As consumers seek out more premium, functional beverages, beverage-makers are keeping in lockstep by evolving their packaging style and using a plethora of labeling materials that define the design and decorating process of a brand to help products stand out on store shelves.

One of the stronger emerging trends takes design beyond the visual and into the tactile space. For instance, many wine brands are using embossing on their labels and stretching creativity by using thicker facestocks and specialty materials such as wood veneer, leather-feel, varnished and metal foil, says Anh Marella, marketing director of films and digital product lines at Mentor, Ohio-based Avery Dennison.

“From a consumer perspective, the healthy lifestyle trend has evolved to the beverage category with the growth of cold-press juices, teas and other functional drinks,” Marella says. “This has driven the need for label materials that can withstand high-pressure processing (HPP), an enabler to extend shelf life and product freshness.

“In some categories like bottled teas and cold-press juices, we have seen the use of matte finishes and soft touch films to create a more upscale look and feel for premium lines,” she continues. “In other cases, brands have moved from traditional cut and stack/glue applied to pressure sensitive labels because of the much wider range of material options and higher end graphics that can be achieved, including clear films for the ‘no label look.’”

Louis Iovoli, senior vice president for Hammer Packaging, Henrietta, N.Y., notes that brands constantly are looking at new packaging which can move them from a paper cut-and-stack label to film. “Cans have begun to use shrink sleeves. Pressure sensitive labels are used where a wrap-around label was, etc.,” he says. “Premium brands want a premium look. Hammer Packaging is running cold foil stamping, hot stamping and screen printing to meet the design goals put from by the brand team. We have even started foil stamping shrink sleeves.”

Also influencing the labeling materials market is the quest for sustainability. In fact, the long-term goal of most consumer packaged goods companies is to make all packaging environmentally friendly by 2025, Iovoli says. “This challenges all the raw material inputs from inks and coatings to base materials,” he adds.


Lessening the carbon footprint

Sustainability trends have translated into thinner materials, or downgauging, as bottles are being lightweighted to save costs and reduce environmental impact. Labeling materials also are helping to support recycling efforts, says Gwen Chapdelaine, marketing director at Fort Dearborn Co., Elk Grove, Ill.

“For example, we now offer recyclable pressure sensitive labels as well as recyclable, floatable and removable shrink sleeve labels making them a win for brand owners and the environment,” she says.

“Materials costs, shipping costs and the cost of changing rolls of labels all go down so everyone is looking closely at thinner films,” explains Justin Slarks, director of marketing at Sleeve Seal, Little Rock, Ark. “Optical clarity and recyclability are hot topics. … The point of purchase is a battleground for manufacturers so they are labeling with the best materials possible.

“… Because of its recyclability, the use of PET is on the rise,” Slarks continues. “The price per impression is slightly higher, but more than ever, being recyclable is an important branding point.”

While there is not a “one size fits all” approach to sustainability, Avery Dennison’s Marella notes that premiumization and the cost of the labeling materials are important factors for brands to consider. “The premiumization trend is especially relevant in the wine and spirits segments,” she says. “Recent information from Euromonitor shows wine and spirits enthusiasts are yearning to spend more money on high-value beverages. Typically brands in these segments lack substantial advertising budgets, thus the label’s ability to stand out and convey the brand’s premiumization story is very important.

“From the converter standpoint, you can offer solutions featuring unique label materials and printing techniques to address the brand’s needs for maximum shelf appeal,” she adds.


Overcoming the shelf battle

When choosing labeling materials, Sleeve Seal’s Slarks notes that cost, clarity and recyclability of shrink label films are “trilemmas” that beverage-manufacturers should consider.

“Again, the shelves are the battleground for beverage manufacturers. A product that has a unique, quality look with a targeted appeal is the winner,” he says.

He also is seeing notable changes in the wine industry. “Now that twist-off tops have become more accepted, and the traditional cork is going away, it seems that vineyards hare having more ‘fun’ with labeling,” Slarks explains. “If you visit the wine department, the stodginess of tradition is fading fast. Brightly colored bottles with plastic labels are more common and the vibe of that specific industry has changed.” Some categories, like craft beer and wine, are moving from glass bottles to cans, leading to the use of more matte and textured label materials as well as shrink film, according to Avery Dennison’s Marella.

“[Shrink film] enables small and regional craft brewers offering small, ‘batch’ quantities to avoid the large minimum order of direct print on cans,” she says.

When choosing labeling materials, Marella notes that the adhesive on pressure-sensitive labels is often overlooked. “While the primary focus is the facestock material because of its impact on printing/design, selecting the right adhesive for the specific application is critical,” she explains. “Avery Dennison offers a wide range of adhesives that can offer functionality including short-term repositionable, wash-off compatible, water whitening resistance and indirect food contact to name a few.”

In addition to having fun with label design, Sleeve Sleal’s Slarks advises manufacturers to consider the use of textured inks that provide a unique tactile quality that consumers gravitate to.

“We offer quality shrink label films and the most advanced printing available. I could list the printing options, but if want a metallic, matte finish label with glow-in-the-dark accents and an invisible UV index mark on a recyclable PET film, it’s no problem,” he says. “Our rotogravure printing is really opening doors for designers who want it all in a single impression.”

Fort Dearbon’s Chapdelaine notes that the type of labeling material can help convey the brand’s message, for example, uncoated for a natural or artisanal look, and provide function such as film labels for beverages that need moisture resistance.


Bringing labels to life

In the future, experts expect that thinner materials, new inks and innovative container designs, along with technology on beverage labels will continue to engage consumers.

“There are endless things we can do to a label at Hammer depending on the label size and equipment used to produce them,” Hammer Packaging’s Iovoli says. “The most important trend is trying to make the consumer interact with the package. Promotions, digital printing and augmented reality are just a few techniques we can provide, but it’s really up to the brand to tell us what they want to accomplish.”

Avery Dennison’s Marella also points to growing use of augmented reality. "Today we have seen some brands use augmented reality to interact with consumers in real-time with their smartphones to ‘bring the label to life,’” she says. “As food and beverage safety and quality concerns increase, we expect to see smart labels provide consumers with assurances of freshness and source information through enabling technologies such as [radio-frequency identification] (RFID).” BI