by Melissa Donovan
Part 1 of 4
Digitally printed labels are used for all sorts of items. We segmented this four-part series into four categories—spirits, beer, and wine; health/beauty consumer products; durables/harsh environments; and healthcare/pharmaceutical. In each piece, several topics are addressed including the merits of the category in question using a digitally printed label, the types of label media ideal for the job, sustainability influences, and security/counterfeiting.
The first article looks at labels used in the spirts, beer, and wine industries. Limited edition beverages are common place and short runs are necessary for these labels, which makes digital the ideal technology. The quality, appearance, and durability of today’s label media also increases the use of digital print.
Digital printing thrives in the label space because it caters to the demand for short runs, especially today as increased SKUs and limited promotions make shorter runs a necessity.
In general,”digital printing allows for short runs with no changeover and customization of messaging down to a regional market or store level. Big box stores like to have a product that is custom for their brand, and subtle changes to the labels can help accomplish that. Digital also allows for printing of just the right number of labels for the production run planned—no need to run thousands of labels and store them on a shelf indefinitely,” says Jason Berthiaume, product manager – industrial and consumer durables, FLEXcon Company, Inc.
In addition to less inventory, digital printing introduces the ability to trial items in test markets with less overhead as well as personalize in runs as small as one. “Beer and wine often incorporate holiday specific flavors, digital printing allows for shorter runs of these seasonal products,” continues Kim Hensley, senior marketing manager, Mactac.
“Regarding wine and spirits, digital is capable of reproducing offset-level prints and embellishments at highly reduced volumes compared to what flexographic and traditional offset printing require to see a return,” adds Ryan Chai, strategic solutions manager, Nobelus.
Media and Adhesive Type
Types of label media ideal for spirits, wine, and beer include those that help a brand standout from the competition.
“Brand owners are trying to capture a certain look. With only seconds to persuade potential customers, labels on containers are just as important as the product inside. With a goal to standout as much as possible, we need to help brand owners with product differentiation such as unique adhesives, specialty facestocks—metallic, clear no label look—to make products stand out and to give the perception of quality. Gloss films are growing in popularity, especially in the beverage industry because they are shown to capture shoppers’ attention, the look gloss films offer is more vibrant for increased shelf appeal,” explains Hensley.
With aluminum cans a constant in the beverage segment, Hensley admits that pressure-sensitive label solutions are a great option. “You can add specialty effects, such as varnishes, textures, foil accents, and specialty inks. Cans also offer a greater surface area for branding. The trend of the ‘no label look’ continues to increase in popularity for a premium appearance. The label looks like it has been printed directly on the bottle.”
“Polypropylene can be topcoated and surface treated to enhance its printability. This helps make it a popular choice for consumer labeling applications requiring the no-label look, such as with food and beverage—particularly glass bottle, personal care, household chemical, and pharmaceutical. It is well suited for semi-squeeze and rigid containers,” explains Dan Riendeau, strategic business unit manager – packaging, FLEXcon Company, Inc..
On the topic of adhesive, Chai points out that for spirits especially there is a need for wet hold strength. “This feature enables a label to remain intact and visually appealing even when a bottle is put over melting ice.”
Sustainable labels is a discussion with a lot of variables. Here, we reference labels that can be recycled, reused, or repurposed.
This is done is through label materials that influence the recyclability of plastic containers, which is ideal for the beverage sector. “These include materials with ‘wash-off’ capabilities that enable the label to separate from the container during the reclaim process, which allows for a cleaner collection of recycled plastic,” shares Riendeau.
The FLEXcon ecoFOCUS line of products include BOPP films with one of the company’s most popular printable topcoats combined with new V-52RE wash-off adhesive for PET recyclability. In addition, the line offers conformable polyethylene (PE) films with V-127RE adhesive ensure excellent performance and recyclability of high-density PE (HDPE) containers. Finally, downgauged versions of optiFLEX ecoFOCUS products offer comparable performance while furthering sustainability goals.
Another option is to utilize like materials to the container, such as a PE label on an HDPE container. “This also allows for a cleaner reclaim process because such labels can simply enter the recycle stream without causing contamination,” adds Riendeau.
Although not as prevalent compared to other industries, security concerns involving labeled beverage containers are an important consideration at the printing level. Depending on the technology used labels can prevent counterfeiting and a host of other challenges.
Hensley notes that in the spirit and beverage labeling market some of the most popular types of labeling security measures are adhesive based. “These include clear permanent adhesives that leave behind residue when removed and have a stronger bond than a typical general purpose acrylic permanent adhesives.”
Mactac CHILL AT is an all temperature hot-melt adhesive designed for food and beverage packaging, as well as a variety of other applications including home and personal care. With high-tack adhesion, high tack-and-peel, and a quick, strong bond, even to low-energy substrates, CHILL AT is ideal for application to HDPE surfaces such as juice and water bottles, oil bottles, detergent, and other household cleaner product containers.
Takeaways from digitally printed labels used in spirits, wine, and beer—or beverages in general—is the need for shorter run options, standout features, wash-off capabilities with sustainability in mind, and adhesives with strong bond for security.
The next article in this series looks at label media used in health/beauty consumer products.
May2023, DPS Magazine