Raw pet food manufacturer speeds up production thanks to state-of-the-art packaging solution
March 27, 2019
For avid pet owners, there is no joy greater than coming home after a long day and being greeted by their furry loyal companions.
Knowing that their pets have a relatively short life span, Erin, Ont.-based Bold Canine Pet Foods has made it their personal mission to help pet owners find ways to prolong their dogs lives through a raw product diet.
Founded in 2005, Bold Canine first began as a dog training company that quickly evolved into a raw food manufacturing company.
Their signature Bold Raw blend is a combination of raw food for both dogs and cats, made from natural ‘green’ tripe, ground meaty bones, organ meat, and kelp, modelled after the natural prey diet.
Bold Canine’s Mega Dog Raw blend was introduced in 2014 to provide an affordable raw food option for families with bigger dogs or multiple dog households.
It is made from triple-ground meat with bones, organs, kelp, and a mix of vegetables including carrots, broccoli, zucchini, and collard greens.
With produce sourced from local Ontario farmers, as well as from Quebec and the Maritimes, Bold Canine can be found in most channels where Canadians buy their pet food, including independent retailers, Global Pet Foods and PetValu.
While raw food does not cure illnesses, research has shown a number of different health benefits and improving the longevity of their lives.
For president and chief executive officer Caroline Bolduc, this serves as powerful reminder for why she and her staff dedicate themselves to Bold Canine.
“We get to hear stories where a dog wasn’t doing well, and the owners were thinking of putting their dog down but they put the dog on Bold Raw and the dog perks up and lives another year that they weren’t
expecting to have,” Bolduc says.
“It’s nice to hear a lot of the success stories with our products.
“That’s the fun part of being in this industry—being able to help a lot of pet parents have more time with their animals.”
Prior to founding Bold Canine, Bolduc worked at the Montreal Children’s Hospital in the biochemistry lab. After coming to the realization that she wanted to make a career change, the shift to working with animals seemed to be a natural fit for Bolduc, who has always had a passion for animals and their overall health.
“I always say that it was natural for me to move into the animal space,” Bolduc, who has four dogs of her own, says. “I just took a detour in the medical world for a little while first.”
After one of her older dogs was diagnosed with EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency) back in 2007, Bolduc and her husband made it their own personal mission to find a better solution to improve the quality of life for not just their dog, but other pets as well.
After conducting a lot of research and engaging in a number of different conversations with their local vet, she recommended the raw food diet for their dog, which inspired Bold Canine to take a different approach to their business.
“We’re not just making dog food—we are making food for people’s beloved animals, so it’s a serious thing to me and my employees are part of the quality control,” Bolduc told Canadian Packaging during a recent visit to the lively 30-employee facility operatingon one-shift seven-days-a-week schedule throughout most of the year, which also includes a clean-up crew to make sure that the facility is in top form.
“We want to evolve and continue to be the leaders in the raw food space.”
One of the most notable evolutions that Bold Canine has made in their 20,000-square-foot plant is their method for packaging the raw patties.
Acknowledging that customers prefer to buy the raw product in the patty format, Bolduc shares that her team used to manually pack the patties, which proved to be a tedious process that sent Bolduc on a quest for the best solution.
“When we were hand packing, our volumes were not at what they are today,” Bolduc explains.
“We started by hand packing and when that didn’t work out and became tedious, we looked at the next solution.”
For Bolduc, the next solution came in the form of the VARIOVAC Optimus from Reiser, a leading supplier of processing and packaging equipment solutions.
After seeing the machine being demonstrated at last year’s PACK EXPO, Bolduc took the Bold Raw product to the Reiser plant to do a test run, to ensure that the machine was the right fit for what Bold Canine needed.
After making a couple of adjustments to the machine because of a few trials and errors, Bolduc determined that the VARIOVAC Optimus was the missing piece to the puzzle. The state-of-the-art machine was installed in February 2018 and production for Bold Canine has been smooth sailing ever since.
“Our employees can change the machine so it goes a little faster or slower,” Bolduc extols. “It’s a very versatile machine and it’s been very successful for us—we’re very happy with it.”
Capable of vacuum or MAP (modified atmosphere packaging), skin, shrink packaging or hot filling, the VARIOVAC Optimus vacuum packs the patties with a packaging output of 13 cycles per minute. The machine also includes an IPC 7-inch touchscreen with error diagnosis and data back-up through a USB port or Ethernet.
Made from high quality stainless steel, the VARIOVAC Optimus has been praised for being a highly automated machine, while still being an easy machine for operators to manage.
The raw product arrives to the plant, where operators mix the meat, vegetables and tripe together.
The product then goes into a forming machine, followed by a nitrogen freeze tunnel, where the 8-ounce patties are frozen in five minutes.
The frozen patties then go through the VARIOVAC Optimus where they are vacuum-packaged. Vacuum packaging extends the product’s shelf life and it can be stored in the freezer without running the risk of freezer burn.
Due to the patties being frozen individually, the patties do not need to have a piece of paper in the middle.
Once sealed, the packages come off the assembly line and are then boxed and shipped for retail distribution.
This simple production process is a relief for Bolduc and her team.
“Manufacturing is a constant evolution and you always have to stay at the forefront of what your market wants and needs,” Bolduc says.
“We’ve had little to no down time with that machine, and we’re very happy with it.”
Something else that Bolduc has been happy with is the after care service that Reiser has provided.
Citing their professionalism and friendliness, Bolduc emphasized how important customer service is to her and appreciates the care that Reiser invests in Bold Canine.
“When you operate a manufacturing plant, you are always worried about machines going down and how we can get them back online quickly,” Bolduc relates.
“There’s not many issues with the Variovac, but if there’s an issue, we call Reiser and they are here that day and they fix whatever needs to get fixed and then the machine is back on the line again.”
Currently browsing for patty forming machines to purchase in the upcoming year, Bolduc says that she would gladly consider purchasing from Reiser again.
“I’d rather take my time and do it properly than to jump in full force and make some mistakes that will be costly at the end of the day,” Bolduc explains.
Asides from hoping to add a few more machines to the plant, Bold Canine is currently in the process of being only one of a handful of raw food companies to get HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) certified. This certification will demonstrate to customers that Bold Canine is dedicated to making high quality safe products for their pets.
In addition, Bolduc shares that she is looking to expand their current facility by about 10,000-square-feet in the next couple of years.
While the raw food market grows by about 50 per cent every year, Bolduc credits Bold Canine’s successes to a combination of not only offering high-grade products, but also from having loyal customers and enthusiastic employees.
“We’ve been growing at a fast rate for the past 6 years and it’s been quite a ride and I don’t see that slowing down any time soon,” Bolduc says with a smile.
“We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing now and we’re going to keep improving the plant bit by bit to make it more efficient and make it better for our employees.
Concludes Bolduc: “As CEO, I want people to be able to come to work and be happy to come to work and I want them to understand that we’re doing Bold Canine for a reason.”