Multi-Tasking Labels

Label Impressions’ FiberStone is a tree-free label material, and a great fit for many beauty products.

The label market may be healthier than ever as suppliers reportincreased functions that go well beyond establishing brand identity.

Label printers are an industrious sort. Bring them a challenging job—for any industry—and they’ll figure out a way to get it done. And they certainly come across some challenging jobs, often having to find ways to fit lots of text in a small space, or wrap a label around an oddly shaped bottle, just to cite two examples. Throw in the drive for sustainability, and there’s a lot going on when it comes to labels.

The label printing industry stands apart from others in that its health is wholly dependent on the markets it serves. That is, if the demand for a given product dwindles, then so do labels for that particular market. After all, consumers aren’t buying labels—it’s the brand owners that are driving business. So the label industry is a good place to watch when looking for signs the retail market in general is turning around. And the recent reports are good.

In general, the label market in North America has shown every sign of a strong recovery through 2010 following the volume decline of 5-5.5% noted for 2009, according to AWA Alexander Watson Associates, a global market research firm for the specialty paper, film, packaging, and converting industry.

The Freedonia Group, a market research and trend forecaster, says label demand in the cosmetic and toiletry market is expected to rise at an above-average annual pace of 6.5% through 2013 to $890 million. “A shift in the product mix toward higher value label products will fuel growth, as will increasing use of packaging materials that favor the use of labels. Moreover, a healthy pace of new product introductions will support advances since labels are commonly used to establish brand identity,” the Freedonia Group reports.

Extended Text

In 2002, the FDA mandated that all over-the-counter cosmetic drug products include a standardized drug facts panel on the packaging. While printing directly on the container is one solution, using an extended content label (ECL), is another option, and one that continues to pick up steam.

Jeff Salisbury, president of Label Impressions, Inc., has noticed a huge jump in demand for extended content labels (ECLs) and complex constructions. “We’ve developed several lower cost, high-quality ECLs that allow enhanced performance, such as squeezable ECLs for tubes,” says Salisbury. “And I think a lot of the growth in this area is the result of reduced packaging requirements from retailers such as Sephora, Walmart and Whole Foods. A properly designed extended content label gets you a lot more packaging for your money while enhancing your ‘green’ proposition, which the retailers really like. We’ve seen clients completely eliminate outer packaging and inserts by using a lower-cost booklet or extended content label,” he adds.

Jonathan Tarantino, executive sales manager, Paris Art Label Co., also notices the trend. “One of the most notable trends I have seen over the years is in ECLs. A lot of companies are looking to use five to nine panel labels. These labels also have to be flexible enough—even though they are very thick—to adhere to a rounded surface. Three-panel labels used to be the new technology. Now, people are going for five, seven, or nine panel labels—some with a 4-color process, silkscreen and even hot stamp all in-line. We run and engineer all of these labels in-house,” Tarantino says.

It’s more than just FDA requirements that are driving the trend. The beauty industry is of course very much a global one, and the European Union has its own set of regulations that must be adhered to. In addition, due to the globalization of the industry, brand owners are more apt to provide information in several different languages.

“Brand owners need to consider the consumer product labeling laws that are out there, including EU regulatory requirements, active ingredients for FDA requirements and meeting the multiple language requirements,” says Michelle Izzi, senior account executive for WS Packaging Group. “I’ve noticed that the majority of customers are looking to develop a multi-ply label that is more globally compliant— EU-, U.S.- and Canada-friendly.” She adds, “Customers are looking for a generic type of label that meets all regulatory requirements. Our MultiVision re-sealable line of extended text labels offers the additional space needed for regulatory requirements, multiple languages, consumer education, safety warnings and cross-branding opportunities.”


Looking to do without outer packaging, coupled with the increasing need for more printable space, ECL labels are a viable option. However, there are others. Reports throughout the label industry have shrink sleeves on the rise, as they offer a 360-degree view of the product as well as additional marketing space. Pressure-sensitive labels that wrap all the way around the products are also trending; however accomplishing this can be a challenge.

“When you look at the personal care shelf, you see many bottles without much, if any, shape because they’re confined to labeling the product on the flat panel surface,” says Renae Kulis, global marketing director, home and personal care, for Avery Dennison. “But with Fasson Curvy, you can label through the curves, whether they’re on the waist or the shoulder. This creates the opportunity for package designers to leverage shape as a key point of differentiation.”

The new Fasson Curvy label gives designers 30% more space for primary labeling. “The additional space can help reduce the need for two-ply label constructions. It also allows for larger back panels that can carry more information,” Kulis adds.

Trevor Metcalf of Contract Labeling Service is in a unique position in the supply chain, and he also notices the trend toward wraparound labels. The company’s core business is in applying the printed labels onto the empty containers, and Metcalf works collaboratively with both brands and label printers. “The main trend I’ve noticed lately is labels that wrap all the way around the bottle. And oddly shaped bottles present certain challenges that we’re able to overcome,” he says.

Another popular labeling trend in the beauty arena is the use of clear labels used to achieve the “no label look.” Metcalf says with this application, trapped air, or “bubbling,” is an undesirable effect that Contract Labeling Service eliminates. Metcalf says the company will work with beauty brands to ensure that the labels they’ve ordered will seamlessly adhere to the containers, so the package on shelf will look just as it’s intended.

Design Concepts

A look at the labels on the shelves of any beauty retailer will show variety. From simple imagery and wording, to intricate graphics and sparkling sheen, to a clear no label look, brand owners’ ideas of what sells runs the gamut.

Kathy Popovich, director of marketing for Innovative Labeling Solutions (ILS), shares some the trends she’s observed among ILS’s beauty customers. “Some brands are paring down graphics, to create a feeling of simple luxury,” she says. “For example, they may opt to go with a standard white BOPP, with a matte lamination to create a frosted, pearlescent look. In many cases, each individual item incorporates a unique, high quality image as the focal point, visually delivering the essence of the product.

WS Packaging’s MultiVision labels offer the additional space needed for regulatory requirements.
“On the flip side, we have also seen designers look to unique and eye-catching materials as the inspiration and foundation for their designs,” Popovich says. “For example, a satin cloth that has a woven look with a shimmery finish adds luster and a light effect on shelf. Metallized papers and films, ranging from high sheen to dull chrome allow designers to position the brand as professional or salon-quality. The use of metallized materials creates natural highlights to the printed areas, and metallic accents in the no print areas,” she adds, noting that these materials are viewed as a great alternative to metallic inks or hot stamping.

“Among the people we speak with, there are two schools of thought,” says Salisbury of Label Impressions. “Simplicity seems to prevail in many cases—the simpler and more elegant the better. Of course, brand owners sometimes make a big mistake in sourcing a clean, simple label that was painstakingly designed for them by a professional designer or design team. So, often people will bid out such a label and use the lowest bidder. I think it’s especially important to select the right label company when trying to reproduce clean, simple graphics, as any printing flaws really stand out. The simpler the label design, the more sophisticated your label printer should be,” he says.

Salisbury says another label design strategy that is working well for some brands is to add special effects that incorporate senses beyond visual, including tactile/raised coatings, embossing/debossing, specialty foiling and combination coatings. He says, “We’ve had clients request that we add specific scents, and even one client who had us embed snapdragon seeds into a biodegradable, plantable label!”

Don Earl, president of Overnight Labels, is noticing beauty brands opt for lots of foil being used to make labels more attractive and eye catching. “Foil stamping is our most popular effect—gold, silver and holographic. We can also overprint it to make custom foil colors. Clear is our most popular substrate because we can use material that gives a no label look, or that is squeezable, meaning it does not wrinkle if it is used on a squeezable tube or bottle. This material is available in white and clear. We are also using a lot of laminated structures that can be used for sachets for sampling products. Shrink sleeves are popular when the client wants to use a funky shaped bottle or tube to package their product,” says Earl.

While beauty label artwork can range from very complex to simple text, one thing remains constant: Film material is present everywhere.

According to Stacy Santos, marketing manager for Dion Label Printing, clear film allows manufacturers to utilize the product container and product contents as part of the design concept for a product—all while maintaining brand identity. “Beauty brands must realize that their products are usually stored in places that get wet and are exposed to moisture. Also, beauty products get used time and time again. Ineffective labels are those where the product lasts longer than the label. Labels made from film substrates help prime beauty labels last long—film labels with lamination last even longer,” Santos says.

Film offers aesthetic advantages as well. “Metallic films allow manufacturers to tint part of a label so that the entire product looks high-end and shiny. When mixed with a funky color, the metallic label looks hip. White film provides the perfect backdrop for manufacturers to have an image on the label. For instance, a coconut scented lotion would have a picture of coconuts on the label,” Santos adds.

Regardless of the design, the biggest challenge for the label printer is interpreting the artist’s design and what their intention is, points out Earl of Overnight Labels. He says, “There are many cool features in design programs today that don’t always transfer well to a printed substrate. It’s challenging to reconcile the design with what is possible in the printing process. We overcome this with trying to communicate with the artist, maybe several proofs, and finally with good old-fashioned trial and error.”

Digital Printing

The technology used to print labels has evolved and improved. Digital print technology has come a long way, and its advantages are numerous. ILS is a digital printer, using the latest machinery from HP Indigo. Popovich explains some of its inherent advantages. “The quality of the print is amazing, and industry experts view it as good as or better than gravure. With a no-plate system leading to perfect registration and no dot gains, the package design community loves what is now possible. In addition to giving designers more creative latitude, what is approved during the concept phase can now be delivered on shelf. With the latest generation presses able to handle large production runs, HP Indigo digital is now a single-source solution for the entire product life cycle. The first time a concept is printed, it can be produced on actual material, on the press that will eventually run the full-scale production. When the brand owner is approving the art, she is approving an actual press proof. This, coupled with a computerized color management system that ensures precision color accuracy, are game-changers for the CPG industry as a whole,” Popovich says.

WS Packaging’s Michelle Izzi emphasizes the cost-effective nature of being able to print multiple SKUs with digital printing. “Digital printing is a great way to manage costs when running a single-ply label. While there’s a time and a place for digital, one of the major benefits is that digital printing doesn’t require printing plates. The brand manager can benefit from a smaller run for a launch and make changes if necessary before the mass production. Bearing that in mind, a good rule of thumb is that smaller quantities (under 10,000) are the best fit for digital,” she says.


The beauty market brings its own unique set of challenges to the label industry. Beauty is highly competitive, and standing out on shelf is paramount. What’s more, is that the demands of the beauty industry have changed, namely in the realm of environmental sustainability. More than ever, brands are eager to use “green” materials. And the pressure sensitive label industry is typically not considered the greenest of industries. A label’s components consist of paper or film, adhesive, inks and release liner. Recycling some of these materials is not always the easiest of tasks. However, things have changed, and green technological advancements have made labels more eco-friendly than ever.

A notable material used by Label Impressions is FiberStone, a tree-free label substrate. “The primary eco-benefits are that it has the look and feel of a velvety paper, it has the waterproof /chemical-resistant and tear-resistant qualities of a film label, and it consumes no water or trees, nor does it use toxic chemicals,” says Salisbury.

FiberStone paper is made from 80% calcium carbonate and 20% non-toxic resin. The calcium carbonate comes from limestone collected as waste material from existing quarries that serve the building and construction industries.

“We’re really seeing people ask for it more for its performance characteristics and unique feel,” Salisbury says. “As a beauty and personal care label, it fits the bill in many ways: Its chemical resistance makes it perfect for shower products or products with oils in them as it doesn’t break down or smudge when exposed to product.”

Salisbury says Label Impressions is working on better end-of-life scenarios for its materials such as FiberStone, including options that may offer true closed loop recycling.