I am trying to package a shelf stable hot fudge that contains cream, butter, cocoa, sugar and salt. Although it contains dairy, I know that it is possible (COOP'S MicroCreamery). Do you have any suggestions?
hot fudge sauce
We can a shelf-stable caramel sauce for sale at wholesale and retail - not exactly fudge sauce, but a ton of dairy, so it's similar. A few things that come to mind:
1. In general, the big things are water activity level (Aw), acidity / pH, and amount of sugar. More sugar, more acid (lower pH), lower Aw are all (generally) better for a canned product. To start, that may mean a thicker product.
2. If you want to talk to someone from the agricultural extension service, keep in mind that they are often focused on home canners, and therefore operate from a very cautious place. You might check to see if the state university that houses the ag extension has a lab or food science department - you want to talk to someone who is used to working with industry.
3. Private food scientists can help you develop a formula, when you're ready. It will likely be anywhere from $500 to a few thousand for consulting.
If you want to look at other shelf-stable but still smallish batch sauces, you might check out Jeni's - they have a fudge sauce in addition to their salty caramel. I believe they use a copacker to manufacture the sauces (not the ice creams).
If more detail is helpful, shoot me a PM. I'm happy to share what we've learned along the way.