Posted April 20, 2006 by Nick Lindauer in Hot Sauce News

A Lesson in Labels

Many of you have met Dan (from BLP) here on the blog, to which he was introduced to at the 2006 Fiery Foods Show. Dan is our resident label & printing expert and below is a superb article on the topic. If you have label quesitons, just ask Dan!

By Katy Wight
As appears in Fiery Foods and BBQ Magazine

It takes between three and five seconds for a consumer to pinpoint and select the product they want from a supermarket shelf. That’s about the same time it will take to read this sentence. So, how can you make sure that your product catches their eye?

As fiery food brands battle for shelf space and market share, the role of packaging has never been so important. Labels can bring your marketing message to life and partnering with an innovative label converter is more crucial than ever. As a product marketer you need to know how to fully exploit your label printer’s experience and capabilities to achieve your sales potential. So, what do you need to know?

A label portrays your brand identity and will influence a consumer’s final purchasing decision. Get your label converter involved right from the start. A majority of label printers use the flexographic (flexo) printing process and have equipment that is unique to label converting, so it is important that you use a designer who is familiar with its intricacies. An in-house designer is ideal, but if you choose a freelancer, make sure that they work closely with the printer. Getting to know the capabilities of your label converter will allow you to explore and find the right decorating technique for your products.

You should have your nutritional and UPC information complete and ready for the designer to use from the start or this could slow the turnaround of the job. It’s also important to find out how you can transfer your art files to the label converter. Most printers today have FTP servers where it’s easy to upload files via the Internet, but checking this beforehand means you won’t be wasting time when you’re ready to go to print. Make sure you have discussed and agreed on lead times with the converter to ensure they can meet your expectations.

In the U.S., 90 percent of label converters use the flexo printing process. The printing plates are made out of a flexible photopolymer, which is much faster and more cost-effective to produce than alternative technologies. Gravure and offset printing, the methods for long runs of magazines and other commercial print, generally use solid metal plates that need to be engraved. Flexo label presses are specially developed to print on narrower material for shorter runs and produce much less material waste. With comparable quality, flexo means that your labels can get on-press quicker and are printed at a more competitive price.

Label presses also enable you to print on a wide range of materials, including difficult substrates such as films and foils. Most printers also offer a whole host of additional label special effects and inks, from basic metallic finishes right through to holograms and high-tech inks that change color with temperature.

Your converter will be happy to give you a plant tour and help you to familiarize with the technology that’s available. They will be able to give you lots of advice on ways to save money and time. For example, if you have multiple products that vary according to heat or flavor, you could look into using a base label where only one plate–equivalent to one color–is changed. The plates for the other colors could be shared with the rest of the labels. Basic process printing has four plates–blue, yellow, red and black–and when the four colors are laid on top of one another, in special dot formations, they produce all of the different colors that we perceive.

It will also be beneficial to discuss label size with your converter at an early stage. Printers have hundreds of in-house die cutters that you can choose from, which can save you the expense of having your own die design custom-made.

They may just look like stickers to you, but labels can offer an infinite number of sophisticated capabilities to different products with varying demands. Your converter needs to know what material your container is made from, its shape and the environmental conditions that the product will be expected to withstand. For example, if your product is refrigerated, the label will need resistance to low temperatures and moisture to maintain its performance. It’s also important to tell your converter whether the label will be applied automatically or by hand. There are pharmaceutical labels available that have been engineered for cryogenic freezing, as well as automotive labels built to withstand temperatures up to 600 degrees F, so your converter is guaranteed to find a solution for you!

Today’s labeling legislation means that you have to squeeze an awful lot of information into a very small space, which can compromise your design objectives. Is your container too small for the nutritional facts? Extended text, booklet and plow folded labels can offer you the extra space to comply with regulations, include multi-lingual information and can also give you a promotional forum for recipe ideas, coupons, rebates, other product marketing and cross-promotions with other manufacturers. There are a vast number of extended content constructions available and your converter can advise you on the best way to execute your marketing idea.

Take advantage of your converter’s knowledge and capabilities. They have the tools to effectively execute your brand strategy, so put some thought into labeling. After all, that label helps consumers decide whether your product is totally hot–or not!

BLP Labels, Inc. of Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, has 25 years of expertise in the design, development and converting of labels for world-class consumer goods companies. Contact them at 262-877-2158 or www.blplabels.com

Nick Lindauer

The Original Hot Sauce Blog