Field Report

Fruits of labor

August 28, 2006

A visit to Robert Rothschild Farm, in Urbana, OH, USA, a quiet town located west of Columbus, is a visual treat. Flowers abound from spring to late fall and the weathered clapboard building that houses production, office space, gift shop, and restaurant looks as neat and tidy as when it was built. A tour with Robin Coffey, director of marketing, begins with the story of the founders, Robert and Sara Rothschild. In a twist on the wagon trains migrating West scenario, Bob and Sara journeyed to the heartland of Ohio from - ready? - Napa, California. Tired of civil engineering and the California lifestyle and yearning to get back to the land, the Rothschilds found acreage just east of Urbana, a small farming and college town of 10,000. Other than knowing that they wanted to grow raspberries, raise their children in a peaceful setting and live off the land, they had no real knowledge of farming Ohio-style.

After two years of crop failures due, they succeeded with a bumper crop of raspberries and strawberries. But there were too many to sell to passersby, so they had to do something with the excess. Another farmer's wife, a part-time worker at Rothschild's farm, suggested they use her kitchen to make real homemade raspberry jam from fruit, sugar and pectin. They made 400 cases of jam on her kitchen stove and ended up selling every one of them.

During a vacation in Europe, the Rothschilds came across some stunning glass containers which they felt would really showcase their new products. In 1984 they displayed their newly packaged wares at the New York Fancy Food Show. Since then they have won eight gold medals at the Napa Valley Mustard Competition, and a host of gold, silver and bronze medals at various competitions around the USA.

The phrase "Experience simple elegance" shines forth from their labels, which adorn Rothschild's 120-plus products sold in more than 5,000 stores across North America and the Caribbean, as well as on the company's web site, The more than 5,000,000 labels a year which adorn the Rothschild products are manufactured by Century Solutions of Bowling Green, OH, fewer than 100 miles away. Century produces digital labels and offers its customers small quantities of high quality, process color labels for product trials, shows, etc. Coffey says that "their ability to do digital printing is a real bonus when we want to do mockups for tradeshows, and their proximity lets us get together for brainstorming as well as making it easy to do press checks."

The labels have evolved in recent years. "From 2001 back, the label was a very dark green with hot stamped gold foil, but the product name didn't stand out. We transitioned in 2002 to a cream background with a small amount of green to retain the continuity," Coffey says. In 2004, "Century helped us achieve the transition to an even lighter background, with a more defined raspberry vignette/watermark, retaining some of the gold foil stamping as well as a return to the original dark green color, but with a much smaller band."

Mike Manahan, general manager at Century Solutions, says his company looks at Rothschild production runs to figure out EOQs (economic ordering quantities). They have also insituted a stocking program at the Bowling Green facility so they can stay on top of runs, minimize orders and rotate inventory. Century Solutions prints on flexo presses and on an HP Indigo ws4050 digital press.

"Rothschild's business is filling orders; lead times are critical," says Manahan. "They don't need to be spending time figuring out if they have enough or too many of a given label. By working closely with them we can do that for them." The printer does a strong buiness in prototypes of short runs. "In reality, we do prototypes daily for major national brands, usually for the vendor who is going to do the long runs," says Manahan. "We do sales samples, short run shrink sleeves, proofs, and 'show and tell' board room samples."

Century has set up a web site,, which gives customers, prospects and long run label companies the ability to do designs, get pricing for up to six colors plus an imprint, foil stamping, and so forth.

Rothschild's business is growing rapidly but internet sales account for only about 4 percent of the total. Retail operations (at the Farm Market and the company store in the Mall at Tuttle Crossing, Dublin, OH) account for another 10 percent. "The vast majority of our sales is wholesale to upscale grocers and specialty stores," Coffey says. Like most other specialty or gourmet food producers, Rothschild also does some private third party labeling and even manufactures some products to third party specifications.

Twenty new products were introduced in 2006 at the January and July Fancy Food Shows, and Coffey says that they are working on an organic line of products. There is a quality assurance lab adjacent to the production area and every batch is tested. Asked what the best seller was, Coffey doesn't hesitate: "Raspberry honey mustard pretzel dip, by far. Nothing else is even close!"

The 175-acre Robert Rothschild Farm is proving daily that the gourmet food business is a great business to be in. After working in the fields and nurturing the crops and monitoring production for years, Robert and Sara Rothschild retired from the business, and in 2001 Bob "passed the jar" of leadership to Mary O'Donnell, president and CEO of the company.

When labels are critical safety features

The Amerex Corporation, located in Trussville, AL, near Birmingham, is one of the United States' largest manufacturers of fire extinguishers and fire suppression systems. It provides safety products to industrial manufacturers, vehicle fleets, aircraft, boats and ships, restaurants, and hospitals. An affiliate of McWane Inc., Amerex has been providing innovative and quality fire-fighting products for more than 30 years. In addition to manufacturing handheld and portable extinguishers, it provides a range of sophisticated systems, including a US Coast Guard approved foam extinguisher for Class A (ordinary combustibles) and B (flammable liquid) fires.

The company makes a line of restaurant systems, with both manual and automatic actuation, as well as dry chemical industrial extinguishers which can be used on Class A, B and C (live electrical equipment) fires. As companies install more and more computerized equipment (think digital presses or inline imaging), protecting that high dollar investment becomes paramount. Selection of the right type of extinguisher can mean much faster cleanup and little or no damage to sensitive equipment in the event of a fire.

To get a handle on just what is involved with labeling fire extinguishers and systems, I got the opportunity to interview J. Craig Voelkert, VP sales, special hazards. I knew that Amerex worked on some pretty advanced suppression systems, including detectors for hydrogen fuel cells (GM is working to adapt these to automotive use) as well as systems for compressed natural gas, liquified natural gas, propane, hydrogen, and other hydrogen fuel vapors. But I was astounded when Voelkert told me how many different systems the company produces.

"We manufacture something on the order of 500 different units now, everything from low volume wheeled extinguishers to our extremely popular ABC Dry Chemical Extinguisher model, of which we run 12,000-14,000 per shift, two shifts a day," he says. At the low end, they might manufacture as few as a half dozen a year of a specific model. He adds that "Amerex does private labeling for many of our customers, but each of these extinguishers requires cross-listing with UL, so the label contains the Amerex name and the distributor name." Extinguishers are run on six different production lines in the Trussville plant.

Another requirement for the Amerex labels is that each bear a consecutive numbered bar code, which also contains the year and month of manufacture, as well as a matching serial number. Voelkert says that Amerex initiated bar coding on extinguishers, and today the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) requires it. In addition to the bar codes, Amerex has chosen to make its labels bilingual. "This product addresses public safety, so regardless of political thinking it is necessary to have the units be as user friendly as possible," Voelkert says. Pictograms are used on each extinguisher to make the use even easier. The size of the pictograms, the font size, information for maintenance, inspection, and recharge are all on the label and must meet UL specifications.

The UL labels are kept under lock and key until the production run begins. "UL is in our plant on a constant basis, checking on production and could stop the lines if they find something amiss," Voelkert notes. "And they could actually confiscate specific labels."

Voelkert mentions that 90 percent of Amerex sales are through distributors. When extinguishers are manufactured for export to other countries, Amerex complies with that country's labeling requirements - often requiring different colors, font sizes, pictogram sizes, and so forth. The labels have to be manufactured from a destructible stock and must have specific resistance to ultraviolet light, salt spray and radiation.

Because they are actually pressure vessels, rechargeable extinguishers are hydrostatically tested and service tested at three to five times the rated pressure, and this is true for the entire industry. Rechargeable units are hydrostatically tested at six year intervals. The NFPA code specifies that fire extinguishers be inspected monthly, and the inspector's name, maintenance company and date are entered on the tag. There is also an annual maintenance tag. On the back of the extinguisher can be one or more service labels which are used to log certain maintenance actions at specific intervals. There may also be an auxiliary label (for private branding).

As for Amerex's label vendors, he says, "The labels are so critical that we actually have a corporate policy requiring at least two vendors. We currently are using several different vendors with whom we have built relationships regarding our special needs. I mentioned that we might run only half a dozen of a specific model in a year, which causes forecasting nightmares for our label vendors, since we have the month and year of manufacture on the UL label. So you can imagine the jumping through hoops that has to be done if an order comes in close to the end of the month for something we don't run very often."

The company's dedication to quality includes special attention to employees' physical and mental well being. "We cross train our employees so that they spend only an hour-and-a-half to two hours at a given station, then they rotate to another station. This keeps them mentally fresh and alert, and goes a long way toward helping us achieve our goal of ensuring that 'Quality is behind the diamond'."

Larry Arway recently retired from Standard Register, where he worked for 35 years in a variety of positions, among them sales promotion manager, product manager, label marketing manager, and technical consultant. Over the years he was involved in the design and development of new products, and has worked closely with many of the major consumer and industrial products companies in North America. A resident of Dayton, OH, Arway can be reached by e-mail at