Continuing innovation is bringing exciting new label solutions to marketers and manufacturers, concluded a recent seminar by the New Zealand Institute of Packaging.

Opportunities abound in the field of labels and labelling, was the general conclusion after the recent Focus on Labelling seminar held by the New Zealand Institute of Packaging (NZIP). Presentations covered the essential features and trends in current and emerging technologies, from the latest self-adhesive labels, to the new multi-layer engineered films, conventional and electronic printing systems and application machinery.

Despite environmental concerns over recent years, labels are still the prime means of applying market, consumer and regulatory information to glass and plastic bottles, to tin cans, to pre-packs, to outer wrappers, cases and shrink-wrapped goods; as carriers of price and price-weight information: to provide distribution and shipping information. Labels are also used for computer and business systems applications, point-of-sale and display, security labelling and for the identification of marking of all kinds of industrial products.

Major end users include food, drinks, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and toiletries, chemicals, industrial products.

Major end users include food, drinks, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and toiletries, chemicals, industrial, household and DIY manufacturers. Usage and applications vary between the main label types and methods whether self-adhesive, glue applied, gummed, shrink or stretch sleeve applied, heatseal or in-mould applied.

Without a label, a container is meaningless. Labels do more than just communicate information and today’s marketers expect much more. With up to 80 per cent of choice decisions being made in-store, labels are instrumental in motivating the purchase of a product. Taken for granted are additional functions such as the ability to include bar codes, anti-theft devices, time and temperature indicators.

Several speakers stressed the partnership between all those involved with the label including the customer, printer, paper supplier and designer. Elements of the product including the contents, label, container and lid, also need to be seen and integrated together so that they build one image, not a collection of images.

In his keynote address, UK based authority and consultant, Mike Fairley, covered ‘the big picture’ of labelling internationally. As editor/publisher of Labels and Labelling, he advises with many of Europe’s leading label manufacturers.

‘With production growth internationally averaging 3-5% above GDP annually, the future for labels is assured, ‘ Fairley explained ‘New materials and technology mean consistent growth cannot help but continue. In label types, most obvious is the trend towards self-adhesive or pressure-sensitive labels.

‘New label materials allow manufacturers to do things they haven’t been able to do in the past. Practical films which are multiplayer and co-extrusion, enable a manufacturer to combine capabilities of printability, stiffness and barrier properties, plus adhesion and protection functions.’

Mike Fairley believes marketers will see more foils, laminates and metallised films, enabling all kinds of new decoration abilities and providing label images manufacturers can’t achieve cost effectively at present. More special papers and coatings that can tell time or temperature, special adhesives. Labels that will stay on underwater, or go onto white hot steel, with bar code information for tracking, labels for concave and convex objects, and more recyclable labels.

Plus, thinner labels, Down-gauging of label films is a major trend in Europe, due to environmental and waste minimisation influences. Companies have been challenged to hold tonnages of waste up to the year 2000, so they are getting more out of their materials tonnage by astounding degrees of down-gauging. 40-50 micron films are now common in Europe, and films as thin as 5 microns are in the pipeline.

This technology offers the potential to decrease the thickness of plastic films so that volumes can go up and tonnages do not. Improved performance is another benefit – more adhesion, better dispensability and diecut-ability, faster on the press and more cost effective.

Future demand trends, includes leaflet labels and promotional labels, currently growing about 20 per cent annually, and the so-called ‘intelligent’ labels, growing at around 25 per cent annually over recent years. Intelligent labels include anti-theft or electronic surveillance features (often referred to as EAS tagging) or time and temperature indicators, used on a wide range of products from sterilised medical equipment in hospitals to food items in the supermarket chill cabinet.

New products, new materials, new ways with existing products, labels for every shape, material and type of container. The range of options covered at Focus on Labelling was extensive and the suggested challenge to marketers – to take the initiative in exploring them all.

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