Packaging: Labeling materials worth their weight
October 15, 2009
Lightweight, odd-shaped, plastic, metal, paper or glass, the variety of beverage packages is immeasurable. With the diversity of beverages in the marketplace, beverage labels work magic on any shape, weight or type of package, and can make or break the consumer’s decision to purchase a beverage.
Whether for financial or environmental reasons, the trend is continuing toward down-gauging labels. For example, a company can achieve a 12 percent reduction in net material weight by moving from 60 pound to 55 pound C1S paper, says Gwen Chapdelaine, marketing director for Fort Dearborn Co., Elk Grove Village, Ill. Similar results can be achieved by moving from 50-micron shrink film to 45-micron.
While the industry standard is 50-micron for shrink sleeve labels, Printpack Inc., Farmingdale, N.Y., also has moved some customer applications to 45-micron and 40-micron.
Challenges with using thinner labels can arise during the converting, application and distribution process, Chapdelaine says.
“The thinner-gauge materials need to be able to be manufactured and applied at equal efficiencies and hold up through consumer use,” she says.
The challenge is in the application of the label, and not as much with the label’s printing, adds Jyl Gryder, marketing manager for Sleeveco Inc., Dawsonville, Ga. “Success depends on the application equipment and tunnels being used when applying the label,” she says.
Certain equipment handles thinner-gauge labels better during application of shrink sleeve labels, says Paul Pritchett, sales and marketing manager at Printpack.
“Assuming that the customer has an appropriate applicator machine that can handle thinner labels, the only other challenge is in making the proper adjustments to the heat tunnels so the film shrinks evenly and looks good,” he says.
In addition to reducing the amount of labeling material, beverage companies continue to decrease the bottle’s weight too. Along with production and distribution considerations, bottle lightweighting adds some difficulties for labeling.
For shrink sleeves, whether the bottle is lightweighted or not, beverage-makers need to be aware of factors such as whether hot air or steam is being used and how the product is processed, Pritchett says.
“The most important consideration to keep in mind is the shrink force of the film in terms of it potentially being too strong for the bottle,” he says.
When lightweighting a bottle, companies should consider down-gauging the label as well, if possible, Chapdelaine says.
“We suggest engaging our technical services resources early on in the development process to provide the best solution to match the customer’s market requirements and sustainability goals,” she says.
Beverage companies continue to be interested in eco-friendly labeling materials as well. Reducing the amount of packaging by down-gauging films or paper weights is one way to lower the cost of materials and the impact the label has on the environment. Reducing the size of a bottle’s label is another alternative. And in general, labels also allow beverage companies to use less packaging. For example, secondary boxes can be removed because all the information can be contained on the label, Pritchett says.
In shrink film, companies have been moving away from PVC for PET-based containers because of the difficulty in removing PVC material from reclaimed PET. For more environmentally friendly options, Printpack offers Affinia series PETG film, EarthFirst PLA and EarthFirst R*PLA films. R*PLA is a new film made from plant-based material, using NatureWorks Ingeo polymer, and up to 60 percent post-industrial recycled material. The new shrink film launched in March as tamper-evident seals on ConAgra Foods’ table spreads and for printed shrink labels for multi-packs of the company’s Reddi-Wip whipped topping and Pam cooking spray.
In addition to choosing more eco-friendly materials for shrink film, companies are using shrink labels because they do not require adhesive, and the label can be completely removed when the bottle is being recycled, Sleeveco’s Gryder says.
Interest is growing for other green labeling options as well. For cut-and-stack label applications, Fort Dearborn offers a recycled wet-strength paper that is suitable for beverage bottles. The paper contains 10 percent post-consumer waste, the company says. It also offers soy-based inks that contain more than 20 percent soy oil. In addition, Fort Dearborn provides HiColour printing that eliminates the need for special PMS colors to allow for more effective combination sheet printing and reduces press make-readies and run quantities.
Fort Dearborn also supplies post-consumer recycled and tree-free facestocks as well as PLA film for pressure-sensitive and shrink-sleeve applications.
More with less
Because of the industry’s competition for consumer appeal, the pressures of the recession have not affected labeling as they have other parts of the industry.
“You’ve got to sell your product first,” says Don Earl, president of Overnight Labels Inc., Deerpark, N.Y. “If you are trying to sell a product, and it comes down to do we throw the extra color on there for a few pennies more to sell the product vs. if you take that extra color out and you don’t think the product is going to move as fast, economically it behooves them to spend the extra pennies.”
As competition for shelf space escalates, beverage companies continue to search for innovative ways to make their products stand out. Printpack offers shrink labeling with unique graphic elements, such as metallic and thermochromatic inks to attract attention. In addition, Printpack’s Neo Affinia film provides a tactile effect inherent in the film. “Its smooth surface provides an easy grip, and it has UV inhibitors for those bottlers that need this feature,” Pritchett says.
While Printpack hasn’t seen a slowdown in terms of companies deciding to use shrink sleeves due to the current economic conditions, it doesn’t feel companies are as eager to make capital investments in applicator equipment. “As a result, I think contract sleevers have likely seen an increase in the use of their services,” Pritchett says.
For companies interested in cutting costs, one way is to focus on other packaging that can be eliminated by the use of a shrink-sleeve label, he says.
“For example, a full sleeve combination label with a tamper-evident band including a horizontal perf offers an easy way to provide security and still offer the benefits of a shrink label,” Pritchett says. “If a product option like this can replace a couple of pressure-sensitive labels and a separate tamper-evident band, the use of a combination shrink label often pays for itself.”
Shrink material also gives the label a high gloss luster, which offers a high-end look to a product, Gryder says. The use of pearlescent, metallic and matte finishes can provide different levels of elegance to a bottle as well.
“With shrink labels having 100 percent coverage, you can cover a stock bottle and not lose shelf appeal and save money in the total packaging cost,” she says.
Synthetic materials for cut-and-stack labels â€” now available in clear, metalized and white â€” provide an upscale look, durability and moisture resistance. Clear film substrates also are available for pressure-sensitive labels for a more natural and upscale look, Chapdelaine says.
“The beverage company needs to consider both the total applied cost of the label as well as the marketing message and impact that the beverage company is trying to convey,” says Tim Nicholson, Fort Dearborn’s vice president of marketing and technical services. “The reality is that cut-and-stack labels will most likely be the least costly technology in terms of the price per thousand labels, but it may not be in terms of the total applied cost. The installed application equipment must always be considered when reviewing label options as there may be a capital cost component if the equipment cannot support multiple technologies. The vast majority of equipment does not.”
In addition to label materials solutions, a really good designer also can help a beverage company get an upscale look for less, Earl says.
“I’ve seen labels that are two colors and look a lot nicer and a lot sexier than something that’s done with four, five or six colors with foil because sometime what happens is that they will over design the label and you just don’t know where to look,” he says. “…You can actually save money on your budget if you can find the designer that’s willing to design in duel tones or maybe have black and another spot color to enhance the look they are trying to get.” BI