Keeping Up With the Trends

The Ebbs and Flows of Labeling

By: Andrew Palmer, Director of Sales, Labels and Forms, RRD

Packaging and labels are constantly evolving, largely to meet new and changing consumer preferences, but also to advance alongside the technological capabilities of the supply chain. This is especially true as manufacturers, distributors and retailers aim to speed time-to-market or delivery while heeding calls for sustainability and variety. Let’s take a look at some of the new (and existing) trends in the labeling industry.

RFID makes a resurgence

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) labels are a type of tracking system that uses radio frequency to identify objects and transfer data remotely. These smart labels can store information such as serial numbers, item descriptions, and even large amounts of data. RFID labels are not new, but they are making a resurgence due to top U.S. retailers mandating their suppliers tag certain products with RFID labels in order to optimize inventory management and supply chain operations.

By utilizing RFID labels, workers in stores, warehouses and distribution centers can scan products to learn more about product origin, movement and destination. Compared to the manual and more strenuous process of logging and searching for product data via portals or handheld readers, a simple scan of an RFID label can instantaneously bring all of this information to a user’s fingertips.

RFID labels have the ability to not only help the retailer, but also the consumer. Think of an online shopping experience – instead of ordering an item online to have it shipped to you, you prefer to go pick it up in the store. If a retailer utilizes RFID labels, by searching their website, you can see the quantity of your desired item in the store near you, and if it’s available for pickup at all. RFID enables that experience – these labels can immediately communicate inventory levels, making the consumer experience much smoother and more seamless.

Striving toward sustainability

Sustainability remains a paramount focus for companies across industries and this includes their use of packaging and labels. According to a new study by RRD, 90% of respondents agree sustainability is a key consideration in packaging and labeling decisions. Beyond that, 66% said they are likely to make sustainability-led changes to packaging and labels over the coming 2-5 years. Reduction of material waste and product recyclability are top priorities when making sustainability-minded packaging or labels decisions; two trends directly affecting the labels industry.

Lighter weight facestocks, smaller sized packaging, alternative substrates, and linerless labels are just some of the ways companies can alter design for sustainability, creating upstream benefits to the recycling waste stream. Linerless labels in particular can directly cut down on material waste all while maintaining high quality product efficacy and increasing efficiency. Linerless labels omit the traditional backing associated with a traditional label, which tend to not be recyclable and end up as direct addition to landfill. By switching to linerless labels, companies can make this step count towards achieving their larger sustainability goals.

Focusing on flexibility

Flexibility is a consistent consideration for companies when it comes to packaging and labels, but specific trends can really bring it into focus. For starters, think about your traditional label – it adheres where it’s supposed to, but it can also be a hassle to remove from a product for recycling or reuse. That’s where ultra-removable labels come in as a solution that many companies are implementing into their operations. Tying in with previously mentioned trends, particularly sustainability, the use of ultra-removable labels is becoming more common as companies aim to enhance flexibility, while maintaining the highest quality labels possible.

A new trend and opportunity within the e-commerce industry comes with product returns. While many companies conduct e-commerce returns differently, some companies will include a return shipping label upon request or require customers to print one themselves. With the implementation of ultra-removable labels, manufacturers can fasten two labels to the original shipment – the return label on the bottom and the original shipping label on top of it. This makes it more convenient for a customer to return an item as they can simply peel off the top label, revealing the return label ready for shipment.

This ties into another trend that’s grown out of e-commerce, the ship-in-own container (SIOC) concept. With SIOC packaging, a shippable, branded container is used to protectively store, display, and ship the products, eliminating the need for secondary packaging. With traditional labels, if you apply a permanent adhesive shipping label to the primary packaging and then need to remove it or return the package, the label can shred the packaging. With ultra-removable labels, the label can be removed without causing damage to the primary packaging, making SIOC and ultra-removable labels an ideal combination for increased efficiency and reduced waste.

As industries continue to evolve, flexibility in labeling will be key for companies to remain efficient and timely.

While the trends in product packaging and labeling will always ebb and flow, one thing tends to remain the same – companies are committed to providing high quality products to their customers while maintaining sustainable and efficient operations. As long as companies keep an open mind, they can continue to embrace the changes associated with trends as an opportunity to connect with their customer and create lasting brand impact.

About the Author

Andrew Palmer is the Director of Sales for RRD Label Solutions. He is responsible for packaging, labels, forms, and packaging supply chain management. With nearly 15 years of experience in the packaging and labels industry, Andrew has created and implemented client programs, driving optimized supply chain programs across a variety of industries including but not limited to; industrial manufacturing, consumer packaged goods, medical device, and pharmaceutical.

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