From holographs and hot stamping foils to the sought-after "no-label look," the appearance of health and beauty product labels have come a long way from their purely informational predecessors. As competition in the market continues to escalate with a growing number of ever-younger consumers entering the scene, the aggressive fight for shelf space has become even more fierce.
"Anyone who wants to have products in the store and have prime 'real estate' has to be unique," says John Shammas, art director, Townley Cosmetics, New York City.
Ellen Rost Caruso, senior design manager global, personal care, for Avon, New York City, provides an international outlook. "Health and beauty labeling is becoming bigger and bigger. As companies continue to expand globally the need to call attention and upgrade the quality of a commodity brand will be key," she says.
As an influx of new and exciting products continues to fill the shelves down the frequented health and beauty aisles, end users scramble to find a unique look to veer the customer toward their merchandise.
As a result, many end users have found success in glitzy, eye-catching graphics using holographics and silver and gold hot stamping foils. This particular look has become extremely popular among cosmetic companies geared toward the teen and pre-teen markets. Shammas of Townley Cosmetics views these trends first hand. As an international manufacturer, marketer and distributor of color cosmetics with consumers between the ages of eight and 18, Townley utilizes a number of ways to attract the attention of its young audience through the use of glittering hot stamping foils and brightly colored labels. The use of holographics is also becoming more popular, says Shammas, as the price becomes more economical.
Tinted glossy clear acetate labels are another popular substrate. "As you turn the bottle you see a rainbow effect or a certain highlight of color within the label, or depending on the material, maybe even a glowing effect," says Shammas. "It makes the product look very different and gives the package more 'oomph' than a regular clear label."
Clear and metallic
Hugh Calloway, group leader personal care R&D, Amway Corporation, Ada, Mich., says the metalized look, either through the use of metalized inks or hot stamping foils, is also becoming popular. Another way to achieve this look is through the use of metalized film. Currently on the market in this area is Fasson Metallized BOPP — biaxially-oriented polypropylene — with a repositionable/permanent adhesive, from Avery Dennison, Painesville, Ohio. Featuring a mirror-like image, this reflective substrate provides ultimate opacity and excellent barrier properties.
On the other side of the coin is the clear no-label look. Jim Moran, director of manufacturing, Fun Cosmetics, New York City, says this particular style is widely used on wrap around labels. "For our nail polish labels we use a clear Mylar film that makes the product look as if it is printed right on the bottle," says Moran.
MACtac, Stow, Ohio, also offers a crystal clear substrate to achieve this effect through its Opticlear-Plus polyolefin, ideal for ultra-clear, semi-rigid PET, PVC or glass containers. Opticlear-Plus can also be used as a high gloss accent on opaque or pearlescent colored containers.
Avery Dennison's Fasson Crystal FasClear TC co-extruded polyolefin labeling material is another alternative. Coated with an emulsion adhesive system, Crystal FasClear offers machine direction orientation to provide an optimum balance between label processing and on-container performance.
As for the Mylar film offered by DuPont, Wilmington, Del., Moran says Fun Cosmetics also uses this clear substrate for its body art markers through the use of a heat transfer process. "Through this process we take the Mylar film with the printed label and release coating on it and place it through the heat transfer machine. When the heat hits the film, it releases an image from the carrier and adheres it to the barrier," says Moran Mylar can also be silkscreened, he adds, "but I prefer the heat transfer process."
Also on the clear side is the trend toward dual-sided printing used in Clairol's Daily Defense and Herbal Essence hair care product lines. For its Daily Defense line of shampoos, a dual-sided back label is used, featuring cloud-filled blue and purple sky imagery, visible through a transparent bottle and clear front label. Many liquid soaps are also jumping on the dual-sided printing bandwagon.
"The purpose of two-sided printing is to achieve depth dimension and provide mood enhancement," says Caruso. The process is used on clear PET packages with a clear product inside, she adds.
Other important qualities which end users seek in a substrate are water and rub resistance, as well as label adhesion. For products such as shower gels, body washes, shampoos and conditioners, water resistance is of extreme importance to ensure that the label remains on the product. "When the consumer has finished using the product, we want to make sure that they have a label that will remind them of where it was purchased," says Calloway of Amway.
Aside from the label side of the printing industry, health and beauty products have shifted gears and created another trend toward printing on the product itself. New in this arena from the Pond's Institute, New York, N.Y., are Pond's soothing Cucumber Eye Treatment. Specially designed to rest on closed eyes, these thin pliable eye pads look and smell like real cucumbers. A patent on the printing technology for this new product has been filed, and as a result the company has remained quiet as to to how the pads are printed. "We can't talk about it at this point in time," says Alex Znaiden, director of Pond's global skin innovation center. "What we can say is that it is unique because it provides excellent image graphics and is able to sit in a liquid," he adds. The pads contain natural cucumber extract and puree in addition to other natural ingredients such as aloe, chamomile and green tea.
Printing the labels
UV flexo, hot stamping, heat transfer, gravure, offset, letterpress and digital are all popular printing processes in the health and beauty industry. But one of the most widely used methods, according to many end users, is screen printing. Leading the list of advantages to this process in health and beauty labeling is its ability to produce an excellent quality opaque white.
But why is the color white so important in personal care labeling? Everett Lotz, senior sales representative, CCL Label, Rosemont, Ill., says the main reason is the type of packaging used in this field. "In this particular market, you are dealing with a lot of glass containers," he says. "Usually there is a darker product inside of the container. If you place a clear label over the bottle you will achieve a 'washed-out' look if the white is not opaque."
Lotz says normal flexo usually produces a more "washed-out" look in these particular applications because of the use of water based and solvent based inks, while UV flexo provides a better alternative. "There have been a lot of strides with UV flexo inks. The white reproduces well. It may never replace screen ink, but in terms of flexo, UV flexo is a lot more enhanced," he says. The best alternative to achieve an excellent opaque white, however, remains screen.
For Townley Cosmetics this printing process proves useful in its Zinc Swirl Scented Sunscreen. "For this product we use a typical silk screen process with a clear acetate label printed with solid screened inks," says Shammas.
Caruso says Avon has selected screen printing in its "Hot Wheels" boys line of bath products because it provides a much heavier laydown. With its metallic quality design used to portray similar properties used in cars, along with a plastic oil can packaging, "Hot Wheels" features a black and white graphic pattern printed using two different processes. The white is screen printed to provide a thicker laydown, while the car design uses either letterpress or gravure, she says. Letterpress and gravure are more useful for a photographic or process image, she explains.
Amway also prefers screen printing for its Body Series deodorant antiperspirant labels. Once printed using an opaque film label, this particular series now uses a clear polypropylene to improve the consistency of matching the ink to the container.
Aside from screen printing, Amway also utilizes offset and gravure. For its "Sun Pacer" line of sun lotion products, Amway uses offset printing on a polypropylene opaque film, says Calloway. On its "Botanical Scents" line of aromatherapy energizing body mist and calming body lotion, however, the company prefers a gravure process with a flexo style, printed on a clear polypropylene film from FLEXcon, Spencer, Mass., he adds.
To achieve a no-label look on its colorful nail polish products, Fun Cosmetics also relies on a gravure process printed on a clear Mylar film.
Digital printing is also making strides in the health and beauty market. At Townley Cosmetics, says Lotz, many labels are created on a digital press. With digital no plates are involved in the process, as labels are printed straight from the computer, providing a certain cost savings factor. This particular process, he continues, is preferred when quantities are on the low end and many copy changes are requested. For larger volumes, CCL uses a screen and UV letterpress combination to create enhanced graphics with a high shelf impact. The company can also process print at a 175 line screen.
Lotz adds a few more positive attributes of digital printing to the table. "Digital printing also provides quick turnaround times, usually in about two weeks or less," he says. "With digital, we can also provide the customer with samples of what the label will actually look like," he adds. If corrections have to be made because of an error in artwork, CCL can correlate the changes directly on the disk for quick trouble shooting. "Digital provides excellent four-color process graphics and is excellent in creating opacity," he adds.
To achieve the attractive metalized look mentioned earlier, hot stamping is another widely used alternative. To capture the shimmering look of its "Star Struck" nail polish, Townley Cosmetics uses a silver pattern foil hot stamped onto a clear acetate label stock, says Shammas.
Finding the right converter
In the constant search for the right converter, quality and cost top the list of concerns among many end users. But other important service qualities can influence a decision.
Shammas of Townley Cosmetics says that being able to find a converter who can maintain close communication with the label applicator is extremely important. "They have to make sure that the label fits on the container properly," he says.
"Converters also have to sustain a secondary role where they not only respond to us, but to the bottle/packaging supplier for their deadline dates as well," adds Caruso of Avon.
Shammas says Townley also looks for a well established and experienced converter who can complete a job cleanly with excellent quality materials.
Amway's Calloway stresses the importance of a converter's research and development department. "We look for someone who can research adhesives and provide us with recommendations," he says.
"We prefer for a converter to provide us with feedback and direction and a better way to present our products," adds Moran of Fun Cosmetics. "We also look into the depth of the company," he says. "We want to become closer with the factory floor and with shipping and manufacturing, as well as deal with someone other than just the president of the company," he adds.
"That will avoid a lot of the 'We'll call you right back with that answer' which can waste valuable time," he adds. Communication is the biggest challenge, says Shammas, not only among technical experts, but among other personnel as well. Even the smallest mistake, such as a missed message, can create a fiasco. "We also prefer direct one-on-one contact," he adds, "and for a company to be on top of its press schedules so we can visit their facility and monitor the presses."
Shammas says Townley Cosmetics is extremely pleased with the work and service they receive from CCL Label, Rosemont, Ill. "They are not afraid to leave their place of business to come and sit down with us to answer any questions we might have," he says. "They will also show us what the label will look like before we go ahead," he adds.
CCL's Lotz, who deals closely with Shammas, says his company also provides a full range of capabilities to meet its customers' needs. For the cosmetic/personal care market, CCL offers an array of products, print technologies and decoration techniques that can be combined to differentiate products and achieve shelf impact.
"CCL also has the technical expertise in developing a label that will work on the product," says Lotz. "For example, we use the proper adhesive and face material combination to ensure that the label will not lift," says Lotz, who is based in Rockaway, N.J. In the past, CCL has also worked to accept artwork directly from Townley via modem or e-mail to save a considerable amount of press time. "By taking advantage of the three technologies and numerous offerings, CCL offers the industry the best fit there is," says Lotz.
In a market that spans international borders, health and beauty products are quickly falling into the realm of bi- and multilingual labels. The challenge with these new requirements, says Caruso of Avon, is addressing the issue of minimum print sizes with better quality type to ensure improved legibility.
The relationship between an end user and a converter is based on honesty and trust. In order for this bond to gain strength into the future, both sides must keep the lines of communication open and maintain a positive hand-in-hand alliance.