August 1, 2005
Beverage-makers use new options for sophisticated packaging
When it comes to beverage labeling, keeping up with increased line speeds and maintaining graphic clarity are of utmost importance. But with those essential bases covered, beverage-makers have a range of options from which to choose, including traditional cut-and-stack labels, pressure-sensitive options or full-body wraps.
Following beverage trends in general, the number of labeling options seem to be picking up steam in the healthy drinks arena, says Beth Backstrom, sales manager at Precision Press Inc., Mankato, Minn. “We are hearing more and more requests from the manufacturers in the sports drink and health drink related categories,” she says. “Customers are seeking new ways to market in this competitive and growing niche.”
That marketing includes making an impact at the point of purchase, and Backstrom says many beverage-makers are turning to film for their graphic capabilities. “Many customers who have traditionally used paper cut-and-stack labels for their products are interested in using film substrates,” she says. “Even with artwork, they are asking for ways to help maximize impact and shelf appeal. Marketers are looking for the crisp, clear, high-quality printing that offset [printing] provides.”
With commercial print presses for all types of labels, Precision Press offers services for most beverage options, including patent-pending technology that supports consistent-sized film and paper cut-and-stack labels. As an alternative, it also has begun producing thinner films that “cross the 3-ml. thickness threshold,” Backstrom says.
“Additionally, we have developed embossing capabilities and realized opportunities to answer customer needs for more promotional pieces,” she continues. “We have the ability to provide manufacturers with variable data and coding options on labels to support their marketing needs for demographic research and feedback.”
Dave Niemuth, director of labeling technology at Krones USA, says he sees companies following the lead of the soft drink segment. “We are seeing customers upgrading to a more modern look with oriented polypropylene (OPP) label material,” he says.
But beverage companies still use a range of label options, and Krones developed the Modul Labeler to work with all of them. “Our main focus is our new style Modul labeler which is extremely flexible when labeling a variety of container shapes and sizes,” Niemuth says. “Basically you can label wet-glue, roll-fed, pressure-sensitive and cut-and-stack labels all on one labeler. A great concept for contract packers.”
The Modul Labeler can run at speeds of 50 to 1,000 containers per minute, and is designed to switch easily from one type of label to another. It also handles many container sizes, including round, rectangular, oval and square bottles.
An all around option
Shrink-sleeve labeling allows beverage-makers to wrap an entire bottle for all-over graphic effects, and PDC International, Norwalk, Conn., specializes in shrink-tunnel technology.
“We are seeing a surge in demand for shrink-sleeve labeling for the dramatic graphics that are available,” says Neal Konstantin, president at PDC. “You can maximize the billboard effect of the label and maximize the potential impact of any container.”
Dairy-based beverages are leading the way in shrink-sleeve labeling, he says. But beverage segments such as juice, ready-to-drink tea, coffee drinks and other alternative beverages also are adopting the technology. “It allows differentiation as well as high graphic impact,” Konstantin says, explaining the package’s appeal to the new age arena.
PDC’s R-500 Shrinklabeler is designed to keep up with high-speed production lines, and is able to apply sleeves at a rate of 500 to 600 per minute on a single inline head. The machine is designed for continuous movement of sleeving material during the cutting and application process, eliminating web indexing.
In addition, the company has introduced product development services that allow beverage-makers to prototype packaging, Konstantin says. The company is able to study and resolve issues such as material grades and shrink characteristics in the product development stage, prior to test marketing.
Hot-glue labeling also remains a popular choice for beverage packages due to its lower cost and high-speed capabilities, says Deborah Daca, inside sales manager at Multi-tech Systems International Inc., Burlington, Ontario.
In addition, she says Multi-tech has seen a large number of companies choosing to refurbish equipment, taking used equipment and making it new again. The company often will supply change parts and rebuild equipment for beverage manufacturers that are downsizing or moving equipment to other plants.
“It allows them to utilize surplus inventory,” she says. “They really end up with a whole new machine.”
Put on the pressure
Pressure-sensitive labeling has become popular in the beverage industry for the impact it has on consumers, and one of the most dramatic labels to hit the market recently has to be the glow-in-the-dark label developed by Spear Inc., Mason, Ohio, for SABMiller’s Miller Genuine Draft. The bottle was introduced in South Africa as a way to gain attention for MGD as a premium import in that market.
According to Dan Muenzer, vice president of marketing at Spear, the package incorporated a number of unique technologies. For one, it marked the first time a brewery had used a clear pressure-sensitive front label in South Africa. The label also incorporated a thick varnish, measuring about 40 microns, on the word “Miller” to create tactile appeal. In addition, the word “Miller” stands out in the dark environment of a bar or nightclub through the use of ink that glows under black light. And to top the whole thing off, the bottle incorporates a peel-off back label that was used as a promotional game piece.
Muenzer says that while all of the technologies have been used by other brands, this is the first time they were combined into one bottle. “They’ve been thrilled with the response so far,” he says.
Pressure-sensitive labeling is commonly used in the United States and abroad, but Muenzer says the labels are used more on high-volume packaging in the United States, and in more promotional ways elsewhere. Anheuser-Busch, for example, switched its glass bottle packaging for Bud Light, its largest brand, to pressure-sensitive labels. And in June, Heineken and Amstel Light began carrying new pressure-sensitive labels in the United States.
“In the United States it’s being used more for everyday packaging to create a premium image,” Muenzer says. “Packaging outside of the United States seems to be not as commoditized. If you go to Europe or to Asia, there are a lot more regional brands and a lot more specialty brands, and not as much standard packaging. Pressure-sensitive has really fit in there very nicely as a way to create niche opportunities.”
In addition to a sophisticated look, Muenzer says pressure-sensitive labels often can quickly recoup their investment costs by offering cleaner operation and increasing throughput by maintaining faster line speeds. “They can move a lot more cases out the door in the same amount of time,” he says. BI