“Raw” Demand Spurs Need for New Packaging Line
Founded in 1979, Blue Ridge Beef manufactures raw pet food from its two facilities in North Carolina and Georgia. Products include raw beef (with and without organ meats), chicken with bone, duck with bone and turkey. Owners Steve and Dean pride themselves on food safety, sourcing only US products from local suppliers. “We can monitor the quality of the products much more closely knowing where it comes from. We won’t put our name on it unless we know exactly what it is,” said Steve. Blue Ridge Beef differentiates itself from other raw food manufacturers with a strict adherence to grain-free food. Steve explains, “Some companies mix in kibble and other fillers. Our pet food is 100% pure and specific for each individual’s needs, with no preservatives or additives. This makes the educated consumer happy.” Additionally, all products are manufactured as fresh as possible, flash frozen overnight at -20° immediately after packaging. Blue Ridge Beef currently ships its products along the East Coast. However, as consumer demand for safe, all-natural pet food reaches new levels, Steve and Dean see opportunity for growth. With the goal of growing market share to cover the entire United States, they recognized the need for a faster packaging line.
Flexibility is Key
Blue Ridge Beef currently offers 13 recipes in 2 or 5 lb. chubs. Catering to premium-quality minded breeders and pet owners, they also respond to requests for new formulas. Therefore, the new line had to excel at handling many recipes. Flexibility in handling a variety of coarse and fine products was another consideration.
A Solution That Works
When it came time to research equipment, Blue Ridge Beef contacted TIPPER TIE in North Carolina. “They are local, with a strong reputation and great service. We can’t afford to be down one day on production,” said Steve. Dean agreed: “Customer service is the biggest selling point for us. Anyone can put out a machine, but if it’s not backed with parts and service, the machine is no good. We love the support we get from TIPPER TIE.” Blue Ridge Beef invested in a TTFill60 portion filler and a TT1815 automated double clipper for both production facilities.
The TTFill60 is a vane style stuffer. Blue Ridge formerly had screw-type fillers. “At first, we weren’t sure how well portioning would work on a vane stuffer,” said Steve. “But we’ve had no issues; consistency has been very good.” More importantly, product quality has reached new levels according to Dean: “The appearance of our product is critical, so we use a clear plastic film. It’s important for customers to see the quality of the meat before they buy it. The TTFill has very clean cut portions, with no degradation of the product. We’re seeing much better particle definition, which results in an appealing package for the customer.” The company plans to add a new Complete Diet formula in 2014. The product quality from the TTFill will allow the new ingredient to be seen in the meat.
An additional benefit to the TTFill is a consolidated design with all electrical wiring enclosed. This water-tight design makes cleanup fast and easy.
The seamless interface between the filler and clipper, and the overall speed of the two machines, has been a pleasant surprise. “No matter how much we grow, I don’t think our continuous feed operation will outpace this duo. I have two people running it and they can hardly keep up,” said Steve. Indeed, production time has been cut in half at both locations, and overtime has been eliminated. The Georgia facility has gone from a maximum of 4,000 pounds/day to as much as 12,000 pounds/day. Dean commented, “There is a night and day difference going from a manual operation to fully automated. It’s been a tremendous change and we’re very excited.” And the faster the product is frozen, the better the shelf life – all good news for the customer.
Single Source Supplier
The owners of Blue Ridge Beef were also attracted to the idea of one supplier for two machines. “Now, we turn to one company for any issue, including consumables. It’s a wonderful thing!” said Steve. Dean adds: “Single source supply is the best way to update equipment. It’s the reason we waited for the filler from TIPPER TIE instead of going with another supplier. We can call one technician for both machines, with no blame passing between two suppliers.” Both Steve and Dean would recommend the TT line to their peers, both for the high performance of the machines as well as dependable support from one trusted business partner.