Purina innovation highlights need for reliable label print and apply

A packaging innovation from pet food brand Purina in the US demonstrates when reliable label print and apply processes can let your product do so much more.

The brand’s Beggin’ Party Poppers product has been named Packaging Innovation of the Month by Datamonitor Consumer.

It features doggy treats in an ordinary plastic cup container, with the branding added using conventional label print and apply techniques.

But the lid is a flexible three-dimensional pig – and this is where the fun begins.

Press one of the doggy treats into the pig’s nose and it will hold in place for a few seconds before popping out, across the floor for your dog to chase.

It’s little more than a novelty lid for a product that is essentially still supplied in a plastic cup; however, it means the packaging as a whole is likely to be handled more often, both before and after purchase.

As such, the label applicator must perform an adequate job to ensure the essential product information remains visible until the doggy treats are all gone.

With innovation in packaging formats increasingly allowing retail products to stand apart from the crowd, good label applicators will grow in value in the years to come – and we will endeavour to bring the best labelling machines to the market for all our customers’ needs.

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‘Soft-touch’ label applicators can pack edible flowers

Edible flowers have been deemed “a culinary trend to watch” by consumer analysts Mintel, but for anyone hoping to sell them as a whole ingredient, gentle wrapping machinery and label applicators are a must.

A certain amount of breakage might be expected in transit no matter what – and in many cases, flowers are used more as a flavouring than as a whole addition to meals – but just as with floral bouquets intended for display, retailers will expect floral ingredients to arrive in the best possible condition.

Mintel report: “Edible flowers are typically used to decorate dishes, adding colour and an element of beauty. “Edible flowers can also add unique flavours to dishes, from sweet, floral or citrus flavours, to slightly spicy, even bitter flavours.” And the appetite for this in the UK is considerable, with nearly half of surveyed diners saying they enjoy trying new dishes and flavours that they have not experienced before.

Many restaurants use edible flowers for decoration, while their inclusion as a flavour in cakes and sweet goods, as well as in beverages including tea, adds to their demand as an ingredient. For those hoping to cash in on this trend, a wise initial investment would be to obtain suitable wrapping machinery, with a soft-touch label applicator to avoid damaging the packaged petals.

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How ‘affordances’ can work with your labelling system

Think about your labelling system for a moment – is it an integral part of your packaging process, or are your labels applied once the initial packaging of the product is completed?

In either case, your label might include instructions on how to open and use your packaging, even if this is as simple as telling the consumer how to reseal the opening or where to cut into the packet in the first place.

Writing in the journal Packaging Technology and Science, a team from California Polytechnic State University, Michigan State University, and Abbott Nutrition in Columbus, Ohio, argue that such instructions may sometimes be an indication of poor packaging design.

The reason behind this claim is the concept of ‘affordances’, which are intuitive ways of interacting with a packet – for instance, a ring pull might be a self-explanatory way to open a canned drink.

“In the same way that written information on packages must be noticed to allow its mental processing, specific design features of an object must be clearly visible to the user and must convey precise messages,” the authors write.

If you are relying on your labelling system to explain your packaging to customers, you could be missing a trick – and even a simple redesign could free up valuable label space for more branding and marketing messages.

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Sleeving machine can add graphical branding to bottles

Your choice of label applicator for bottled products is likely to depend largely on the general style of branding you are hoping to achieve – from relatively simple label print and apply on items like jars of jam, to full-bottle sleeving machines for some categories of beverage.

In particular, a sleeving machine could be something that is used increasingly to label wines in the years to come, in a category traditionally dominated by paper labels simply glued to the front and rear of the bottle.

While this approach is unlikely to vanish completely overnight, research from industry analyst Wine Intelligence indicates that consumer behaviour is changing – and that unlocks potential for producers who are able to adapt quickly to changing shopping habits too.

The report states that Generation Y consumers “are much more attuned to visual communication than text communication” – meaning bottle branding may be better off being graphics-based, rather than the traditional style of a wine label with dense blocks of text which serve as tasting notes.

A sleeving machine is the ideal way to add imagery to labels, maximising the surface area that can be used while shrinking to fit the precise contours of the container.

shrink sleeving

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Wrapping machinery can cater for Haloodie

An emerging market in food retail is adding yet another dimension to the use of wrapping machinery to affix the necessary ingredients, nutritional information and branding designs to food packaging.

In a recent report from Datamonitor Consumer, the analyst notes the emergence of the ‘Haloodies’ market – that is, British Muslim consumers on the hunt for clearly labelled Halal food.

This not only means a demand for fresh products, but also those that do not contain any traces of pork, or of alcohol.

“British Muslim consumers are often second-generation immigrants with a good education level and considerable incomes, who enjoy experimenting with new dishes and crave more options in foodservice and retail alike,” the research firm says.

This raises a further challenge for food producers in their use of wrapping machinery, in order to cater for this consumer group of so-called ‘Haloodies’.

You may even wish to go so far as to use an entirely separate labelling machine for Halal products, or any similar dietary niche, in order to be totally certain that the equipment is only ever used on foods that conform to the relevant production methods.




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How labelling machines can support brand authenticity

Labelling machines give you a good amount of control over the design of your packaging, but it is important to make sure that your labels fit with your overall brand profile, if you want your products to be perceived as ‘authentic’ by shoppers.

An article in the Journal of Product & Brand Management by a team from Cologne Business School and the University of Bremen looks at which factors influence this.

The researchers began by demonstrating that the authenticity of a brand can have a direct association with the level of trust consumers are prepared to put in the brand.

Next they looked at what influences authenticity – and interestingly, individuality had the lowest effect of any of the criteria they tested.

For brands whose marketing strategy is based solely on having a unique selling point, this could sound surprising, but there are several factors that could have a greater influence on how you use labelling machines to apply branding to your products.

Be consistent: Ensure that your products deliver on the promises made by your brand.

Be continuous: Make sure the promise your brand makes reflects your core values.

These are the two criteria described as having “major importance” by the researchers, and may even be more significant than your USP in securing a sale.

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Integrated label print and apply process ensures quality of finished product

The label print and apply process is a key stage in the production of a wide range of goods, but it can be a challenge when the product itself is soft or perishable.

Papaya, for instance, is just one fruit that is sometimes supplied in a fresh-cut, unripe serving, to ripen and be consumed later at home.

Researchers writing in the academic journal Food Packaging and Shelf Life looked at how different packaging options affect the longevity of pre-packed papaya.

They found that vacuum-sealed papaya stored under ambient conditions showed signs of decay after three days; air-sealed samples were damaged after six days.

Vacuum-sealed low-density polyethylene pouches performed better; when refrigerated, the papaya in these could reasonably be consumed up to 12 days later.

But labelling systems need to be able to cope with this susceptibility to damage, if the shelf life of fruits and similar soft foods is to be maintained.

That is where an integrated label print and apply process can be valuable, ensuring that the label is clearly affixed during the wrapping process itself, rather than being applied using direct pressure later.

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BBC’s Watchdog calls for more allergen information in industrial labelling

Viewers of the BBC’s Watchdog programme, which started its new series this week, were given an insight into industrial labelling – and particularly the absence of ingredients lists on pots of paint.

In the past, Watchdog has investigated the inclusion of the preservative Methylisothiazolinone (MI) in skincare products, as the ingredient can cause an allergic reaction in some people.

Several skincare producers have since stopped using the ingredient – however, the show has since discovered that MI is also present in many paints, and can cause skin irritations and breathing difficulties in those who are allergic to it, until the paint is fully dry.

The show explained that, while cosmetics companies may be required to list their ingredients, there is no such requirement on industrial labelling of paints.

As such, those allergic to MI are left to phone the paint’s manufacturers and check whether MI is used – and in many cases, are being told to avoid using the paint.

For manufacturers who use MI as an essential preservative ingredient, it may not be possible to remove it from products; however, declaring it on labels may be a worthwhile step to take, in light of the recent publicity given to the issue.

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Which label applicator is best for bottles?

Your choice of label applicator for bottles can be based on lots of different things, from the size and shape of your bottle, to the information you want to appear on your label.

A shrink sleeving machine can shrink a full-bottle label to fit, which might be a better option for containers that do not have a constant diameter along their full height.

Alternatively, a good label applicator should be able to affix your label to a curved surface, without the edges being at risk of peeling off.

Research from Clemson University in the US has taken these two options – full-body and partial-body labelling – and looked at their effects in a retail setting.

The researchers found that partial-body labelling typically sold better than its full-body counterpart.

However, there are of course complex branding and marketing considerations to take into account, which could make it more significant to know which type of labelling attracts the attention of shoppers best in the first place.

In this regard, the researchers found the two types of label perform equally well, based on eye-tracking results.

As such, either gives you an equally good platform on which to build your branding and marketing message, in order to convert that initial attention from the shopper into a sale.

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How label equipment can help you make a sale

Label equipment does more than just add visuals to your packaging – those visuals can also have a direct impact on the type of person who will buy your product, and in a competitive market for fast-moving consumer goods and food items, that can be crucial.

Datamonitor Consumer have published an infographic showing 20 different ways that shoppers make value judgments when in a grocery store, and many relate to the information you display on your labels.

For instance, 89% of people think organic products are too expensive – meaning organics might be better aimed solely at the luxury, affluent end of the market, or given labelling that clearly portrays them as an affordable option rather than an indulgence.

Value-conscious consumers are saving money in their choices of pack size, too – either by buying smaller, to cut the total cost, or buying bigger bulk packs to reduce the price per unit weight.

Label equipment that can adapt to different pack sizes could be a useful differentiating factor for manufacturers keen to trial new ‘catering-size’ or single-serving options to see if the market responds favourably.

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