Meeting the New Labeling Challenges
Labels offer the flexibility and functionality brand marketers need to capture interest, but there are lots of obstacles and choices to consider when determining which will work best.
A before and after shot of Australian Gold Moisture Max 30 SPF lotion. The new label on the same bottle is significantly larger.
The beauty and personal care segments present a packaging challenge as marketers must find ways to stand out while also complying with a growing list of federal regulations. In particular, beauty products with sun protection factor (SPF) have more text to include, due to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recent ruling on over-the-counter sunscreen drug products. The rule aims at ensuring appropriate labeling and testing for UVA and UVB protection as well as its proper use.
Always looking for fresh new ways to differentiate its packaging and meet mandates, sun care product manufacturer Australian Gold launched a redesign of its Moisture Max 30 SPF lotion, rebranding its existing prime, pressure-sensitive label. The original label measured 4 inches by 2 inches and featured the brand’s signature koala bear logo as well as pertinent product information. The redesign called for a larger label panel, more prominent graphics and additional regulatory information.
“Competition is fierce in the sun care market,” says Brian Starrett, general manager for Australian Gold. “The ability for more label coverage allows us to increase messaging and graphics that will help win customers at the shelf.”
A major challenge was accounting for the unique bottle shape—a contoured bottle with a molded handgrip in the middle. In order to overcome the challenges of this container, the brand tapped the expertise of label converter WS Packaging Group, who employed the Avery Dennison Curve Appeal technology coupled with Fasson Curvy pressure-sensitive film. This film label created approximately 40% more labeling area as it can be applied beyond the edges of a typical, flat plane.
“Curve Appeal uses proprietary Fasson Curvy film labels exposed to radiant heat and then squeezed between heated silicon bladders to deliver a beautiful label around a variety of shaped containers,” explains Renae Kulis, global marketing director, home and personal care, Avery Dennison Label & Packaging Materials.
The redesigned label rests atop a gold plastic bottle, is top-coated white and features a sunny, gradient background. Measuring a much larger 6 inches by 2.5 inches and printed with a combination of rotary offset and flexography printing processes, it utilizes nine colors and includes varnish and cold foil for dimensional accents.
The result of this label transformation? Initial feedback is in, and the brand realized a consumer preference of nine to one, according to Kulis.
Australian Gold used pressure-sensitive labels. This is the label of choice for more than 70% of labeled products, according to market researcher The Freedonia Group, who presented findings in its study Labels to 2015.
A pressure-sensitive label is a label with adhesive that is peeled off a release liner and applied with pressure. The popularity of this type of label in packaging applications is attributed to many factors.
At the top of the list is its design flexibility. “Pressure-sensitive labels are truly the most versatile labeling technology for beauty as well as personal care products. Pressure-sensitive labels are available in paper and film, with material choices that offer a vast array of imaging and graphic options as well as tactile effects,” says John Giesfeldt, senior manager, marketing for WS Packaging Group, Inc.
Labels West provided the labels for SaltWorks’ new beauty line.
In addition to aesthetic benefits, it provides practical advantages. Kulis also praises pressure-sensitive labels for enabling a wide range of choices in materials and printing effects. He says, “In addition to the look on the shelf, pressure-sensitive labels offer higher dispensing speeds, less line disruptions and better on-container performance, which lowers the total cost of bringing a product to market.”
Pressure-sensitive can also mitigate financial risks. “It offers end-users a way to get to market quickly and in the case of newer launches or test markets, there’s less exposure of inventory than, for example, in direct screen printing where there is a larger minimum buy,” explains Lance Wilson, vice president of sales and marketing for label converter Labels West, Inc.
While pressure-sensitive captures the lion’s share of the label market, other label choices include shrink sleeves, which provide a 360-degree graphic space; in-mold labels, an economical choice for high-volumes of bottles; and glue-applied, an economical pick where glue is applied during application.
According to The Freedonia Group’s label study, paper leads film as the leading stock material in the label industry, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. However, film substrates continue to gain speed and are estimated to account for more than one-quarter of label shipments in 2015.
The report further states, “Among plastic label resins, polypropylene and polyvinyl chloride are widely used, although the latter will lose out to other plastic substrates with lower perceived environmental and health risks. In particular, trends favoring more environmentally friendly substrates will propel gains for polylactic acid, albeit from a very small base.”
Film labels are particularly in demand within the beauty and personal care industries. “Avery Dennison has seen more home and personal care brands turn to pressure-sensitive labels, particularly in film, for two reasons: Film labels provide a flexible platform to deliver shelf appeal, and film performs better in production. Film materials as a rule dispense faster, have fewer disruptions on the product line and perform better on rigid, squeezable and semi-squeezable containers,” says Kulis. He adds that many brands choose clear film for a “no-label” look, and for male-oriented products, a metallized film is also a popular choice.
However, not all brands are shifting to film. “Pressure-sensitive paper labels are a good choice for brands that favor a more natural or couture look. Textured papers with tactile printing effects like a UV varnish or spot rotary screen printing can create a contemporary, exclusive look for brands. Other brands that are focused on being natural can use paper to show a more earth-friendly look,” says Kulis.
“Papers can offer a very luxury look when appropriate,” agrees Wilson. “As an example, look at the labels from a parallel industry—the wine and spirits market. In the wine market, you will see incredibly designed paper labels. We are seeing the use of sophisticated paper labels in some segments of the health and beauty industry,” he adds.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, choosing a basic paper label may also shave costs. “The advantages of paper are that it usually costs less,” comments Jonathan Tarantino, vice president of sales for label converter Paris Art Label. He adds, however, “The adhesive is a big driver in the cost of a label.”
Giesfeldt advises those brands who are considering paper versus film to carefully examine end-use application, which can include the positioning of products on the bathtub, sink or other challenging environments. “Film labels have the ability to enhance and protect the brand image of a product. For example, clear film can be printed on the backside of the facestock, which protects all the graphics,” he says. While special paper formulations, coatings, and imaging effects can be leveraged to make an eye-catching paper label, “if the end-use application of the product compromises the integrity of the brand graphics, the brand image is compromised,” Giesfeldt adds.
The digital process at work, courtesy of Paris Art Label. Digital printing technology continues to gain momentum.
Four major packaging trends have impacted the label market significantly. The first is a push from other printing processes toward digital printing.
Flexographic printing, which prints using raised flexible plates, is still the most popular technology for label printing and continues to make improvements in setup times, press speeds and quality. However, digital printing, which eliminates the need for printing plates, is widely gaining respect and popularity. Digital printing is especially useful for brands desiring short-runs, as there are “no expensive up-front costs like plate and copy changes, that you would see with flexographic technology,” says Wilson.
Kulis adds that digital printing answers a growing need for “mass customization and SKU proliferation as brands target smaller slices of population.”
Label experts say digital technology continues to improve, and with these improvements, comes increased demand. “The growth of digital is directly proportional to its advantages,” says Giesfeldt. “Digital delivers cost-effective label solutions with the best print characteristics available for small-volume runs. The technology continues to improve. Our digital printing process guarantees label solutions with vibrant colors, extreme details and unsurpassed consistency.”
“I do think digital is the wave of the future. We have grown our own digital sector with the best digital presses made right now,” says Tarantino, who sees its usefulness stretching beyond short runs. “Now they are perfecting the amount of colors that can be used, along with the run times. Digital is best when you have a job that requires tight registration along with many colors and images. It prints them better and with less mistakes than any flexo press operator could ever do.”
Another trend is the use of complex containers. Wilson has seen an influx of unique container shapes, which has resulted in more “sophisticated, conformable films” used in labeling. He adds this packaging challenge doesn’t have to be resolved with a shrink sleeve label, as pressure sensitive film labels can also be employed around challenging shapes.
“Shape can be a compelling brand attribute, but it also creates labeling problems, regardless of the label and application technology,” adds Kulis. That’s why Avery Dennison has created technologies such as its Curve Appeal, used in the Australian Gold example, to speak to the trend of curved bottles.
While some brands are upping the ante on container complexity, other brands are significantly paring down and eliminating outer containers. This trend, as well as a rise in regulations that results in the need for more content, has signaled growth in extended text labels. Sometimes called booklet or extended content labels, this type of pressure sensitive label allows brands to share more product information in smaller spaces.
“Their growing popularity with brand owners is being fueled by a number of key factors. The first is ensuring compliance with drug facts content, such as the new sunscreen labeling requirements. Compliance labeling takes up a lot of label real estate. If a product does not come in a unit carton with an insert detailing the drug facts information required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there is simply not enough space on a label to hold all the content. Extended text labels make compliance easy and do not negatively impact the brand graphics,” explains Giesfeldt. The company offers its MultiVision line of extended text labels as a solution.
Merging the demand for extended text labels, as well as an increase in the use of unusual bottle shapes, Labels West has recently increased its product offering with “conformable extended content labels for odd-shapes,” adds Wilson.
Naturopathica’s tube packaging re-design included elimination of unit cartons and the introduction of a FlexVision extended text label from WS Packaging Group.
Finally, a push for more sustainability is a driving force in new label technologies.
Tarantino has seen an uptick in the use of eco-friendly substrates and soy-based inks within the packaging realm.
Avery Dennison, for example, has developed Global MDO, a new semi-conformable, thin film presented on an ultra-thin liner with a low adhesive coat weight. “Brands we talk to want sustainable materials that don’t compromise on dispensing performance or shelf appeal,” says Kulis. Global MDO, in addition to its environmental benefits, “still looks great as a clear, white or silver film. It is anchored by a proprietary adhesive, S7000, that dispenses great at high speeds and just as importantly looks great on the container.”
WS Packaging has recently launched its LinerLESS product, a rotary and in-line pressure-sensitive labeling system that eliminates the release liner. “LinerLESS labels perform to the same quality standards as pressure-sensitive labels with conventional liners, and are best suited for labeling products in the health and beauty, personal care and other markets. Doing away with the liner for pressure-sensitive film labels eliminates a waste stream and reduces the total applied cost of labeling,” says Giesfeldt.
Pro-environment technologies and processes will likely continue to emerge in the label industry. Giesfeldt says sustainable packaging “will continue to grow in importance. Brand owners and major retailers are increasingly asking, or even mandating, that suppliers evaluate themselves based on the sustainability of their packaging. It’s about full product life cycle analysis. It’s from concept through manufacturing to end-of-use.”