The event took place from April 19-20, and an afternoon panel discussion featured Rob Daniels, president, Quality Tape & Label Co., and Sean Gallagher, director of innovation, Innovative Labeling Solutions. Brian Cleary, Labels Category Manager, North America, HP, moderated the discussion. Both converters have experienced success with shrink sleeves, specifically printing them on HP Indigo digital presses.
“Digital shrink sleeves can really help drive growth in your company. They are an absolutely fantastic way to do it,” explained Gallagher. “It’s not rocket science, and it’s relatively easy to get into, and it offers a lot of capabilities that analog does not.
“We’ve grown immensely,” he added.
ILS utilized an HP Indigo WS6600 digital press to feature local art on shrink sleeves for New Mexico’s La Catrina wines, produced by Southwest Wines & Spirits. This initiative targeted a younger, more urban market, and the shrink sleeve allowed the art to encompass the entire bottle. The launch was a success, as Southwest sold 80,000 bottles in the first two months.
“What drove us to digital was the complexity of the graphics,” said Gallagher. “We enabled– through digital print–the development of the graphics and multiple press proofs, as well as production runs for over a year to really bring the brand to market.”
Quality Tape & Label, meanwhile, featured a quick-to-market, special edition beverage for SweetWater Brewery. A bet involving a Boston-based brewing company involved Super Bowl 51 and the New England Patriots’ win over the Atlanta Falcons. Following the game, customized beer cans needed to be in the Boston by Wednesday. Artwork was done on Monday, application on Tuesday and shipping on Wednesday.
Daniels praised HP’s digital capabilities, specifically HP SmartStream Mosaic. The campaign made it to the front page of ESPN’s website.
According to Daniels, customers understand the quality associated with digital printing. He also noted that digital’s limitation to short runs is a myth, as Quality Tape & Label once ran a four-version run of 1.5 million feet.
“It’s not just rushes and not just multiple SKUs; there are customers and brands who understand the importance of the quality that digital print brings to the product,” said Daniels. “Then they have the flexibility to order on-demand what they want.”
A millennial market
As part of the event, Oana Manolache, marketing strategy lead for the Americas, Packaging, HP, explained how millennials can further drive growth in the packaging market. The millennials comprise a significant portion–25%–of the North American population, and 53% of millennial households have children. Not only is this generation buying for itself, it is buying for children in many cases.
This large buying power makes it a marketable demographic. In addition, brand loyalty is key. Almost 50% of millennials would be more willing to buy from a company that support a cause, and they are 2.5 times more likely to be an early adopter of new technology.
The emergence of social media has also changed packaging demands. According to Manolache, smart labels–augmented reality, Bluetooth, NFC–shrink sleeves, and other forms of decorative packaging appear on every social platform, and they are subsequently shared among followers.
“The moment a millennial sees something attractive about a brand, not only do they experience it but all their followers and friends, as well,” said Manolache. “Businesses have to think how they’re portraying their product in order to engage with millennials and get people with this buying power to purchase their product.”
Manolache added that millennials make up 21% of consumer discretionary purchases, accounting for over $1 trillion. They are also more likely to drive mega trends, which directly impacts packaging.
There are multiple campaigns that have capitalized on these trends. In saying, “It’s all about the experience,” Manolache detailed a Bud Light campaign where shrink sleeves were placed on cans to develop unique beer cans with a “Block Party” theme. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola noticed a 2.1% increase in sales, 3% increase in brand preference and 2% increase in purchase intent following the “Share a Coke” campaign. Coca-Cola also ran a Romanian campaign centered on labels doubling as a wristband. This ingenuity translated to an 11% boost in sales after reaching 75% of teens in Romania.
Ultimately, a millennial’s decision to purchase a brand’s product reflects his or her values and interests. Creative and playful packaging is necessary to draw interest, especially as 67% of millennials prefer to shop online rather than in-store. This creates opportunities for big data and the Internet of Things.
Nilpeter highlights flexible packaging
Paul Teachout, vice president of sales and marketing, North America, Nilpeter, delivered a presentation on the growing flexible packaging market and how modern technologies can enhance a label converter’s business. According to Teachout, 40% of brand owners are migrating toward flexible packaging due to brand appeal and changing consumer preferences. Flexible packaging boasts an average annual growth rate of 8%, as well.
Growing applications for flexible packaging include food and beverage, coffee, fresh produce, pet food, and pharmaceuticals. Stan-up pouches provide an alternative to rigid packaging, and environmental and legislative initiatives will also make this a more appealing market.
A critical aspect with shrink sleeves, flexible also packaging offers 360 degrees of display. Converters can benefit from unique container shapes and new marketing opportunities to appeal to various consumers.
The narrow web press configurations are different for flexible packaging as compared to labels and tags. Teachout noted that stable tension is required when rolling the material, and converters would need to go to 6” core holders or adapters versus 3”. Proper surface treatment–as with corona treaters, are also necessitated to optimize surface tension and decrease pin holing. Surface treatment improves wet out of inks and increases ink opacity, which leads to a decrease in print defects.
In addition, static builds throughout press, starting at unwind. “There are a lot of different opportunities with web cleaning systems that are dual sided web cleaners that allow us to remove all the dust and static from the manufacturing process. It’s going to help us with our print issues,” said Teachout. “If you’ve got a 10-color press, you want at least five anti-static bars.”
Increased quality and the trend of automation provide global brands with better opportunities for a variety of applications. Color measurement and 100% inspection systems are now the norm in the labels and packaging space.
“Everything that used to be done by hand is now done by automation,” explained Teachout. “We need to run flexography as a science on a fully automated platform to engage with a new generation, and that’s what the Nilpeter press is designed to do. It’s run by a tablet.
“The days of 2-hour make-readies are over,” he added.