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Arcadia takes major step in production (sidebar)

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Every now and again a production operation like Arcadia Farms takes a more active role in contract packaging. Arcadia does that and more for Dr. George Hill Pet Drinks introduced to supermarkets last year.

Not only does Arcadia fill the pet drinks for dogs and cats but president Nat Arthur influenced the design of the package. Arthur became a believer in the product developed by veterinarian Dr. George Hill because it contains vitamins and minerals that pets need. Other pet drinks are just flavored water. What's more he says Dr. Hill's formula has the taste and aroma that pets like.

As good as the product is the first attempt at packaging wasn't successful. Using a square milk bottle Arcadia designed a handled quart. After checking out pet food aisles in stores bottle colors (burgundy for dogs yellow for cats) were selected that were well-established. When these bottles were displayed in the pet food section though they blended in so well that you couldn't find them Arthur recalls. A snap-on cap was molded to complement the bottle colors.

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The first test market was a virtual disaster reports Arthur. Along with the product getting "lost" in a sea of similar colors the low-density polyethylene bottle colorant created finish variations in the high-density polyethylene bottles. That helped create leakers. But Arcadia also discovered that the proteins and other nutrients added to the product would support mold when the caps didn't seal the bottles well.

First the brand switched to bottles that would accept screw caps with inner liners that were induction sealed. Arcadia had already used the sealer for gallons of fruit drinks. That took care of the mold problem as well as the leakers. "We also had the labels redesigned to give the products an upscale boutique look" says Arthur. The first design had three dogs that looked like Moe Curly and Larry he says.

The bottle colors were changed to blue for dogs and green for cats. They're supplied by Plastic Containers (Demopolis AL). In addition Arcadia had the box redesigned to use the same blue and green colors. The design allows the plant to ink-jet print whether the product is for dogs or cats and whether the dog drink is packed in quarts or half-gallons. The cat drink only comes in quarts.

Today the new package helps the product achieve a six-month shelf life. It's probably longer than that but that's how Arcadia dates the package Arthur says. The products are pasteurized prior to filling.

"We're confident this will be a winner. The new packaging has been well-received by buyers and by the brokers that handle it" he says. The line is now being carried by supermarkets in the Southeast and in Mid-Atlantic states.

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