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?
COOPs from the website looks as if it is canned like condensed milk. Their trademark drippy can look like they were inspired by makers mark. Check with your agricultural extension service and your local health department.
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.