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Wood veneer labels for Jim Beam

By Steve Katz, Editor | August 6, 2013

A label innovation connects the famous bourbon with its distinctive aging process.

Jim Beam is an iconic brand, and the bourbon maker takes it’s unique, barrel-aging process seriously. So with the company’s launch of a new, limited edition spirit, it used an innovative pressure sensitive label to not only create shelf appeal, but also help tell the story of the product and the way it’s made.

Coinciding with the new bourbon’s launch is a wood veneer label developed by global printing and packaging company Multi Packaging Solutions (MPS). Under development for over 12 months, the new wood veneer labels debut with the launch of Jim Beam’s Limited Edition American Stillhouse Clermont Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey. Made from cherry veneer and digitally printed at Multi Packaging Solutions’ facility in Lansing, MI, USA, the labels evoke the iconic barrels in which the bourbon is aged.

“The prospect of making a label that would be a genuine wood material as opposed to a faux wood appearance has been of interest to us for quite some time,” says Shawn Nevitt, printed packaging manager for Jim Beam. “The barrel aging process is so special and unique to bourbon-making that a veneer label just seems to fit, and MPS did a great job working with our R&D team on testing and matching our performance specifications.”

The wood veneer labels are manufactured using a hardwood veneer backed with a thin film. The wood veneers are an ideal facestock material for labels and can accept a variety of pressure sensitive adhesives. Available in rolls and sheets, the labels can be applied to a variety of surfaces, including glass, plastic, metal and rigid containers. The wood veneers can also be laminated directly to paper, paperboard, or film, allowing for a wide range of uses in folding cartons and marketing promotions.

“When Jim Beam asked us to explore the possibility of a pressure sensitive label made from wood veneer, we were excited to take on the challenge,” says Erin Willigan, vice president of marketing for Multi Packaging Solutions. “Working with our developmental partners, our Innovation Team was able to achieve the aesthetic qualities and performance criteria Jim Beam was looking for.

The R&D behind the wood veneer label was driven by Jim Beam’s distinct requirements for their liquor labels. “The biggest challenge we had was developing a label that would pass all their internal lab and performance tests and could be dispensed at high speeds on their bottling line. We worked with our internal and external teams to develop the best combination of adhesives, liner and coatings that would meet these requirements, while maintaining the look and feel of the wood label.”
MPS printed the Jim Beam labels on its HP Indigo 6000 digital label press. The veneer was pre-treated with an Indigo receptive coating. “In-line priming is also possible directly on our Indigo presses outfitted with pre-priming stations,” Willigan explains. “Beyond digital printing, we can also print the wood veneer labels on our flexo, offset, letterpress, and screen presses. UV inks work great, as do conventional inks. 

“Even though the term veneer generally conjures up thoughts of rigid pieces of wood, like what you find on a piece of furniture, our veneer labels are extremely thin and flexible. We laminate the veneer to thin film to transform it into a pressure sensitive labelstock,” she says.

In terms of wood veneers available, birch and cherry work best, Willigan explains, as both are domestically grown and selectively harvested sustainable species of wood. “These can be pre-stained to look like any wood grain. The wood grain will show through the ink to mimic the wood grain desired. Much like we buy furniture with a cherry finish where the wood is actually poplar, you can print the wood color and look using either the birch or cherry. Other hardwood veneers such as bamboo are available but would need to be tested prior to actual production.”

MPS’s wood veneer labels can be printed, embossed, foiled, diecut and converted like paper. In addition to label applications, they can be used for folding cartons, setup boxes, binders, book covers, pocket folders and more.

“The Jim Beam label is an example of a product where there is a direct connection to wood and conveys to consumers the iconic elements of their bourbon aging process,” concludes Willigan, adding possibilities for the veneer labels exist with popular branding and image material for products in the cosmetics, entertainment, outdoor sports and automotive markets.