The challenge for substrate suppliers is designing materials that can both educate and entertain. UPM Raflatac, which has North American headquarters in Mills River, NC, USA, has developed a wide range of paper and film facestocks to meet customer demands. UPM Raflatac’s substrates and adhesives have been constructed to perform in multiple environments and with different printing technologies.
“Food packaging labels are expected to conform to a variety of packaging types to provide eye-catching branding to motivate point-of-sale purchases and communicate critical nutrition information, like product ingredients and sell-by dates,” says Pascal Oliveira, director of global business development, Food, UPM Raflatac. “The food labels must provide great performance in challenging environments, from cold, moist and greasy surfaces to freezing conditions or special treatments like pasteurization. They need to look nice throughout the product’s lifetime and they can add extra value by functionality, like re-closure, for example. Food labels can be versatile, innovative and functional.”
Common converting technologies include a range of label embellishment, which includes cold or hot foiling, as well as embossing or a combination of multiple features. UPM Raflatac offers paper and filmic materials to bring up different levels of matte or glossy appearance. Brands are also taking advantage of a no-label-look by choosing the best option for labeling clear film on clear package material. Decorative papers are also relied upon to deliver and support brand messaging.
The company has also added to its line of sustainable options with Vanish PCR and Forest Positive RAFNXT+. “Our Vanish PCR clear labels are made from 90% PCR in both the face and liner – a global first – all without sacrificing performance or clarity,” says Oliveira. “Our wash-off film labels with RW85C adhesive feature the same 90% PCR liner, come in clear, white and metalized films and are suitable for labeling PET containers. Our Forest Positive RAFNXT+ material options for full wrap and other paper labels are carbon positive – meaning our forests can absorb up to twice as much carbon dioxide as emitted during the production process. These products ensure net zero deforestation, actively promote biodiversity and improve water quality.”
The regulations these labels must meet are numerous. According to Seth Holling, product safety coordinator, UPM Raflatac, nutrition fact labels are now required to contain more nutritional information than ever before. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations found in Title 21 CFR Parts 170 -178 deal with food additives. These regulations are most commonly applicable to food labeling. “Monitoring regulatory updates and revisions on FDA listed food additives are the main trends affecting food labeling applications,” says Holling.
Plus, these labels must navigate direct and indirect food contact–although as UPM Raflatac will note, the FDA only refers to direct and indirect food additives. “Direct food additives are substances deliberately added to food, like preservatives, and indirect food additives are materials that come in contact with food due to their use as part of packaging, holding or processing food, but are not intended to be added directly to, become a component of, or have a technical effect in or on food,” explains Holling. “Key distinctions that converters and brand owners must navigate are raw material selection, packaging design and intended end use for their business segment. All should be addressed to established that applicable regulatory requirements are addressed.”
The FDA’s regulation at 21 CFR 175.105 handles adhesives, and Holling says it is unique in that it establishes the concept of a “functional barrier” that prevents any migration of substances from the adhesive to the food. Glass and aluminum are always considered functional barriers, but in the case of plastics and paper carton material, a simple definition has not yet been provided by the FDA.
Holling adds that the party placing the food in the package is ultimately responsible with compliance to FDA regulations. “Here at UPM Raflatac, we assist converters and end users with determining compliance by knowing these regulations and guiding customers in asking the right questions with respect to their desired packaging design and end use when asked to supply an FDA-compliant product,” he says.
UPM Raflatac is also mindful of designing materials that will appeal to buyers. From a consumer standpoint, more and more want to know exactly what they are buying and eating. “There is an increasing need for transparency and product information as well as for ‘free-of’ products,” notes Oliveira. “On the other hand, convenience foods in ready-to-eat format are increasing, as well. Diminishing households may lead to increased demand for smaller pack size and are having an impact on packaging and labels.”
Flexible packaging is seeing a rise in prevalence, too. It can typically be found with dried foods and confectionary, whereas packaging varies from flexible films to paper material and to different sorts of bags. “There is a tendency toward shorter print runs and a desire for personalization, as well as an increasing and alternating amount of information on packages. In this environment, pressure sensitive labels provide flexibility compared to direct printing,” adds Oliveira.