With the increasing acquisition of sheet-fed HP Indigo and dry toner digital printers, many commercial printers are now taking advantage of the increased revenue stream and profit margins from what has traditionally been a small percentage of their overall business: label printing.

Although sheet-fed digital label printing is not new, the fast growing sector is enabling high-margin work of a quality only previously achievable with flexographic or lithograph machines. Moreover, this is being achieved by utilizing a growing variety of new label materials as well as tools and templates that open the door to profitable new sales and marketing opportunities.

“As traditional conventional printing declines and moves to digital production, due to its ability to handle on demand, short run variable data with minimal setup charges, adding labels to your product line is a good way to diversify into a growing, high profit area,” says Dave Fox, technical sales and service manager for Avery Products Corporation, a leading national label brand.

According to Fox, small to mid-sized commercial printers with a dry toner or an HP Indigo press can offset the potential decline in traditional print jobs by following five simple tips.

1. Choose quality materials that run well on presses. 

No matter the potential upside of adding sheet-fed, digitally printed labels to their offerings, printers need quality label materials, adhesives and die cuts that will run virtually flawlessly in their presses. The materials must reliably feed well and run smoothly without jamming, with consistent ink/toner adhesion and color.

“A label expert will help you pick the right material, adhesive, and finish that will reliably and efficiently run through your printer or press without cleanup or blanket contamination,” says Fox. “A quality topcoat is also vital so the ink will adhere well. A label expert understands the differences between label providers and the materials they offer to ensure consistent quality.”

Toward this end, printers need to partner with a label provider with product that is certified or verified to run in their digital presses. However, look for a label provider that also does rigorous internal testing. For instance, all of the labels sold by AveryPRO, Avery’s commercial printing label division, for HP Indigo are RIT third party certified. Their dry toner pressure sensitive label stock is qualified for use with high-speed and mid-range laser printers and copiers. Avery also goes the extra step to internally test products before they submit them to third party testing in order to meet their own standards, which are commonly more rigorous than third party standards.

“With years of technical knowledge and experience available from a trusted label provider, printers should feel confident running the materials through their presses,” says Fox. “This is particularly important because the only way to be successful is to run the sheets quickly and efficiently, reducing the downtime associated with jamming, gumming up printers or extra cleaning. That is when the money is made.”

2. Consider premium, high-margin label materials.

In a “me too” arena like labels, typical materials like white matte or semi-gloss paper will not differentiate printers from the competition. Instead, the ability to offer unique, higher margin materials can help them win new business and expand into servicing new applications.

“Commercial printers and their customers can distinguish themselves in the market with high-end labels that make their products ‘pop’ by selecting a special label material look or finish,” says Fox.

For example, printers can add a rustic, earthy look to products, packages, boxes, bottles and bags with a natural, organic looking, Kraft Brown pressure-sensitive label exclusive to AveryPRO. Bright, full colors and text are printable to the edge, and the FDA-compliant permanent adhesive is safe for indirect food contact.

When high-end health, beauty, and skin products need to stand out, Fox suggests considering the company’s White Soft Touch labels, which have a special coating that gives them a velvety texture without requiring post print coating. Eliminating the need for post print coating reduces cost, increases profitability, and speeds the label printing process. “This type of finish has been available for magazine and book covers as well as packaging, but there is nothing like it in the pressure-sensitive label market,” says Fox.

For labeling products with an industrial look and feel, such as electronics or appliances, Fox suggests a unique Silver Matte label to give any item a metalized look without the use of metallic ink.

3. Demand true technical support.

When looking to increase revenue with printed labels, printers should identify a label provider that has extensive technical support to maximize uptime and resolve any potential issues with label printing quality, performance, or runnability.

There are various levels of technical support available in the label industry, ranging from the most basic questions being answered concerning label specifications to high level technical support from trained technicians who have actually produced labels on printing equipment.

According to Fox, who has worked for the last 25 years with commercial printers, label printers, print brokers and distributors, commercial printers should ask their label providers what kinds of internal testing they have done on their model of digital press as a gauge their familiarity with it and level of technical expertise.

Label providers should also be able to consult with printers that may require custom label materials, substrates, adhesives or types of die-cuts. Some applications, for example, require a high-temperature label that can withstand a more rigorous printing process or in its end use application. Only the most experienced label manufacturers typically have the technical engineering expertise combined with the manufacturing capability to respond to unique requests.

4. Take advantage of free tools and templates.

To save valuable pre-press time and accurately align products, printers should use free digital press tools and design templates such as those available from AveryPRO. Graphic designers and printers find such templates intuitive and easy-to-use since they are similar to those used on more common office labels.

To streamline the process, it is best to use design templates that provide seamless integration, such as Adobe Illustrator extensions, with existing imposition software programs. Using design templates with correct dimensions and safe zones can also help to minimize waste and increase efficiency.

For further ease of use, printers may also want to use design templates that require no software to download, yet offer 1-up and full sheet options.

5. Promote your business using available tools and materials.

Most printers looking to expand into label printing do not have the time, budget or expertise to create sales and marketing materials from scratch to grow their business.
Many are also looking for inspirational examples of how to use labels in unique ways that could open the door to additional sales and new markets.

Fortunately, there are tools readily available that can help them win new label printing business in a variety of markets. Label companies like AveryPRO, for instance, provide
numerous examples of printed label applications, as well as customizable brochures, PDFs, and videos at no cost, downloadable from their website.

“Printers can download industry-specific templates such as for retail, events, and elections or food and beverage, education and athletics, or shipping and mailing onto their website,” says Fox. “They can customize these with their name, logo, contact info to get the word out they are offering on-demand, digitally printed label service.”

To help commercial printers successfully market premium labels to a variety of markets,
they should carry pressure-sensitive swatch books from each label provider. These books allow customers to understand the look and feel of the materials that are available.

While commercial printers may be new to digital presses, Fox says that they allow printers to expand beyond just traditional brochures, booklets, and other documents.

“If you are using a dry toner or Indigo digital press or considering it, you would be leaving a lot of business on the table if you did not take advantage of its full abilities, with labels being among the most profitable possibilities,” concludes Fox.

Label materials are typically available from fine paper merchants or direct from the manufacturer.

For more info or to request a free sample pack, visit www.avery.com/averypro or call 800-554-8789.