With entire stores dedicated to these products, designing a package that stands out from the rest is no easy task. This market not only deals with the challenge of creating an attractive product that pops on the shelves, but the labels must adhere to a host of regulations required by law.
The job is understood: create a label that informs and catches a consumer’s eye, all within a few seconds. Otherwise, someone is not making it back to work for the afternoon.
Brand owners work with label printers to find ways to command attention on a crowded shelf. From the printing process to the color scheme, each label uses a different route to arrive at the same destination.
Winning at the shelf
Regardless of how a company decides to design its labels, finding something that pops and draws the consumer’s glance is paramount. Brands know that there is a limited amount of time to hook a customer and stand out from the competition.
“I think shelf appeal is still a core priority, from the brand’s perspective and from the end users of our product,” says Tim Bohlke, business development manager, HPC, at Avery Dennison. “Certainly winning at the shelf, whether it be with a metalized product or a clear-on-clear bottle; that is not getting old. That is the first moment of truth.”
Companies continue to explore new technologies in order to generate more attention at the point of sale. For Minneapolis, MN-bsed AWT Labels & Packaging, that includes metallic label materials, as well as shrink sleeves and flexible tube labels to use up a product’s entire real estate.
“We have continued interest to find materials and inks that grab consumer attention within ten seconds in the store aisle,” says Chip Fuhrmann, VP of sales and marketing at AWT. “We want to encourage label designs that project product quality and that appeal to the consumers’ taste.”
There are multiple trends that have dominated the market recently, and they are helping brands experiment with new ways to drive business. In addition to shrink sleeves, Patchogue, NY-based Paris Art Label notices digital printing and pouches as emerging packaging technologies. “Paris Art has invested in these areas to offer our clients an array of packaging outside the pressure sensitive label market,” says Jonathan Tarantino, the company’s VP of sales. “Not only do we manufacture shrink sleeves and labels, we also have the ability to apply these items in house.
“Digital printing offers the ability to reduce your working capital and increase your speed to market with less upfront investment,” adds Tarantino.
Label Impressions, based in Orange, CA, is seeing a trend back to special effects like tactile images, rotary screen effects, combination matte/gloss finishes, foil-cast and cure, and the use of full color. The company’s ten-color presses are often running health & beauty work.
“The drivers behind combination coatings and tactile effects are a strong desire to create dimension in a product label, helping both to enhance the product and company’s image, and to create greater shelf appeal and pop,” says Jeff Salisbury, president at Label Impressions. “With the necessary move to film labels, embossing is no longer a viable option, and the improvement in specialty coatings has made simulating this effect more possible.”
UPM Raflatac offers Vanish, a “no-look label” that is created with high performance adhesives and clear PET liners. This “disappearing act” on a label allows a converter’s clients to stand out on the shelf.
“We’re seeing demand for conformable and rigid films,” says Trevor Richardson, market development manager, Americas, for UPM Raflatac. “Raflex Plus or polyethylene products are ideal for semi-squeezable or fully squeezable containers used in conjunction with our new Vanish and polypropylene films for more rigid packaging. This is a strong market segment for UPM Raflatac and a growing one with the expansion of our thinner profile films.”
State of the market
Although the market is not booming as fast as some would like, the beauty and personal care industry is experiencing growth. In the last five years, private brand products have increased substantially.
“What you’re seeing is minimal growth for categories such as hair care and skin care, and what I mean is that you’re seeing 1-2%,” says Bohlke. “I think there’s still the private label area that continues to grow that I think brands have to continue to keep an eye on because of that valuable retail shelf space.”
Label Impressions’ longstanding history in the health and beauty label market has enabled it to withstand economic slowdowns. Over the last 25 years, personal care labels have made up more than half of the company’s business. Salisbury sees the market as competitive but strong. “We have had the advantage of being involved with personal care labeling since 1994, so we’re well versed in the challenges and requirements involved in this market,” adds Salisbury. “As such, our business has grown with the personal care market. Our focus on developing additional special effects, sourcing unique, high performing materials and two-ply labels has helped us maintain a strong presence and position within the personal care labeling space.”
Richardson explains that the market is growing all over the world, specifically in Latin America. One of the key drivers is innovation. As more technologies become available and companies continue to go green, the market will evolve and grow. “Capturing the sustainable benefits using our Life Cycle Analysis tool (Label Life) allows manufacturers to report real sustainability improvements while at the same time realizing impactful efficiency gains in processing,” adds Richardson.
Retailers like Target, Walgreens and Walmart have gone to great lengths to manufacture and brand themselves in the beauty and personal care market.
“It’s a great market to play in, especially with core brands from Unilever, like Axe and Dove. There’s also the Johnson & Johnson brand, with its baby products and skin care lines, like Aveeno,” says Bohlke.
Labels and packaging also need to be able to withstand environments that can range from moist, wet and humid to chemically harsh. According to UPM Raflatac, home and personal care labels are usually conformable and squeezable, and water, oil and chemical resistant.
Recyclable liners and more environmentally friendly solutions are also important philosophies that more companies are now adopting. Avery Dennison offers the CleanFlake portfolio, which was developed to enhance the recycling of PET containers.
According to the company, it features “clear or white BOPP film facestock anchored by SR3010, a switchable adhesive that adheres to a PET bottle until the cohesive bond is broken at the recycler.” This leads to clean separation from the PET flake and reduced landfill waste.
“Packaging and design folks are certainly being pushed inside of their organization to make a more sustainable product, and we’re seeing that,” adds Bohlke. “I think you are going to see sustainability play in this space at the same time being a beauty brand.”
“This is a very opportune market for real sustainability – consumers are ever more aware of false ‘greenwashing’ – and actualized efficiency gains,” says UPM Raflatac’s Richardson. “When you can offer products that fit these needs well and complement printers’ needs for digital and flexo printing options, it is a great space to be in. It’s a new era for the marketplace with our films portfolio.”
Paris Art Label, which does 65% of its business in beauty and personal care, explains that many companies are moving toward PETG because it is a “greener” material.
Films seeing the most action
Beauty and personal care labels have shifted to predominantly film. Although paper is still utilized, its presence is much smaller than that of its counterpart. The industry’s breadth of products being used in wet conditions like shampoo, conditioner and shaving cream has necessitated more durable films.
“Corona treating and/or primers, special film ink systems and coatings are necessary,” says Salisbury. “Personal care product manufacturers are continually adding essential oils and other chemicals known to strip inks and coatings off of labels, so we’ve developed special coatings to protect against this. We perform testing in our own in-house lab on all personal care labels to ensure adequate ink adhesion and protection and provide samples for our clients to perform their own tests before label application.”
Paris Art Label has teamed with Avery Dennison on a thin film, which is thinner than a 2ml construction and offers less cost and more labels per roll.
Avery Dennison’s substrates are used on common products like Axe and Herbal Essence. Its Global MDO with S7000 adhesive is what Bohlke considers the company’s “gold standard” for materials. Metalized BOPP continues to have traction in the market, as well. He adds that while paper still has a place in the market, it is now more of a niche than a staple.
“Film is the primary choice of the core HPC brands,” says Bohlke. “When you’re talking about a segment like the natural brands category or someone that wants a nostalgic look on their package, there’s a great place for paper. Film dominates and there are reasons for that, and certainly that’s the shelf appeal aspect.”
Beauty (and personal care) challenges
The beauty and personal care market is not all roses, however. From the substrate manufacturer to the printer, there are challenges that affect this industry on a daily basis. Not only do the products need to stand out on the shelves, customers are increasingly requiring shorter lead times and less cost, all the while expecting the same quality production.
“The market is always getting more competitive,” says Tarantino. “You need to invest to overcome these challenges.”
Although companies are looking to decrease costs, Bohlke believes that clients get what they pay for in this business.
“Price pressure is without a doubt a factor in the value chain,” says Bohlke. “It might cost you five or ten cents more, but look at the value of what you get when you have a metalized label on a more sustainable package, and what does that mean to the consumer? What does that mean for your brand image?”
Label Impressions faces this challenge in two ways. The company moved away from expensive hot foil to cold foil and installed in-house high definition flexo equipment. According to Salisbury, these moves increased quality and lowered costs. “The economic changes that occurred in 2008 and 2009 forced us to learn how to operate more efficiently without compromising quality.
Investments in people, processes and equipment have enabled us to not only compete but to be a lower cost provider of high quality personal care labels.”
There are other challenges in addition to managing lead times and quality output. “The biggest challenge we face in serving the personal care market is customer education,” adds Salisbury. “We see ourselves as a consultant to our clients, and while our top clients value this, often our newest customers are unaccustomed to this kind of service and often don’t take time to allow us to truly partner with them. Often, a new client will ask for pricing without taking the time to let us properly evaluate their components and process, which can lead to expensive issues down the line during labeling or even worse.”
This industry also deals with something not likely to be seen on your average label: a complex list of FDA requirements. Not only is the list long and detailed but it is evolving and ever-changing. According to AWT’s Fuhrmann, all cosmetics require an ingredients list that is approved by the FDA. The challenging part is the time. Approval for the various chemicals in the products can be a lengthy process, and the FDA has a list of regulations. “There is a movement to expand the ingredients list to light duty household cleaning products, too” adds Fuhrmann.
Some of the specific regulations include UPC size, scalability, drug fact content and standard test methods. “These methods are used to define the criteria a label must pass before shipment,” says Tarantino. “For example, a tape test, rub test, fade and humidity, and so on.
“As for shrink, the COF (coefficient of friction) is a big factor,” adds Tarantino. “That determines the amount of friction between the material and the product during application. If this is not issued correctly, there can be a lot of issues on the applicator.”
There are organizations that will inform companies about the changing regulations, as is the case at Label Impressions. Salisbury adds, “Common violations are found in the type size in the list of ingredients within the Net Contents part of the label. In order for brands to maintain a ‘clean look’ on the front of the packaging, multi-ply and expanded content labels are increasing in popularity.”