Field Report

Making the bottle fit the label

January 15, 2010

Everyone's heard about how long the gestation period for an elephant is, right? Twenty-two months in case you've forgotten. Well, how about three companies beginning work on a label in 2007 for a product that will be on the market in the fall of 2010? Here's their story:

Kate Solomon, CEO of Babo Botanicals, based in New York City, is working with botanists to develop pure, organic hair and skin care products for babies and children. The brand offers premium, professional level products that target hair, scalp and skin. Each Babo Botanicals formula contains a proprietary, certified organic Nutri-Soothe Blend that combines powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and vitamin-rich botanicals to calm, soothe, nourish, and defend against environmental aggressors. According to Kate, "This will be the first such line of products on the market to deliver natural solutions for the youngest members of our families."

Coni Lefferts, president of Creative Packaging Solutions, Keyport, NJ, USA, is a 30-year veteran of the packaging industry and a believer in the mantra that "packaging is a critical component in a product's success." She began working with Kate to develop the packaging in 2008 and quickly realized that she needed some reinforcements in view of the highly technical requirements of bottles using oversized labels.

Robert Beagan, a packaging consultant and label professional with LogoTech USA of Fairfield, NJ, was invited by Coni to join Kate and her to overcome some labeling problems. Robert had worked with Coni before on some joint projects and was intrigued by the nature and scope of the new venture.
Leslie Gurlund, president of LogoTech, provided the support and R&D needed to bring a very challenging program to fruition, and made available to the group the considerable resources of the company's design and prepress departments.

While the Field Report column articles generally revolve specifically around the client and her/his product as well as what the converter did in and out of the box, the Babo Botanicals story goes way beyond that. Consider that the bottle manufacturer is in China and one of the key products in the new line required a custom bottle. This was compounded by the fact that the label not only has to be automatically applied, but it also was the first time any of the group had worked with the filler. Talk about going against a stacked deck.

Coni and Robert say that "there was a lot of R&D back and forth stock bottles versus custom bottles, clear film versus white film, letterpress ink versus silkscreen, and so on." Coni sent Robert bottles with requested label sizes, the application requirements and the user's requirements, i.e. shampoo, bath and infant/children's environment. According to Robert, "This took some time to resolve because we needed to maximize the printable real estate on the front of the bottle while keeping a tight tolerance against the bottle's curve."

Without going into all the details of solving what appeared to be a challenging dilemma, the successful result was attributed to making the bottle fit the label instead of vice versa. There were discussions back and forth over whether to use clear or opaque material, and LogoTech made live sample mockups to put on the bottle. LogoTech's HP digital press was a key player in the drama so that production samples could be manufactured quickly. Beagan says, "Our biggest challenge was getting the seam line to be visually correct between the label and the bottle without seeing any wrinkling. We were contending with a curvature that had to be adjusted to get the label to lay flat."

Since the Babo products will be primarily used on infants and children, every precaution was taken with the bottles and the labels to ensure that there would be zero migration of the ingredients throughout the anticipated shelf life, as well as testing to ensure that neither the adhesive nor the plasticizers in the bottles would migrate into the contents. Coni mentions that "at one point, I was in favor of screen printing everything onto the bottle, but the artwork had been developed for conventional label printing, so we kept on pushing the envelope."

Keeping abreast of potential pitfalls kept everyone hopping on this project. "We had specific pastel colors to work with, and foreign bottle cap manufacturers don't deal as well as we do with PMS color charts," says Coni. "We had huge challenges to meet in ensuring that the colorant used in the plastic would be the same density as Kate's specific PMS colors. Robert had LogoTech produce ink drawdowns on the label substrate to use as the basis of colors in our mixture of custom bottle, cap and inserts to assure consistency and meet with Kate's approval."

The China-based bottle manufacturer was used for a custom, blow-molded bottle. Coni describes its shape as "looking like a miniature water tank that has had two sides squeezed flat." Coni's engineering increased the bottle's height, width and depth to maintain the projected fill, while reducing the bottle's surface radii to allow for a layflat label. With the advanced engineering, Babo was able to use the oversized label, which can be automatically applied without wrinkling. "By doing this," Robert says, "we were able to use an oversize label and automatically affix it without wrinkling."

Our hat is off everyone in the group, not only for their perseverance and professionalism but also for demonstrably showing that where there's a will, there's a way.

Babo Botanicals, (launching winter 2010); Creative Packaging Solutions,; LogoTech,
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.