Special inks add a sensory experience to beverage containers
Ink add-ons provide unique sight, smell and touch experiences
In order to garner consumer attention, beverage-makers are capitalizing on the power of consumers’ five senses.
Earlier this year, The Coca-Cola Co. released a print advertisement in Dubai designed to entice consumers to sample and talk about its new-and-improved Fanta Orange soda. To do so, the ad encouraged readers to remove the page from its protective sleeve, tear off a piece, and eat it. The ads were made from edible rice paper and infused with the proprietary Fanta Orange formula.
Taking this idea to the retail aisles, brand owners also have the opportunity to allow “sampling” of their products at the shelf. Like a packet of dissolvable breath strips, beverage-makers can transfer the flavor of their products to dissolvable strips to give the shopper an idea of what the product will taste like, according to Tony Bean, manager of energy-curing ink, and Bob O’Boyle, product manager of SunChemical’s coatings portfolio, for SunChemical Corp., Parsippany, N.J. A packet of these strips can be placed on a beverage package at retail to encourage a purchase, they add.
Moving from taste to smell, beverage packages also can take advantage of inks and coatings to provide a multi-sensory experience for shoppers. For instance, SunChemical’s SunScent line can be applied as an ink or coating to a cherry-flavored vodka, so that when consumers scratch or rub the image of a cherry, the aroma is released, Bean explains.
Both taste and scent technologies are emerging in the beverage market, he says. However, thermochromic, glow-in-the-dark, textured, color-shifting and other specialty inks are gaining popularity as well, he adds.
Specializing in thermochromic inks, Chromatic Technologies Inc. (CTI), Colorado Springs, Colo., released a number of new technologies this year. Building on its thermochromic temperature ink technology, such as that used in MillerCoors’ Coors Light Cold Activated cans and bottles, the company learned how to provide cold-guarantees on can tabs, crowns and closures, says Patrick Edson, chief marketing officer for CTI. It also evolved from blue thermochromic inks and created yellow and red thermochromic colors, which now enable the printing of hundreds of cold-activated colors, he adds.
On the warmer side of the spectrum, CTI introduced photochromic inks that are activated by sunlight, Edson says. Plus, it offers reveal inks, which enable the packaging to display messages after consumption, such as promotional codes or “return-to-fridge” alerts to improve food safety, he explains.
It also developed a technology for cans to help enable transparency, because cans are limited by their opaque material and cannot showcase the liquid inside. By using CTI’s product demonstration innovation, the product inside can be mimicked on the outside. For example, a glass can be printed on the can to show it full of liquid, and as the consumer drinks it, the glass empties by detecting the remaining level of liquid in the can, Edson explains.
When it comes to glass bottles, however, the decorative inks from Hartness International, a division of Illinois Tool Works Inc. (ITW), are enabling the packaging format to become even more transparent by eliminating the label. The company uses a vertical ultraviolet (UV) ink solution that enables it to print directly onto the glass using any color on the Pantone spectrum as well as specialty effects, such as metallic, thermochromic and frost decorations. The inks are organic and do not include bisphenol A (BPA) or volatile organic compounds (VOCs), says Sean Hartness, vice president of the Greenville, S.C.-based company.
Inks also can help to differentiate a product on-premise. UV light ink, for instance, can add a fun, interactive element to beverage packages and allow them to stand out in bars or nightclubs, says Neill Mitchell, vice president of marketing and strategic development for Crown Beverage Packaging North America, a business unit of Crown Holdings, Philadelphia.
Although these specialty finishes work well at retail, on-premise and in consumers’ hands, the process to get them there isn’t always easy, SunChemical’s Bean notes. For instance, a sandy-textured specialty effect that promotes grip on a bottle could face some challenges on a high-speed filling line, and strong solvents on a production line could conflict with the chemistry of the inks and coatings on a can, he notes. Plus, stringent regulations, such as the aversion to BPA, which might be found in small traces in some inks, also should be taken into consideration, he adds.
“Matching some of these effects with what actually has to happen in the real world can be difficult,” he says. “… It’s a matter of balancing not just the performance needs that the consumer may need but also regulatory needs that are continuing to get more and more stringent.”
Back to basics
Beyond specialty effects, some brand owners are reverting to simple, nostalgic designs using labels or graphics from their past, says Janelle Harris, director of graphic services for Broomfield, Colo.-based Ball Corp.’s metal beverage packaging division in the Americas.
“Those simpler looks were iconic and clean and resonate with many consumers,” she says. “They say, ‘We’ve been around a long time, and we haven’t changed anything in our quality product.’ It’s a nostalgia play to an extent, but it is also a brand play and appeals to consumers who want traditional, simple excellence.”
Regardless of the complexity of the graphics, high-quality printing remains vital. Therefore, Crown developed its Pictoris high-quality print process to help brands achieve graphics that are crisp, clear and more realistic, Mitchell says.
“Pictoris employs proprietary separation techniques for improved dot spacing and superior reproduction of fine details in order to achieve the best visual representation possible while still offering quality and consistent printing across long print runs,” he says.
Likewise, Ball Corp. offers its proprietary six-color Eyeris high-resolution graphics technology as well as its new Dynamark Variable Printing Technology, which allows companies to produce a variety of different graphics on cans that then can go into a multi-pack without any sorting, Harris explains. Dynamark is an ideal technology for promotions, she adds.
“We’ll get to the point where we can print CMYK-level graphics on cans,” Harris says. “It will be about higher resolution and more vibrancy in colors.”
Color also plays a role when it comes to glass bottles. Brands like Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Light Platinum and Campari America’s Skyy Vodka have created shelf presence by showcasing blue glass. And soon, Hartness will introduce a new UV-curable ink applied via electrostatic technology developed by the Nordson Corp., Westlake, Ohio, that can coat a clear glass bottle in any color on the Pantone spectrum.
“The beauty is instead of having maybe only three colors of glass as they have predominantly now — which is amber, green and flint — the producer can actually color glass any color that their team wants … and the glass still recycles as native flint glass,” Hartness explains.
Plus, the coating technology eliminates the need to changeover a glass furnace to run a new color, which is expensive and time-consuming, he says.
Considering the amount of SKU proliferation in the beverage industry, manufacturers will have to perform smaller production runs to make the additional SKUs, Hartness says. Therefore, technologies that can add value and help products stand out on the shelf will continue to hit the market to meet demand, he projects.