Packaging: Labels designed to sell
February 16, 2009
In this tough real estate market, house staging has become key with homeowners’ efforts to make their houses stand out from the rest. Much like a homeowner tries to present the best looking option, shrink and stretch labels make it their jobs to bring consumers’ eyes to the beverage bottle, can or container.
With more competitors at retail, shrink labels in particular are helping beverages generate more consumer appeal.
“Shrink sleeves help beverages differentiate themselves on the shelf by combining shape and color for 360-degree eye-catching beverage packages,” says Gwen Chapdelaine, marketing director for Fort Dearborn Co., Elk Grove Village, Ill. “This combination creates product distinction and visual appeal not achievable with other label formats.”
“When you think about the advantages of shrink sleeve, you’re getting the 360-degree print coverage, and you’re getting a label that shrinks to the contours of the container,” adds Paul Pritchett, sales and marketing manager at Seal-It Inc., a division of Printpack Inc., Farmingdale, N.Y.
Labels can help beverages stand out at retail in many ways, but improved graphic design is one key factor. Labels benefit beverages by acting as a billboard. When you have a 360-degree billboard, the label really becomes all about the graphics, says Don Earl, president of Overnight Labels, Deer Park, N.Y. “People are just trying to enhance their graphics more and more by using what is available in terms of software,” he says.
More intense graphic design is a trend Martin Wilson, president of SleeveCo, Dawsonville, Ga., also sees on beverages. Photographic quality pictures are appearing in the design of the labels. “After you’ve produced the end label, the fruit looks good enough to even eat,” he says.
Certain steps need to be taken to get the quality graphics beverage marketers desire. In addition to starting with good quality photos, pre-press design planning is vital to creating a graphically superior label, particularly for complicated beverage containers, Wilson says. With the right design, even potential high-distortion areas can have perfect execution of images and text.
“You’ll have a design meeting to give the designer the guidance and counseling on how to really utilize the curves of the bottle and what to expect in certain distortion areas,” he says.
Improving cost effectiveness
In regard to new product development, the economy is having an effect on shrink and stretch labeling, with projects for new beverages being scaled back or put on hold.
“We are seeing some decline in shrink project ideas both because of the relative costs of labeling technology, but also because of the required capital investment,” Fort Dearborn’s Chapdelaine says.
Beverages-makers who are looking to reduce costs are not just looking at shrink and stretch labels, but at all labeling options.
“Outside of shrink, we are being asked by several customers to help them evaluate less costly alternatives for all label types, including with products already in cut-and-stack technology â€” the most cost-effective label technology,” Chapdelaine says. “These requests include moving from synthetic â€” film based â€” to paper, down-gauging and label technology conversions.”
Fort Dearborn helps customers investigate opportunities in substrate down-gauging to reduce net material weight, which lowers costs and makes the label more environmentally friendly, Chapdelaine says. For example, by moving from 50 microns to 45 microns, there is a weight reduction of 10 percent, she says.
Pritchett at Seal-It Inc. says it is possible to even reduce the film to a thickness of 40 microns, which creates savings in areas beyond the label itself. “You’re taking pounds of film out of the system, which equates to space saving in warehousing,” he says. “It equates to freight savings ... Greenhouse gas emissions are also reduced.”
Pritchett cautions that certain label applicator machines are better able to handle thinner labels than others.
Companies also are using shrink sleeves for the functional purpose of tamper-evident packaging and cutting costs by reducing other materials used. For example, one of SleeveCo’s customers redesigned their package to use a shrink label all the way to the top of the container and removed a more expensive tamper-evident foil wrap.
Printpack also is working on developing new tamper-evident labels. The company is using a new film innovation and a new process innovation to develop an easier opening tamper-evident band, Pritchett says. Printpack also is working on a lower shrink force film, which aims to work on thinner gauge plastic bottles.
“It also has light barrier UV protection, which is pretty important with dairy products,” Pritchett says. “That in itself could also allow, potentially, for people to get out of multi-layer barrier bottles if you could get the light barrier through the sleeve.”
The demand for a quick turnaround also is more prevalent in a slower economy, Overnight Labels’ Earl says. For example, companies generally keep some inventory so they do not run out. Recently companies have been letting inventory run down and placing rush orders to replace it.
“This time last year, a three-week turnaround was comfortable for most people,” Earl says. “Now they are like, ‘I need it tomorrow.’”
Companies also are looking for suppliers with the ability to do shorter runs, and have been willing to consider domestic suppliers because of shorter lead times, Earl says.
Additionally, companies are looking at lower-cost alternatives to rotogravure printing such as flexographic printing, Earl says. Water-based flexographic printing also offers the benefit of being more eco-friendly than rotogravure printing, which uses solvent-based ink, he says.
The tough economy has been gentler on stretch labels though. Because stretch labels are a lower-cost option, SleeveCo has seen an increase in new applications and inquiries for stretch sleeves during the past six months.
“Stretch labels’ place in the beverage industry has not been that significant, but we’re starting to see more applications there than we’ve seen in the past, and I think it’s based on economics,” Wilson says. “It’s also a recyclable alternative. It is a polyethylene-based material, so if you are using polyethylene containers, it works well in the recycling stream.”
The next step
Beverage companies now are looking for the next level of differentiation. Sensorial effects on labels are one way beverages are further standing out, Chapdelaine says. In addition, Fort Dearborn offers metallic, fluorescent, thermochromatic and pearlescent inks, and matte, acid etch, rub n’sniff scented and tactile feel coatings.
Ink is an area where SleeveCo’s customers are innovating as well. Color shifting inks, such as pearlescent inks that shift between two colors when the light hits the label from a different direction, are a reasonably priced option for customers looking to differentiate, Wilson says.
Holographic ink on shrink sleeves, similar to holographic ink on paper media, is another ink SleeveCo is testing. “Unfortunately, it’s very expensive, so it’s important on the design and front end to evaluate it with the marketing team and make sure they can get the marketing impact of that without negatively impairing the cost,” Wilson says.
Textured coatings that give a raised feeling similar to Braille also are available. “That’s achieved based on the engraving technology, which ultimately allows you to do that,” Wilson says.
Companies also are increasingly looking for eco-friendly labels to support sustainability and cost reduction as well as marketing efforts. Fort Dearborn offers PLA film that is made from a renewable resource, and its UV ink systems are 100 percent solids and virtually free of VOCs.
Developments in PETG also have occurred. High Yield PETG has high opacity and has the potential to be more recycling friendly than traditional PETG, and PETG (LV) has a more flexible transverse direction shrink curve and lower machine direction shrink, Chapdelaine says.
“Overall most new beverage opportunities are moving forward with PETG-based materials, followed by OPS and very few with PVC,” she says.
Printpack too has recorded companies switching from PVC to other substrates. PVC receives unfavorable reviews in Europe and Asia because of the way in which the material is disposed, Pritchett says. Typically PVC materials are incinerated in Europe and Asia, and PVC has shown to release harmful chemicals when incinerated.
“PVC is going to have a place in North America because disposal is not an issue here,” Pritchett says. “However, what we are seeing is a lot of global players out there are deciding to make a switch from PVC because they want to be able to operate with one format globally. We’re seeing most of the transition go into PETG or PLA or OPS as well.”
While companies are evaluating greener materials, SleeveCo’s Wilson has noticed that the lowest cost alternative, which currently is PVC, still wins out. SleeveCo offers PLA, PVC, OPS and other PET materials.
“That’s a trend that I’ve currently seen more of probably in the last three months to six months as the economy has kind of done what it has; the intent to be green is sometimes overridden by the cost of being green,” he says. BI