Mrs. Wages products were positioned as relevant for today’s consumer using digitally printed labels with a high-end photo for each of the SKUs.
Photo courtesy of Innovative Labeling Solutions

by Rick Lingle, Executive Editor

Labels help make a first and lasting impression on consumers, one that can stick with them, consciously or otherwise, as surely as an adhesive backing. It’s a market that itself can be labeled as dynamic. We enlisted input from two industry experts as to where the trends and technologies were taking this segment of packaging.

Mark Moorhead, director of marketing,WS Packaging Group Inc.,points to activity in digital printing technology. “It’s growing to be a more and more significant part of the label printing market for a variety of reasons,” he says. “Many large brand owners use it for short runs of items they will test in the marketplace before they decide to scale up with a full launch. There is no sacrifice in print quality when using digital printing. We can fingerprint a press to match the digital print quality so that there will be no discernable difference between the test market print run and the full-scale-launch production run. Also, users can save plate costs. For companies that face frequent regulatory or copy changes, shorter digital runs can help reduce or eliminate inventory obsolescence.”

Digital printing was the focus of a study, Color Digital Printing in Packaging and Prime Labels, released a year ago byInfoTrends,which noted that the technology is leading to incremental growth.  “There’s no displacement of printing in packaging by electronic media,” says Bob Leahey, associate director.  “Instead, packaging is growing with the human population, and color digital print is growing within packaging.”

According to the study, gross billings from digital printing systems used by packaging and label converters topped $1.8 billion worldwide in 2009.

Innovative Labeling Solutions(ILS) offers digital printing to provide customized, fast turnarounds on orders. Kathy Popovich, director of marketing and communications, believes that the tide has turned for digital printing that had been restricted to prototypes, mockups and sales samples.

“The latest generation presses can do full production runs, and that has changed the game,” Popovich says. “It’s not just the speed to market, but also the flexibility of digital printing that allows customers to react quickly to shifting trends and market conditions. With digital printing, companies can make changes pretty much to the last minute. And they can make those on everything from pressure sensitive labels to flexible packaging to folding cartons. ”

Another trend is in sustainability, though Moorhead sees it as a deeper issue beyond the use of more sustainable substrates: “It is encouraging to see more and more ‘green’ alternatives in the forms of materials from our suppliers. But probably the most overlooked issue that brand owners should pursue is a thorough vetting of their suppliers with regard to documentation of their manufacturing processes, not just the green materials they can offer. Are their manufacturing practices documented and have they been verified by third party organizations? What ongoing practices do they have in place, and how have they improved?”

To Popovich, green blends in with a whole spectrum of labeling options that center on differentiation. “People are looking for something different, whether that’s a substrate that’s more environmentally friendly with FSC [Forest Stewardship Council] certification or whether they’re looking for a label-less look using a thinner, ultra-clear material,” she offers.

Popovich also sees brands trying to develop more regionalization or customization, either by retailer or channel or geography.

Moorhead also notes the impact of private label branding. “We have seen a large growth in the area of point of sale and couponing due to the increased competition at the shelf,” he relates. “That competition has always been there, but the growth in store brands throughout the recession has them in fierce competition with national brands.” Moorhead sees couponing as a means to a bigger end:  Capture demographics, cross-sell, build loyalty, and get customers to interact in a touch and feel way even closer with the brand.

Those goals resonate with Popovich, who says, “Companies are tapping social media that’s driving a lot of Generation Y consumers to look for engagement and interaction whether that’s printed QR [Quick Response] codes or other techniques.”

Labels are called on to do more then ever before. “Historically, consumers have been driven to loyalty by traditional advertising, but that market has become more fragmented,” says Popovich. “The first ‘moment of truth’ on shelf is becoming more important to grab consumers’ attention and to deliver the essence of the brand.”

Labels can play a crucial role to help instantly deliver the messaging and the goods.F&BP

A stock jar and lid with a custom-crafted label permits Carmella’s Italian Bistro to assess the product’s regional reaction ahead of a larger-scale rollout.

SIDEBAR: Digital label brings bistro's private-label personality quickly to life

Carmella’s Italian Bistro is a family-owned restaurant in Appleton, Wis. In early December 2010, Carmella’s jarred House Marinara Sauce was introduced at the restaurant and regionally at select area retailers.

Digital labels designed byDirections Inc.and produced by WS Packaging helped make that a reality.

“For the primary label design we featured a large and lively sprig of freshly-picked basil leaves to communicate the fresh, all-natural ingredients inside the jar,” explains Aaron Graff, Directions art director. “The simple, clear jar with a black lid allows consumers to visually capture the freshness of the product, in conjunction with the simple elegance of the label design. By working together, the label design and package help drive the brand image and enhance shelf appeal.”

Due to the short run, Directions elected to have the labels digitally printed. The cost-effectiveness of the digital process combined with pressure-sensitive labeling material optimized for digital printing.

A facestock typically used for wine labels was selected:FassonEstate #4 with matte UV varnish. The material is on the natural side of white with a ribbed texture. The labels are run on anHP IndigoWS4500 press, and printed 4-color process. A matte UV varnish is applied to the labels for protection against moisture and abrasion.

“The stock has a strong tactile feel that gives an intimate sense of quality and authenticity,” notes Graff. “It also heightens the level of differentiation with visual characteristics that add depth.”

The result is a labeled jar with that would make a good impression on any shelf.