Market Focus

Paper Substrates

August 27, 2010

The digital printing boom has led paper suppliers to expand portofolios while focusing on variety, versatility and application-specific labelstocks.

Paper Substrates

The digital printing boom has led paper suppliers to expand portofolios while focusing on variety, versatility and application-specific labelstocks.

By Steve Katz

As the labeling industry continues to evolve – of course so too do the equipment, consumables and technology that puts the label together. It seems you can’t attend a label conference or tradeshow – or even have a casual discussion – without touching on digital printing, sustainability and the economics of the industry. That said, a review of the paper substrates offered by the industry’s suppliers will include the aforementioned topics, as paper substrates are now being offered exclusively with the digital printer in mind. And paper suppliers are improving their overall products and expanding their portfolios, while taking into account the budget considerations of customers.

What follows are paper substrate suppliers descriptions of some of their offerings, as well as some thoughts on paper’s role in the industry today.

Avery Dennison, Fasson Roll North America
Avery Dennison, Fasson Roll North America, Mentor, OH, USA, offers a broad portfolio of paper label materials designed to meet a variety of application requirements and label looks. The backbone of the portfolio includes high-gloss and semi-gloss materials. More specialized materials include metalized, foil laminates, attention-grabbing fluorescents, substrates tailored for the wine and spirits industry, and dissolvable labels used in food rotation applications.

“Our Prime Paper product portfolio is used in a broad variety of markets and applications, limited only by the imagination of brand owners and designers,” says Don Berger, prime paper product manager, Fasson Roll North America. “A sampling of markets and applications range from food (condiments, dressings, lunch meats, spices) to household care (dishwashing soap, home cleaners, paint) and personal care (nail polish remover, makeup), toy labeling, beverage (milk, water, juice), pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals, textile (sock band), and spirits and wine – offering more than 140 products designed for the wine market.”

Additionally, Fasson, through a partnership with Mohawk Fine Papers, has recently introduced the Fasson Superfine line of premium uncoated wine label facestocks, which are Forest Stewardship Council certified, and HP Indigo, offset and flexographic printable.

A sample of Avery Dennison’s Superfine line of premium wine label facestock.
“Superfine Premium Label combines the lush tactility and perfectly balanced white shade of Mohawk Superfine with a surface technology that dramatically increases the density of the ink film and reduces dot gain on press,” says Dave Van de Water, director of product and market development at Mohawk, Cohoes, NY, USA. “It’s a perfect storm of product attributes. Superfine Premium Label offers perfect aesthetics, breakthrough print performance and unparalleled flexibility for the printer’s workflow. We are extremely excited to offer this product to the packaging industry.”

Superfine Premium Label is available in five finish and shade combinations: Smooth White, Smooth Softwhite, Eggshell White, Coral White and Handmade White.

Commenting on digital’s growth and its impact on the labeling industry, Berger says, “One of the more obvious trends is the acceptance and growth of digital printing and digital topcoated materials. This trend is driven largely to support the short run segment of the market, including prototypes, scale-up runs and applications where a small quantity of labels is needed. Avery Dennison has invested in capabilities and service initiatives that allow us to offer more than 60 digitally topcoated materials which have been HP Indigo certified, and which can be purchased a single slit roll at a time. Additionally, Avery Dennison offers products for Xeikon and Jetrion digital presses.

“Another ongoing trend is the increasing acceptance and reliance on semi-gloss facestocks as the primary face material in prime label applications,” adds Berger. “As a result, Avery Dennison continues to work with industry suppliers in the development of new, high-performing semi-gloss materials that meet the market’s needs for performance at economical

UPM Raflatac
“Far and away, 54# Raflacoat (semi-gloss) is our most popular and versatile paper facestock,” says Patrick Goss, prime business director, UPM Raflatac, Mills River, NC, USA. “What makes this grade an industry standard paper in product identification labeling is that as a laminate, it offers a quality surface for both UV and water based flexographic printing and has the strength characteristics sought in on-press diecutting and in label application methods as well.”

UPM Raflatac also offers a number of grades of both heavier and lighter weights of semi-gloss paper for situations requiring enhanced performance or reduced cost. “And of course, we offer the cast and machine-finished gloss grades which provide the finest print surfaces and appearance,” Goss says, adding, “Our most popular paper grades are offered as both splice-free and trimless labelstock products. It is common for label converters to standardize their inventory around one or several particular products, and our emulsion adhesives – RP51 (permanent general purpose), RP48AT (all-temperature) and RH09 (hotmelt) – meet those broad-market requirements.”

Goss notes that label converters continue to optimize their use of base materials to reduce operating costs. “Use of the lighter, thinner grades of face papers, in combination with downgauged calendared kraft liners or film liners, allows for larger rollstock reel sizes and more finished labels per roll provided to the end-user. We anticipate that this will continue to gain acceptance.”

NewPage Specialty Papers, Stevens Point, WI, USA, offers a wide variety of label paper substrates, from standard semi-gloss 60 lb. and 54 lb. pressure sensitive grades to niche label grades for special applications, such as thermal transfer printing, HP Indigo label certified papers, wet strength beverage labels and postage stamp papers.

An OptiPrime Digital wine label from NewPage
NewPage’s new OptiLabel HB label paper offers converters a high bright general purpose semi-gloss label facestock that “performs well in high speed general labeling operations, while supporting stunning graphics,” says Cory Boettcher, marketing and strategy manager. “The OptiPrime family of special purpose labels include labels for challenging applications and HP Indigo digital printing, postage stamp papers, and premium label paper applications. In addition, we offer additional specialized grades for beverage and thermal printing,” he says.

NewPage paper labels are designed to offer the combination of performance and value for a range of end-use applications. “Our semi-gloss and matte papers are manufactured for FDA compliance, which make them well suited for food and medical applications, as well as general consumer product labeling. In particular, NewPage has manufacturing expertise in beverage label papers that are designed to withstand the rigors of brewing and bottling operations,” says Boettcher.

“From a print technology standpoint, digital label printing has become a rapidly emerging technology for short run label markets,” he adds. “With the steady installation of more HP Indigo ws4500 and WS6000 presses, demand is increasing for HP Indigo certified label papers. NewPage is creating opportunities for traditional pressure sensitive converters to service this rapidly growing segment by offering OptiPrime Digital, an HP Indigo pre-optimized label paper designed specifically for pressure sensitive converters.”

Spinnaker Coating
“We carry a lot of market specific paper faces such as our 40# Semi Gloss for pharmaceutical and tight mandrel applications where the label cannot wing-up,” notes Julie Billing, product manager, Roll Products, for Spinnaker Coating, Troy, OH, USA. “We also offer four different laminated foils, five fluorescent colors and metalized paper for a variety of eye-catching non-white papers. The vast variety of faces – both commodity and specialty – available through our Trimless program suit not only many different jobs, they suit any size needed with little or no waste. Latex papers are a great alternative for the look and feel of paper but with added water resistance; we even carry a Laser Latex that is popular for medical use.”

Billing says that when it comes to selecting paperstock, considering the end use application is of primary importance. “To some degree, everyone carries similar basic white paper faces from an aesthetics standpoint. The key is matching the technical attributes of the entire construction to the job at hand, and we offer the technical support our converters need to all sizes and types of jobs. We want our customers to call with technical questions. No matter how small their job is, it’s the best way to make sure we provide the right product for the application, whether it’s wet, dry, hot or cold,” she says.

Spinnaker offers a wide range of paperstocks for food labels in particular. “Food applications commonly use semi-gloss, thermal and metalized papers. We have these and other Trimless options laminated with our BC-20 adhesive which performs well in moist, damp environments and adheres well to clam shell containers, polyethylene bags, hams, and cheeses.

“Our Natural Kraft face has grown in popularity. It has a brown, paper bag look and feel that works well for boutique food, craft and wine labels. I also think its popularity is due in part to the ‘back to the basics’ mindset the country moved toward during the recession.”

MACtac, Stow, OH, USA, features its Indie line of RIT-certified stocks that are specifically designed for the latest in HP Indigo press technology. The company says it continues to obtain certifications for its products, helping label converters offer their customers products that are in step with the most recent technology developments in digital printing.

MACtac’s Indie line serves the needs
of several markets and applications.
MACtac’s Indie offering includes a range of facestock options in a variety of finishes, from high-gloss to matte, as well as customizable sizes, making them ideal for short run applications. Through MACtac’s Precise Program, label converters can expect next-day shipping of Indie certified stocks in quantities customized to suit their needs, reducing scrap and maximizing efficiencies.

“Indie products serve the needs of several market and product applications, including prototyping, seasonal and regional products, nutraceuticals, gourmet foods, boutique wines, water bottles and health and beauty products,” says Allison Hazel, marketing manager.

“There are a number of new and ongoing trends in the paper substrate area of the labeling industry,” she says. “For instance, customers are always demanding higher, brighter facestocks, and looking for products that can be printed via several technologies such as flexo, offset, digital, laser, inkjet, and more. Our converters, and also their end users, constantly seek more eco-friendly papers containing post consumer waste, and our customers are also producing smaller orders, so they are increasingly looking for smaller minimums and quicker turnaround times.

Wasau Coated
Wausau Coated Products, Wausau, WI, USA, specializes in developing products for customer-specific applications and end user needs. As an HP Preferred Media Partner, Wausau Coated Products offers a broad line of stock pressure sensitive products optimized and certified for HP Indigo presses. With more than 20 papers and 30 SKUs in stock and available to ship within 24 hours, the company serves Indigo customers with a minimum order quantity of one roll at 12" x 1,668'.

A candle label application from Wausau Coated
Within its paper lineup, traditional coated facestocks – such as semi-gloss and cast-coated high gloss – are popular, says Gretchen Kray, product manager. However, she notes that Wausau Coated has seen an increase in demand for uncoated specialty papers. “These textured papers, some with wet strength properties and varying shades of white, are sought after for the wine and gourmet food markets,” Kray continues.

“Another emerging print technology supported with stock paper pressure sensitive products at Wausau Coated is roll inkjet. We stock three paper pressure sensitive constructions qualified on Epson, VIP and Primera printers. Additionally, Wausau Coated is working with EFI Jetrion to increase the number of products approved and recommended for use with their UV inkjet presses,” Kray says. “Print ‘only what you need and only when you need it’ has become a driving philosophy. And supporting this need are the new and ever-improving digital presses and technologies.

“The past 10 years have been tough on the paper substrates market, as film substrate availability has exploded,” Kray explains, but “while films serve specific end use markets (industrial, durable, health and beauty), paper substrates have come back around. Ease of printing and the tactile qualities of paper are features that cannot be ignored. The lower cost per label is another desirable feature of a label made with a paper facestock. Wausau Coated Products will continue to listen to customers, providing new paper substrates suited for all print technologies in this crowded and very competitive marketplace,” she

A closer look at paper substrate applications

Label facestock papers represent a large and relatively high growth paper packaging segment amounting to approximately 530,000 tons in 2009.

This high visibility category cuts across literally all end-use product categories and markets and has been a key element in a broad number of emerging trends and developments including supply chain management, security and anti-counterfeiting, product / brand identification, new printing, new decorative processes and techniques, nutritional / safety regulations, and RFID / bar code / multimedia electronics, to name a few.

These developments have fueled the growth and evolution of label facestocks and supporting technologies and processes in the last 10 to 15 years. These areas will continue to be of high interest in the foreseeable future which will virtually ensure that label facestocks continue to evolve and develop.
A closer look at the major application categories shows the dominance of primary and secondary packaging applications relative to other secondary applications such as industrial, mailing / shipping related, and other miscellaneous applications.

Decorative applications cut across other types but have been identified separately given their importance and interest level in terms of overall category development.

Continued growth is expected in both primary and secondary packaging but secondary packaging is expected to grow at a slightly higher rate due to expected developments in RFID, security, and supply chain management – all of which will positively affect label demand and development.

The label facestock paper segment is one of the least fragmented paper production categories within the packaging paper segment with only about 13 major domestic paper producers participating in this market.

This category will continue to grow at an above average rate relative to packaging papers as a whole and compared with other paper packaging applications but at a lower rate than the recent past. This lower growth rate is due mainly to the natural maturation of the category and the lack of significant new applications that would significantly increase demand beyond the current / sustaining level.

Frank Perkowski is the president of Business Development Advisory (BDA), a specialized consulting firm focused on North American paper and paper based packaging markets. The firm is based in Marietta, GA, USA, and works with companies to identify and assess growth opportunities within paper packaging markets. More information on the referenced study on Packaging Paper markets can be found on the company’s website at or by contacting Perkowski at

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