Changing market trends are pushing the wine industry towards increasing usage of self-adhesives, but do suppliers really understand the requirements of the wine labelling market?

Much has been said about the potential of the European wine industry to move from wet-glue applied labels to self-adhesives. Over the past five years discussion have centred on the opportunities for materials suppliers and printers in the wine market – yet it has been difficult to quantify any trends in this direction.

However, figures are now becoming available which highlight changes taking place in the wine industry – particularly in Spain – and indicate why rapid growth is now occurring for self-adhesive wine labels.

Look at the most recent figures of the Spanish wine-producing sector (essentially the balance of trade in 1994 and the production figures for the 94/95 harvest) and two main trends became clear – that is of decreasing production, yet with a sustained or rising turnover. Improved quality and success of Spanish wines in the most selective markets is the key to this change.

The evolution of Spanish wine exports in the period 93/94 shows that the turnover for ordinary table wines has gone down, while that of Denomination of Origin Wines has risen 13 per cent in spite of an 80 per cent reduction in the quantity exported. What does this mean for the self-adhesive industry?

Firstly, as volumes of wine continue to drop so does the viability of wet glue labelling. Pressure-sensitive applicators are more flexible and economic for shorter runs, do not have to be cleaned up at the end of each day and give immediate start up in the mornings. The decision for wineries looking to invest in new label application technology then begins to increasingly favour self-adhesives.

Secondly, although self-adhesive wine labels are more expensive, the rapidly rising turnover and increasing profitability of the wineries means that the label cost is no longer a prime criteria. In-line printing, embossing, foiling, over varnishing, die-cutting, etc, and the overall exclusively and quality of the label, now become more important. Obviously, self-adhesives have much to offer.

Additionally, the rapidly growing popularity of the sparkling wines, presented at the table in ice buckets, leads to new requirements for adhesive and label performance in the presence of water – which self-adhesives can now offer.

Labelstock requirements
However, the solution to taking the wine industry into self-adhesives is not quite that simple. Moving long established brands from wet glue to self-adhesive means that the self-adhesive printer and materials supplier have to match the quality, texture, finish and performance of their self-adhesive labelstock to that of the wet-glue labelstock originally used. This, in turn, may involve the self-adhesive laminate producer in having to coat many very short runs of grained, textured, metallised, matt, supermatt, etc, grades of paper. Even custom coating down to 3,000 to 4,000 square metres of a specialised paper just for one winery – certainly not every laminate producer’s ideal market profile.

Growing rapidly the self-adhesive wine label market in Spain may be, but it seems certain that the total volume of labelstock converted will always be split into many different grades and qualities of relatively small volumes, so favouring the specialist coater.

Certainly the very specialist requirements of self-adhesive wine labelstocks have proved to be a very successful market for one Spanish laminate producer – Manipulados del Ter s.a. More popularly known today as Manter, the company currently sells some 12 per cent of its pressure-sensitive labelstock production into Spanish –and French – wine markets.

Acquired by the Italian paper group Cartiere Fedrigoni, Manter has benefited considerably from recent investment in a new short-run coater, new warehousing, slitting and finishing facilities, automated reel change capabilities and the development of quality performance to ISO 9002 standards. Further investment is still continuing.

Development of the self-adhesive wine label market by Manter has been significantly aided by Fedrigoni – who have had more than 100 years of expertise in producing unique and coated face papers for wet glue wine labelling – and who are now supplying specialist wine label face papers to Manter for adhesive coating. Fedrigoni are also a significant producer of silicone base paper, again, a major benefit to Manter.

Using 100 per cent acrylic adhesive formulations, all formulated in their own coating kitchen, Manter first entered the self-adhesive wine label market. Today, some five million m2 of their total 60 million m2 output comes from the 25 different grades of wine labelstock sold into the Spanish wine label market. A further three million m2 of wine labelstock is exported to France and exports are also now going into Portugal.

Such has been the company’s dedication to capturing the rapid growth in specialist self-adhesive wine labelstock in Spain that Manter are believed to be the only laminate producer to have specific wine label brochures –complete with samples of Chromolux, Gloss Coated, Transfer and Vacuum Metallised, Cream and White Laid, Gold and Black Matt, Pearlised, Laminated Foils, Cast Coated, Embossed, Cream and Ivory grades.

With SH-3000, SH3020 and RH-4000 adhesives for moist surfaces, the Manter range of self-adhesive wine labelstocks are claimed as the most technically advanced in Europe for the labelling of the moist nonporous surfaces found in the wine industry. All are sold under the Fixter brand name.

Undoubtedly Manter have had tremendous success in the wine label sector. Aided and supported by Fedrigoni, they are now setting their sights on becoming the leading supplier of wine, spirit and beverage self-adhesive labelstocks in Europe – and a major player in the special coated paper market.

Specialist printers
Apart from the facestocks supplier, how does the Spanish label printing industry fit into this rapidly changing wine market picture? Well, overall there are believed to be upwards of 200 label printers in Spain, of which some 25 have an identity in self-adhesive wine label production – often producing both wet glue and self-adhesive wine labels. Probably 10 of those are the most specialised, and five of that number are quite small.

Of all these wine label producers, one of the most specialised – and certainly the major producer in the whole Cava region of Spain – is Grafigues Varias s.a. Founded in 1918, the company has been producing wet glue wine labels since the 1930s and self-adhesive wine labels for the past seven years.

With almost 100 per cent of the company’s business in wine labelling – and already 30 per cent in self-adhesive wine labels – Grafiques Varias employs 34 people and has a current turnover of some 700 million Pesetas to around 200 customers.

Apart from the potential of more than 140 wine and champagne type wineries in the region, Varias also export vodka labels to Russia and Champagne labels to France – even labels for wine going to Japan.

Working from a purpose-built 3,400 sq m humidity controlled factory on Sant Sadurni, the company aims to be totally self-contained. Extremely well-equipped with their own design, repro, platemaking, etc, facilities, Varias has installed the latest Macintosh, colour proofing, scanning, cameras, step-and-repeat, Misomex, platemaking, photo-retouching, dispro and related technology. Not surprisingly, production is to the highest quality.

Press and production capabilities include 50 x 70cm Heidelberg offset presses for wet glue labels, a bronzing machine and punching and guillotine machines. On the self-adhesive side, the company have a KoPack six-unit press (five colours plus varnish), a nine-colour plus varnish KoPack, an Etipol Combi machine and two Berra hot foil/embossing machines.

Around 50 per cent of all the self-adhesive wine labels are varnished, embossing is widely used and hot foiling is common. All labels are inspected before despatch and high levels of QC are practiced throughout the plant.

Like Manter, Grafigues Varias see the key to their success in wine labelling as ‘specialisation’, enabling wineries to make the transition from wet glue to self-adhesive with the minimum of problems.

Press requirements
‘Specialisation’ is also something which self-adhesive press manufacturers might like to consider further if they are to help (wet glue) label printers move into self-adhesive wine labels. Here a number of factors arise.

Firstly, there is probably no one standard press that suits the whole wine industry. Those regions that specialise in white sweet and sparkling wines for example, generally require labels that are eye catching, have a luxury look and, almost certainly will generally require a metallised or hot foil element on the label. Most are served chlled and will probably be over-varnished.

Contrast that with the red wine regions. Here, laid papers predominate, wines are not served chilled – so varnishes are not necessary – and few of the labels have a metallic or hot foil content. Press requirements are therefore different.

While many of the
self-adhesive label printers currently use letterpress, it should not be forgotten that in most cases the self-adhesive wine label is replacing a wet glue label – which would have been printed offset. The potential of the new generations of offset combination presses (offset, hot foil, UV flexo varnish for example) might help the wine industry to move more rapidly to self-adhesive technology.

A further point for the press
manufacturer to ponder is that where a wet glue (sheet offset) printer moves to self-adhesive technology there is no pre-history or knowledge of pressure-sensitive facestocks or adhesives, no understanding of die-cutting, relief platemaking, roll-to-roll printing, waste stripping, etc – considerable ‘hand-holding’, training, education, and more, may therefore be required. Certainly far more effort than when just selling another press to an existing self-adhesive printer.

Quality image
And what of the wineries? Self-adhesives are a whole new philosophy and technology for them also. Here Labels and Labelling visited one of the most important of the wineries in the Cava region – Raventos i Blanc – and also the first winery in the region to go self-adhesive.

Unlike many of the older wineries, Raventos i Blanc is one of the most modern in Spain. Built seven years ago on the edge of their vineyards as a brand new, modern, all
self-adhesive label winery, Raventos currently produces 600,000 bottles of quality white and sparkling wines every year – and all labelled with self-adhesives – wine processing is fully computerised throughout.

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