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Dr. Brown's Natural Flow baby bottle: Charles Miller

By Published on .

Sometimes inspiration takes the form of a screaming baby. Eight years ago, Dr. Craig Brown was struggling to comfort his colicky son, when he noticed how distressed the infant was by bottle air bubbles-a common source of colic. So Dr. Brown set out to create a better bottle.

The result is a funny-looking bottle with a clear, straw-shaped reservoir that runs down the middle. It eliminates air bubbles.

Made by Handi-Craft Co., the Dr. Brown's Natural Flow baby bottle is in its infancy yet sold about 500,000 bottles globally last year, with 40% of sales in the U.S.

The bottles are sold in Babies "R" Us, Baby Town and Bradlees, as well as on the marketer's Web site (handi-craft.com). And in July, potentially the biggest boon yet came when Handi-Craft started selling the bottles in Wal-Mart Stores.

Part of its selling momentum is that the "bottle really does work," says VP Charles Miller, 42, a 22-year Handi-Craft veteran who got his start supervising production. The company began development on the bottle in 1995, when Dr. Brown sent the idea to his dad, a now retired Handi-Craft plant manager. Mr. Miller says it didn't begin selling the bottle until 1999. He says the bottle now represents about 60% of the company's sales.

Working with St. Louis agency Kupper Parker Communications, Handi-Craft launched ads in magazines such as Primedia's American Baby, as well as direct marketing to retailers and buyers.

However, the bottle's biggest driver so far is word-of-mouth. Its Web site is chockablock with testimonials from grateful parents of colicky babies. "One lady said she'd mortgage her house to buy these bottles," Mr. Miller says.

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