Two guys walk into a bar. One orders a water, the other orders a shot of Vaska.  Okay, no, obviously there’s no joke that goes like this. When your laundry detergent is so natural you can drink it, it’s not a laughing matter. It’s real life (just ask CEO Eric Boyce, who actually has kicked back with a capful).

The year 1999 held several noteworthy events. Michael Jordan announced his retirement. The sixth billionth person in the world was born. The Berkley, Calif.-based company Vaska was founded when a fashion designer realized that the market lacked a green, effective laundry soap.

Over the next decade, Vaska detergent was perfected by scientists into a 100-percent-biodegrable, hypoallergenic, cruelty-free, plant-based product that aims to do good to people, the planet and clothes — not harm.

Originally focused on regional institutional customers — including The San Francisco Giants, Post Ranch Inn and other boutique users, and high-end hotels — the company expanded with a retail product line at the end of 2009. Although the design of the packaging received many awards, the cost of the bottles — including direct screen printing and transportation — compressed gross margin of the product.

In 2011, Vaska had a new concentrate formula of an existing product that was to be launched in retail channels. The brand wanted to showcase the product itself — its unique fluid qualities and clear properties. Transparency is a hallmark of the bottle design and a critical Vaska brand element, so it was imperative that the bottles were as lucid as possible, including the label. The company desired to replicate the look of its original stylish and transparent bottle design but at a more reasonable cost.

At the time, Molder Silgan Plastic was working with paper manufacturer YUPO on a new shaped bottle launch for another client. Silgan was the molder for Vaska’s bottles and had tested alternatives for two bottle launches, each having attractive decorative features. Silgan introduced Vaska and YUPO, and work by all parties soon began on the label solution.

Historically, when designers intended to create a clear look, they had to compensate by using a white label that was print-matched to the color of the resin. Because Vaska’s bottle was to be as see-through as the liquid inside, a print-matched label was not an option.

But with a clear In-Mold Label (IML) substrate, the color of the resin shows through. Additionally, the color of the product contained inside shows through not only the bottle but also through the label — exactly the effect Vaska sought.

A collaborative effort between YUPO’s technical support staff, package designers from Vaska, the printer (Hammer Packaging) and the molder (Silgan) was required to work through the entire IML development process. 

“Vaska’s timing for this launch was extremely short,” says Mike Licata, director of business development, YUPO. “Normally, the commercialization of a new product using IML entails going through various levels of testing. The testing process starts small and gets increasingly longer as obstacles are overcome. The process engages all parties while minimizing risk. In this case however, Vaska’s commercialization schedule was very tight.”

Not only was the deadline an issue, but getting the substrate just right for the bottle design also nearly derailed the effort. Over a several-month process, the first two substrate grades YUPO developed were unsuccessful.

All parties involved worked hard to not let the difficulties get the best of them.

“Hammer Packaging developed several new techniques to overcome challenges during printing and converting. Silgan worked through various issues on the fly,” says Licata.

Eventually, YUPO developed a third clear substrate — YUPOUltraClear — which did work with Vaska’s printing blow-mold process. And UltraClear IML is, of course, just that — ultra clear. The label is transparent regardless of the bottle color.

YUPO In-Mold Label grades are durable, fully recyclable synthetic label substrates that have no liner or liner waste, do not use any adhesive glue but won’t peel off even full squeeze bottles, and may be used with recessed panels, inclines, asymmetrical features and applications like hot foil and specialty inks.

"YUPOUltraClear IML allows brands to push the envelope with premium resins and colors — metallic and fluorescents, optically variable effects and specialty high fidelity colors — without worrying about print-matching issues,” explains Licata.

The labels were a hit, achieving all the desired technical and aesthetic needs.

Vaska’s new labeled container maintains the original clean and sophisticated design, yet appears sharper and crisper than those with the previous screen printing process. Using UltraClear also cut down on production costs for Vaska as the labels cost much less than screen printing and didn’t require an additional transportation step. The bottle and label enables the consumer to interact with the product as the detergent’s thickness, viscosity and clear color are on perfect display.

“In the end, the new VASKA bottles are beautiful and well worth the effort,” Licata comments.

Bill Hewitt, marketing and customer service manager, YUPO, agrees. "Vaska is the brand that will impact this industry like Apple did with the cell phone industry. Other brands will have to evolve to meet customers demands."

Though the company is just now going through the sales cycle with the new design, Vaska thinks the new bottle speaks for itself and has been positively received.

“Although the product is much more than its packaging, everyone comments on the design of our bottles,” says Eric Boyce, CEO and president of Vaska.

Because of the work performed for the Vaska assignment, much development has already occurred and multiple IML grades that might work for even more challenging packaging projects are possible.

Some of the largest consumer products goods companies and category leaders have used YUPO In-Mold Label substrates to brand their bottles and make their product stand out. The new clear substrate accommodates more options for designs or shapes of blow-molded bottles, has advanced anti-counterfeit features and is printable by all processes.

When companies with strong determination and pure products put their heads together, the results are clearly amazing. And that's something we'll drink to.

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