A Look at Today’s Labeling Problems and Solutions

By: Elisabeth Cuneo

Labeling today faces different, and perhaps more complex, challenges than years past. Retailing issues, price point, and increasing competition on shelf lends the industry to look for more solutions to help ease the pain of labeling. So, what are the pains and how have these evolved over time?

We asked Don Earl, president of Overnight Labels, what CPGs want from labels today and how this demand changed over the years, and his response was surprising.

“Our primary business is in nutraceutical and beverage, and what we are noticing is that runs are getting shorter, companies have more SKUs, and we have less lead time. What’s interesting to see is that the more entrepreneurial companies want more innovation, and the less entrepreneurial companies want to create a simpler, less expensive label option. Big CPG brands are going to these types of labels, while small companies are coming onto the scene with beautiful labels to garner attention,” says Earl.

Why is that?

“When you start out as an entrepreneur, you want the effects, the beautiful labels, and then you enter large retailers and you need to lower cost, so design and labels have to alter for this. New brands can now skip the retailer and go straight to online sales. Traditional retailers are suffering and consumers are reporting a less-than-exemplary experience, with either items sold out, bad customer service, etc. It’s no surprise that more sales are going to online,” continues Earl.

How is the rise of digital printing affecting the industry?

“For one thing, it is accommodating the shorter runs. You can experiment a bit with digital printing. For big runs we still use the flexo, but for prototypes, digital printing works well, and quickly. The speed helps us show the prototypes quickly to our customers, which is important, because they face more competition within their industries, which means more products and formulas that need to be launched fast,” states Earl.

Labels aid in protecting the product inside, displaying pertinent information, and delivering great graphics. In general, why is the overall quality of labels so important?

As Earl states, “Quality is always important– we always operate with the idea that the label has to be perfect every single time, and every run.”

“We have water-resistant, light-blocking, and other labels, all ready to be tailored to the packaging need. In shrink sleeve, we see a lot of fresh beverages that use HPP (high pressure processing), which is a rough process for a label, so you have to use a specific label to hold up during the HPP process,” says Earl.

What challenges do your customers face as it pertains to labels? And what are the solutions?

“The biggest thing is speed to market, and reacting quickly. That is a struggle because there is more regulation than there used to be. Lead time is squandered in testing, legal, compliance review, ensuring all nutrition facts are accurate, etc. So then by the time that’s done, the customer needs it out asap. They promise a time to get the product on the shelf and compliance makes it difficult to meet that timing. Ideally, we would like 2-3 weeks lead time, depending on the complexity of a run, but with the changing landscape, we can do it in far less time, to help our customers out,” says Earl.

How?

“To accommodate, we have to run efficiently and plan differently,” continues Earl.

Ok, so we know about the common problems of today, what are the trends you’re seeing?

“Years ago, people created a label that looked cool, now it’s all about creating a mood, and creating an identity with the brand. These companies are trying to create a bigger picture, not just one product, but a family of products with a brand behind it, and a rationale. And it all has to fit together. For instance, in the past, color coding was just out of convenience to signal which is which, now it’s used to create a whole brand picture, mood and vision. Also, now the product becomes part of the design; designers are getting savvier and leveraging the product to tie into the label.”

Established in 1987, Overnight Labels, Inc., is an award-winning U.S.-based manufacturer specializing in custom printed shrink sleeves, neckbands, flexible film, stick packs, booklets, peel-back and piggy-back labels, IRC coupons, confectionary wrappers, clamshell inserts, pressure and non-pressure sensitive labels, rotary silkscreen, foil, tactile varnishes, craft beer labels, embossed labels, reclosure labels, blister card backing, dual-chambered shrink sleeves, and more. Visit overnightlabels.com

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