Don’t melt: DeBrand has a method for keeping its product cool during shipping.

Carly Huth, the store operations manager for DeBrand Chocolatier, oversees the mail order department. (Photo by Louisa Danielson for News-Sentinel.com)
Chocolate truffles, shown under the counter at DeBrand on Dupont Road, are one of many items you can order and have shipped to you, all at a safe-from-melting temperature. (Photo by Louisa Danielson for News-Sentinel.com)
You can take home an order from DeBrand in an insulated bag to help protect the integrity of the product. (Photo by Louisa Danielson for News-Sentinel.com)

How does DeBrand Fine Chocolates ship their product all over the nation – and world – without having it arrive as hot soup? Especially in the summer months, this is a challenge that must be met, and Carly Huth is ready to meet it.

Huth, who is the store operations manager for DeBrand, oversees the mail order department. She also helps out with customer service, and packs boxes during the holidays when DeBrand is extra busy.

“Chocolate is perishable,” she noted. “We suggest that (our product) should stay at 72 degrees, or room temperature.” Contrary to common belief, the chocolate should not be frozen or chilled; instead, keeping it at room temperature is ideal.

“We know that nobody wants a box of melted chocolate,” Huth explained. To thwart hot weather and direct sun rays, DeBrand offers walk-in customers an insulated bag for their treats. The bag, which can be purchased with any order, helps regulate the temperature of the candy and prevents it from being hit by direct sunlight if a customer leaves the chocolate in the car while shopping at a different store.

But for mail orders, packing is a bit more involved. Huth said that adding an ice brick is required for orders sent out during the summer months; and it is required year-round for orders being sent out to warmer climates, like Florida or Texas.

Regular cardboard boxes are the outside packing layer. Next comes a silvery insulation envelope, the chocolate, a reusable ice pack, and brown paper wadding. A layer of silver insulation folds down on the top, and then the cardboard flaps are taped into place.

Chocolate shipped in this way stays at or below room temperature for the 1-3 business days, which is how long a regular delivery takes. DeBrand tries to avoid shipping on weekends, although a special Saturday delivery (with an additional charge) can be arranged.

The heaviest order seasons for DeBrand chocolates come, not surprisingly, around Christmas and Valentine’s Day, when Huth said they will have carts loaded with boxes of candy, waiting to be packed. The summer months are the slower times, when fewer orders are shipped out; The company’s mail order assistant manager estimated that they only ship out 200-300 packages per month in the summer time.

Why not just freeze chocolate? Huth explained that chocolate placed in the refrigerator can develop a film or take on a chalky appearance. Thawing chocolate “can change the texture and color,” too. So leaving it out of the chiller is generally the best option.

Another thing to consider is that chocolate is highly absorbent. This is why it probably should not be stored in a place like a garage. (Think of car exhaust fumes, gasoline, or a sack of onions: these are not exactly tip-top candy flavors.)

For the best product experience, Huth reiterated that chocolate be kept at room temperature, and that its enjoy by date be checked. DeBrand uses fresh ingredients, so the candy should be consumed before it goes stale. She gave an example: cremes have a shorter shelf life than hard chocolates, so examining the enjoy-by date is always a good idea.

If you absolutely have to keep the chocolate for an extended period of time, DeBrand has a pamphlet which recommends the following: put a double layer of plastic wrap or aluminum foil around the box of chocolate, set it in a freezer bag, and put everything in the refrigerator or freezer. (The fridge will keep it good for 1 month; the freezer will preserve it 6 months.) The chocolate should be thawed (2 hours for chilled, 8 hours for frozen) before it is unwrapped.

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