Field Report

Winning by a neck

October 7, 2009

The neck hanger on Reggae Jam wine is printed on an HP Indigo digital press.
Image is No. 1 in importance in our business," says Tommy Johnston, sales and marketing director for Easley Winery of Indianapolis, IN, USA. "You first have to get the prospective customer to go to the shelf and pick up the bottle. If it passes muster by catching their eye, then price and the actual type of wine become important. Once they buy it and try it, they'll come back for more. We use a catchy necker on the bottle, which lets them find our particular wine quickly among dozens or more of other bottles. It just jumps out at them from the shelf."

Easley Winery is relatively young by winery standards but only because they're in Indiana, a state where holdover Prohibition laws made it illegal to make wine in the state until a group of would-be winery owners banded together and got the law amended in 1974. The Easleys have a vineyard on 14 acres in Southern Indiana and they buy from five other vineyards in Indiana and a few more in nearby Michigan.

Johnston is ecstatic over what he calls the necker, a digitally printed hang-tag that fits over the neck of the bottle and made by Century Marketing of Bowling Green, OH, USA. They used the necker for a co-op promotion on their highly popular Reggae Red, a sweet wine that won a gold medal at the Taster's Guild 2009 International Wine Competition. "We were recommending one part Coconut Jack's Coconut Rum with three parts of our Reggae Red as a great casual drink," Johnston said, "and the necker really contributed to successful sales."

Being a local winery, Easley has had some success with restaurants that want to go local, but conversely, being local sometimes makes it more difficult to get in on the menu in some establishments. Through promotions and persistence as well as the neckers, Easley now has its wines in a good many grocery and retail chains in a five-state area – including Giant Eagle, Kroger, Biggs, Marsh, Target, Walmart, Sam's Club, and CVS.

"We're already looking down the road to the next generation of neckers for the fall," Johnston said, "so we're ordering bamboo racks to tie in our Reggae Red with Coconut Jack's as an adjunct to the popular Corona beer line."

Johnston says that he'd recommend Century Marketing to anyone, "and I really appreciate what they've done for us. They are close enough for us to visit and exchange ideas, and their professionalism shines through. They provide us not only with reasonable quotes, but they also can turn out labels that are cost effective even in smaller quantities."

Robert Petrie, VP of wholesale marketing at Century, says, "Sales of the digitally printed neckers or hang tags are taking off, and are a great complement to our digitally printed wine bottle sleeves. Our digital printing capabilities enable us to do test marketing and trial runs very efficiently and effectively. We pride ourselves on prompt order fulfillment with fast turnaround times, incredible accuracy, and above all, customer satisfaction."

Century Marketing currently has significant sales in distribution markets throughout the United States, including label printers. "Our Wholesale Division has experienced tremendous growth in recent years," Petrie says. "This growth can be directly attributed to the personal, knowledgeable, experienced sales team we have, working with distributors to make sure their needs are met. We also have such a diverse body of equipment and printing techniques that we are able to offer nearly anything a distributor envisions in the label field – from digital printing and hot stamping to digital diecutting and eco-friendly materials. It is our combination of industry experience, printing technology, and a committed team that understands our clients' concerns, that has made the Wholesale Division a success.

Regional food, high end labels

Clara and Greg LeBlanc, owners of Tidbits Restaurant in Jacksonville, FL, USA, had no intention of letting the down economy hurt their business. They had been doing just fine for 25 years, and knew that there was a way to keep business going. "We really wanted to maintain our staff's full-time hours as well as continue their benefits," Clara says, "so we decided to expand our operation into the wholesale deli arena."

Sandwiches from Tidbits
Initially, the packaging for their products was simple, but the products inside were tempting: All sandwiches came with a pickle and a side dish of Tidbits' potato salad. "We were fortunate enough to get our foot in the door with participating Gate petrol and convenience store locations, and currently serve about 20 such stores in the greater Jacksonville area," Clara says. "Gate can best be described as a quality, high end operation, and it was a great fit with the Tidbit sandwich and wrap lines."

"We are a relatively small operation," she says, "and we couldn't afford the machinery to seal the containers like the large wholesalers do. But thanks to Dave Frederick at G2 Labels here in Jacksonville, our packaging now is first class and looks very professional. G2's graphic artist, Brian Shannon, was very creative and thoughtful, sensitive to our needs. Their total team effort truly shows in the finished product. This is a very enjoyable business partnership from all sides."

Dave Frederick can empathize with Clara about trying to break into markets in a down economy. He and partner Terry Cochran opened up G2 Labels in early 2009 and have already surpassed their goals and expectations. One of the reasons for this is that Dave is knowledgeable about labels and also with printing systems. G2's design for Tidbits could have been a disaster cost-wise had they not been aware of the benefits of using Toshiba's ribbon saver printer, because the label on the deli packages is, in Dave's words, "a modified sock label – 14" long – and the Toshiba SX4 printer uses only 1.5" of ribbon to print the variable pricing on the label.

"I've worked with literally dozens of different thermal printers over the years and the SX4 is the very first one that truly delivers on its cost savings promises," Dave says. The math for the savings is simple, he adds: "A 1,477 foot roll of ribbon would print 1,266 labels that are 14" long. By using the SX4, the same 1,477 foot roll of ribbon is used to print 17,724 labels, and it does it at high speed – 10" per second.
The annual savings for Tidbits is projected to be well over $40,000, and in this economy that's a substantial savings to the bottom line.
Larry Arway worked in sales, marketing and product management at Standard Register for 35 years. He was involved in product design and development, and has worked with major consumer and industrial products companies in North America. He can be reached at

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