cocoa-based chocolate."

Although some manufacturers have gone to it, Sigler said, "We havenít because we stress quality."

Sigler said that new technology in chocolate-processing machines is just starting to develop. He said that European companies make most of the candy-making machinery, and the manufacturers of that equipment have been slow to change their processes. However, he said some of the European companies are now re-engineering their machines to use some of the new products.

Sigler said that because of the lack of progress in the development of this machinery, Daffinís designed and built some of their own equipment and also reconditioned older equipment. For example, they added digital temperature controllers for a more precise temperature, holding the temperature to within one tenth of one degree. He said that the older thermostats had a 3-degree differential that could either let the chocolate get too thick or get too hot so the cocoa butter runs out.

Sigler said some American companies are now on the forefront of engineering these machines, taking the old European ideas and adding new technology. In fact, he said, Daffinís is now ordering a new machine from American Design and Machine Company, Grand Rapids, Mich. The new machine uses Servo-drive motors and programmable logical controllers (PLC), a small computer that controls the machine settings automatically from a front panel.

The Servo-drive motors control the speed and distance that the product travels to start, stop and index (stage the product from one point to another point). Under the old methods, the changes had to be done manually with wrenches. Sigler said that the biggest area where he has seen advances is in packaging equipment, and in the last three years, they have made major purchases in this area.

He said, "Because there is a lot bigger market for that sort of equipment than for chocolate-processing, the technology has really developed." The same type of packaging can be used for different products, so new packaging equipment using Servo-drive motors and PLCís is readily available. Sigler said the new packaging has improved the integrity of the package, giving a more secure product for the consumer. In addition, it has allowed better use of the labor force, since their personnel no longer have to bag and seal each item.

This is important because of the difficulty securing additional employees willing to work for their seasonal business, especially with the current shortage of workers. Sigler said, while they have maintained the old (recipes and raw materials) in order to maintain quality, that modern technology has allowed Daffinís to improve their quality by controlling temperatures. Technology has improved production efficiency and provided better customer safety due to the improved integrity of their package.

The advancements in technology that Daffinís has invested in have also brought private-label, contract work from smaller candy companies that donít have the same resources or equipment. Sigler said that is an ever-growing part of their business. He said, "With new technology comes high prices. Smaller companies donít have the resources to purchase this equipment, so they come to someone like Daffinís."

Daffinís Chocolate Factory, 7 Spearman Avenue, Farrell, invites the public to attend Daffinís Annual Swizzle Stick Day and Open House on Sunday, April 1, from noon to 5:00 p.m. Factory tours, are available Monday through Friday by appointment. Call toll-free at: 1-877-DAFFINS or locally: 983-8336

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