Profitable Project

B&H helps Shamrock Farms enhance its school lunch program.
Shamrock Farms, the largest dairy in the southwestern United States, is shaking up the National School Lunch Program.
 While the price-sensitive program has traditionally relied on inexpensive gable-top cartons for school lunch milk, the dairy had a different vision when it introduced a new 8-ounce plastic bottle in February 2005.
Because price was still an issue with the new premium package, Phoenix-based Shamrock Farms turned to Ceres, Calif.-based B&H Labeling Systems to supply an economical in-line roll-fed labeler for the project.
“When a school converts from gable-top cartons to plastic bottles, they have a better offering and the volume of the entire school lunch program increases,” explains Wendy Patterson, director of product development for Shamrock Farms. “Studies conducted by the milk industry show that when you improve the milk offering, either with a better container or with new flavors, you’ll increase the volume of tray lunches sold and the units of milk by up to 24 percent. That increase more than offsets the added cost of the package.”
The new 8-ounce HDPE milk bottle is decorated with an eight-color OPP label using the affordable and reliable BH1600 from B&H Labeling Systems. “Compared to sleeve labeling or rotary labeling, in-line roll-fed labeling is the most economical,” says Jeff Patterson, vice president of operations for Shamrock Farms. “In choosing a supplier, we considered the capital cost of the equipment as well as the quality of the equipment and the ability of the supplier to provide technical support. We also considered the flexibility of the system to handle a wide range of container sizes. When we measured all those factors, we felt confident that B&H offered the best option.”
Handling Shamrock Farms’ current production needs and giving them the flexibility to grow in the future, the BH1600 labeler handles containers ranging in size from 8 ounces to 2 liters at speeds of up to 350 bottles per minute. With B&H’s RCO® (Rapid Changeover) capability and color-coded change parts, the BH1600 can be changed over in less than 15 minutes by one operator. The computerized operating system can be pre-programmed for a variety of products, which reduces the skill level needed to handle changeovers and ensures the labeler operates at optimal performance to produce the most attractive packages.
Like most consumers, schoolchildren have grown accustomed to seeing attractive packages on market shelves. They expect packages to be easy to open and products to taste good. That said, their preferences affect the choices they make within the school environment. Moving from gable-top cartons to plastic bottles within the school lunch program seems to offer a win-win situation for kids, schools and dairies whenever the change is made.
“Due to pricing pressures, the paperboard used for gable-top cartons has gotten thinner and thinner, which makes the package very hard to open. And it’s like licking cardboard,” Wendy Patterson says. “An industry study found that kids’ preference for milk actually goes down with each year they attend school. We believe gable-top cartons contribute to this decline and we think the schools are ready to consider the bigger picture.”
Studies show that serving kids milk in plastic bottles increases milk consumption, resulting in a more healthy diet. Also, creating excitement in milk contributes to increases in volume of tray lunches sold, therefore bringing in more money for the schools. “And the dairy benefits too,” Patterson says. “By giving school kids milk in gable-top cartons, we are, in effect, driving milk-drinking customers away, potentially for life. If kids are learning every year that they don’t like milk, they won’t drink milk as adults or grow up to encourage their kids to drink it. Improving kids’ experiences with milk in the school lunch program is an important long-term investment to create a positive experience with milk in general and the Shamrock Farms brand in particular.”
Understanding that these dynamics could influence schools to favor plastic bottles, Shamrock Farms invested in a new packaging line. The dairy considered different types of labelers and a variety of suppliers to find the most affordable way to produce an attractive package. Shamrock Farms worked with Statco Engineering & Fabricators Inc., a distributor of B&H Labeling Systems, and selected the BH1600 labeler. Six weeks from the date the dairy placed the order, the new labeler was installed and running.  
“We’re very satisfied with the B&H labeler,” Jeff Patterson says. “We are happy with the performance in terms of labeling accuracy, equipment efficiency and how fast our operators were able to catch on. The equipment does what we ask it to do without being overly complicated.  It’s easy to clean and it’s easy to maintain.” — B&H Labeling Systems, P.O. Box 247, 3461 Roeding Road, Ceres, Calif., 95307, phone: (209) 537-5785, fax: (209) 537-6854, e-mail:, Web site:
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