The New Frontiers of Labeling

Labeling trends and sustainability are intertwined forces shaping the industry’s trajectory.

by Amy Donato, PPG Global Platform Director, TESLIN® substrate

PPG Teslin substrate can be used across a broad array of applications when durability is needed. It contains up to 60% less plastic compared to other similar synthetic substrate products. Image courtesy of PPG

Labels on food and other consumer goods have been a part of our cultural landscape for centuries. Originally painted on crates to identify contents and brands, self-adhesive labels began appearing in the 1930s, nearly 500 years after Gutenberg invented the printing press.

Over the decades, the purpose of labels evolved to include information such as country of origin, freshness dating, pricing, usage instructions, unit numbers, barcodes, and more recently, recycling information.

Regarding the last item, the label industry has witnessed significant shifts in recent years, driven by consumer desires for environmentally conscious products, regulatory demands to meet sustainability goals, and new technologies that support these goals without compromising quality.

This article explores the key developments in these areas while also shining a light on new versatile and durable labeling technologies and partnerships between suppliers, brands and label converters.

Growing demand for sustainable packaging

In a 2022 report by First Insight, consumers across all generations indicated that they are increasingly inclined to spend more on sustainable products, including those with sustainable packaging. Nearly 90% of Gen X consumers said they would spend an extra 10% or more on sustainable products, compared to just over 34% in 2020.[1]

The interest in and push for recyclable products aren’t only coming from consumers. According to a Deloitte survey conducted in 2022, 68% of global executives faced equal pressure to act on climate impacts from regulators and the government, board members, management, consumers and B2B customers. [2]

New labeling standards, certifications and regulations

Labeling standards and certifications, such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Cradle to Cradle, are also becoming more prevalent. Companies eager to respond to consumer desires and meet environmental organizations standards have set varying targets for reducing plastic content and developing new packaging and labeling solutions.

Beyond environmental regulations, there are FDA, European Green Deal, and other regional, federal, and state regulations that require companies to make the content on labels as accessible and transparent as possible, upping the importance of both visual and content considerations that suppliers and brands must incorporate into label creation.

To meet the growing demands for clarity and sustainability, product owners are increasingly looking to purchase labels made from materials that decrease environmental impacts while still displaying pertinent brand, usage and other information.

PPG TESLIN® substrate is a durable, secure, and highly printable synthetic paper that excels in applications that demand a tough, high-performance material. Image courtesy of PPG.

Living in a (new) material world

Companies looking to become more sustainable must consider not only the face stock of the label itself but also the inks, coatings, adhesives and liner materials. Another primary consideration is what type of container a label must adhere to and what kinds of weather it must withstand; such as chemical drum labels in varying conditions. Labels must be flexible, easily readable, conformable, and customizable to containers and packaging, made from wood, glass, plastic, paper, cans and more.

Suppliers are using innovative science and research methods to meet the growing demand from brands and label converters for sturdier and environmentally conscious options. Label converters are companies that specialize in producing labels for various applications. They are responsible for printing, laminating and diecutting labels.

Synthetic paper for labels and packaging applications accommodates an assortment of conventional and digital printing methods, allowing converters to offer adaptable design options while providing high performance, strong adhesion, easy application and high-quality printing.

Other waste reduction and sustainability approaches include reducing raw materials by incorporating recyclable materials, lightweighting (i.e., creating and manufacturing packaging and labeling materials lighter than their traditional counterparts) and utilizing bio-based content.

2024 and beyond

As the threat of lasting climate impacts looms, companies continue to research and develop alternative packaging and labeling solutions and processes.  Streamlining operations will help converters address the challenges of shifting requirements and material prices while continuing to deliver progressive products.

Many companies have pledged to meet increased sustainability goals and have collaborated with organizations such as the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). This collaborative, global approach is the best way forward.

Labels play a crucial role in packaging’s overall recyclability. Labeling trends and sustainability are intertwined forces shaping the industry’s trajectory. This evolution of sustainable labeling not only aligns with environmental stewardship, but also positions brands for long-term success in an increasingly eco-conscious market.

About the Author

Amy Donato is PPG’s global platform director for TESLIN® substrate — a synthetic face stock for printed labels. She has nearly two decades of experience in marketing and sales for consumer and B2B industries.  Learn more at Teslin.com.

References:

  1. Consumers Demand Sustainable Products And Shopping Formats (forbes.com): https://www.forbes.com/sites/gregpetro/2022/03/11/consumers-demand-sustainable-products-and-shopping-formats/?sh=3ba35cb26a06:
  2. 2023-deloitte-cxo-sustainability-report.pdf

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