Verso’s paper portfolio includes over 30 pressure sensitive label facestock papers and more than 30 release liner base papers. The company has recently launched new heavyweight wet strength labels with various finishes for craft beverages, wine and spirits applications, and inkjet for direct food contact applications.
According to Cory Boettcher, Verso specialty brand manager, the company’s specialty papers portfolio focuses on durability, functionality and printability throughout an array of applications. “We feature over 180 specialty paper grades in a wide product portfolio ranging from 20 lb. papers to 12 pt. board,” he explains. “Our latest product launch included bleached and natural kraft machine-glazed papers for food service and flexible packaging applications.”
Scott Peplinski, specialty product development manager, adds that Verso’s label paper offerings have grown and developed through the years due to strong, collaborative partnerships with label printers, converters and end users. The supplier has worked on new technologies such as printing, silicone curing systems and laminating equipment advances.
Even as converters explore various materials to make a product pop off the shelf, paper has seen increased growth. Customers still demand substrates that consistently perform well functionally, economically and sustainably. Paper substrates destined for a wide range of end uses have led to the continued success of this industry.
“Customer demand for paper label substrates remains steady, with growth in special purpose label papers and pressure sensitive label applications such as digital and inkjet, variable information and specialized adhesive technologies,” says Boettcher. “In general, end users have a wide selection of label substrates from which to choose and selecting the best option means choosing the right balance of aesthetics, performance in printing, converting and label application processes, as well as sustainability and cost. Paper label substrates offer proven results across these criteria, making them an excellent choice for a wide array of end-use applications.”
Jim Niemiec, digital product development manager, says that many of the challenges suppliers now face involve enhanced technologies like digital printing. “Until recently, paper companies have been able to develop reliable in-house print test methods and external product trial programs for flexography, rotogravure and offset printing because the printing systems are relatively generic,” he says. “With digital printing, the toners and inks, print technology and drying systems are more unique, complex and diverse. This leads to more reliance on OEMs and field testing, which lengthens development cycles and time to market.”
Digital applications also vary in the way in which they interact with paper surfaces. This could involve adhesion and durability, dry time and print quality. “It is more difficult for paper producers to develop optimal designs for every one of these digital applications,” says Niemiec. “The ability to offer a single product design to serve the entire market is currently less likely in the digital arena. Mills will more likely offer a few product designs which best fit their strengths until digital systems become more robust.”
Other challenges in paper development include balancing attribute performance, cost, asset capability and regulatory constraints. Regulatory actions often involve compostability requirements or the ban of specific chemistries in different countries, states or locales. While this poses a challenge, it also presents an opportunity for the developer to create a competitive advantage if they can quickly bring an alternative to market, says Boettcher.
“Cost is often the most challenging obstacle,” Boettcher adds. “Obtaining a technical solution can be possible, but that solution doesn’t necessarily meet the economic objectives of either the supplier or customer. Another constraint is the asset capability at the disposal of the developer. Newer paper making or coating technologies may be available as capital upgrades, which are not only expensive, but also require several months to design, install and calibrate. Therefore, working within the asset capability constraints is often a limiting factor for the developer in the final performance of the product produced.”
In order to deal with challenges presented by new technologies, Verso provides its customers with highly technical sales representatives and product selector guides on label papers. These guides generally list available paper grades by application area and special performance attributes.
“When specific end-use technical requirements are determined and possible label paper solutions are narrowed down, technical datasheets and sheet samples for specific label paper grades can be obtained to assist in further review and analysis,” says Boettcher. “For new innovations and labels required for demanding technical applications, technical customer service team members can be a valuable resource for further label paper grade selection and/or a possible new product development initiative.”