Functionally speaking, adherence to the package is critical for this label market. The substrate and ink have to be able to withstand external agents like sunlight, chemicals from the product, and water. The label will typically encounter these elements throughout normal use of the product.
“The best labels promote the brand, inform customers of health and safety information on the product, and finally leave the product identity looking as good upon disposal as it did when the product was first purchased,” says John Bennett, vice president, Product Identification Business Team, FLEXcon.
In the recent years, this category has seen a dramatic shift. “If you think about how customers have really purchased labels over the years, it was always dominated by the big brands,” explains Angel Harvey, product manager, Prime Films at Avery Dennison Label and Packaging Materials. “Those were the typical household chemicals that had the most shelf appeal. But what we’re finding lately is that there is a lot of competition coming on inside of this space. And more people are willing to try alternative brands. That’s probably one of the biggest trends that’s been occurring.”
Successful household products labels offer several key features. Over-laminating or over-varnishing are popular techniques in order to protect the label’s graphics. Some converters are shifting more to matte and luster finishes, in addition to gloss. Ultimately, there has to be a value extracted from the product, both from a consumer communication point of view and the chemical itself.
Plus, the labels have to be durable in order to withstand the chemicals in the container. “When we think about durability, we start thinking about our products and what we can do to add a benefit to the construction,” adds Harvey. “Normally, that’s with top coating our materials. When we top coat materials, that allows for faster ink absorption, as well as scuff and mark resistance. Those are the two big benefits.”
According to Jim Lambert, VP and general manager, Digital Division, at INX International Ink Co., there are several considerations to take into account. “The challenge here is to make sure the label material is appropriate for the application,” he says. “For example, a paper label would be a terrible choice for a bottle or package that is constantly exposed to water. It would degrade quickly so polyester would be the better material choice.”
From a material standpoint, the segment has shifted to films. “The label must be able to handle abrasion and chemicals while not suffering from any tears. The label could even fall off, which would look bad for the brand. Although paper is still utilized, its presence is much smaller,” says Kim Hensley, marketing manager at Mactac. “Household products labels are being used on products such as bleach, window cleaners and stain remover bottles, so the label needs to stand up against abrasion and chemicals.”
Bruce Ruppert, manager of product development, Americas, UPM Raflatac, says that around 60-70% of the market is pressure sensitive. Shrink materials are growing as a decoration method because they are sub-printed and highly resistant to chemical overspill and environmental conditions. They also conform to almost any bottle shape.
Dion Label Printing, a Massachusetts-based label converter, recommends a film base with a lamination in either glossy or matte for household items that will be exposed to a liquid cleaning product. Dion Label provides film materials in white, clear or metallic, and it emphasizes that lamination – combined with the film substrate – will provide the best protection for the label to ensure it remains intact to the bottle and legible for the consumer.
According to Hensley, films offer excellent moisture resistance and wet strength, conformability and squeezability, high strength at low calipers, a very smooth surface, and graphic impact for brand enhancement. In addition, clear labels provide a no-label look to match the solid colors of the container. “Gloss films are growing in popularity, especially in household products because they’ve been shown to capture shoppers’ attention,” says Hensley. “Mactac offers white, clear and chrome polypropylene for the household product segment. Polypropylene is economical, has good clarity for a no-label look, has high gloss, very good moisture resistance and great dispensing.”
Additionally, UV inks have gained popularity in this market because of their inherent durability. “Free radical UV inks and coatings cure based on the exposure to a specific wave length of light,” explains Lambert. “This exposure, most simply, takes a liquid ink and produces free radical polymerization. These polymer chains or networks are extremely hard and very durable, and something that is a very essential component for these types of label applications.”
Due to the use of chemicals in household products, the label must include strict directions, too. According to Ashley Obara, marketing supervisor at Dion Label Printing, when a label requires extra space for directions and safety information, either an extended content label or a shrink sleeve could be used to maximize space. Shrink sleeves are also an excellent option as they provide 360 degrees of design space.
FLEXcon’s Bennett notes that the biggest challenge in this market is the durability of the inks and adhesives against the product in the container. “This is where in-mold labeling is more popular than pressure sensitive labels,” he says. “Improvements in UV inks and digital UV inkjet printing or direct-to-container printing of UV inkjet technology may give in-mold labeling a competitive challenge in the near future. The label on your drain cleaning product had better be durable, or the graphics and critical safety and health information are going to simply wash off when exposed to the product.”
Another challenge is finding a way to include all the safety and warning information. “There are many challenges, but one in particular is the need for extended content with instructions and warning labels on certain products,” says Ruppert. “We’ve found that the front facing label – or part of a wrap label – usually is aimed at branding, identification and grabbing the attention of the customer,” explains Chris Erbach, marketing communications manager at Weber Packaging. “The rear label or additional areas of the label are dedicated to safety information, often as a booklet or peel-open page with additional text.”
While the product needs to work sufficiently, household products labels must “pop” on the shelf. Like the labels in the food, wine and spirits, and craft beer spaces, cleaners and detergents have to catch the consumer’s eye during that moment of truth in the store.
Late-stage product differentiation is a large driver in the household marketplace, as the brand and corresponding graphics typically dictate who gets prime shelf space. As in most other markets, companies want to attract the consumer, prompting an impulse purchase.
“There are large groups who study and predict consumer behavior based on the product packaging, which includes the package itself and the graphics on the package,” says INX International’s Lambert. “And yes, conveying product safety is important from a legal perspective, but it is there for necessity. The aesthetics and look of the package and the graphics on it is the first priority.”
“Aesthetics are still really big,” says Avery Dennison’s Harvey. “If you were to take a shelf walk, there is a need for clear and a need for white. It’s really depending on the message that the brand is trying to convey.” In many cases, the label and packaging design will be dependent on the product. Fragrance free materials, non-fragrance free, bleaches, and cleaners might well all feature different looks. In the fight for shelf space, a household product label might also extend to the sides of the package to garner attention from the consumer.
Digital printing technology has seen its role increase in this space, too. Dion Label Printing frequently uses its digital presses to accommodate a wide range of SKUs with enhanced graphics. “More frequently, customers are seeking products in their favorite scent or with properties they find as value-added, such as antibacterial hand soap versus foaming hand soap,” explains Dion Label’s Obara. “Digital printing accommodates for that by offering efficient short run printing and no plate costs for a large number of SKUs. Brands can print low quantities of a new fragrance or variety, see how they sell in the market and re-order accordingly without label waste.”
“It’s simple,” says FLEXcon’s Bennett. “Look around your home or business at all the household chemicals you use every day. There is extreme competition and just like personal care products, the manufacturer is constantly changing their look or container type to attract the consumer. This opens the door for better aesthetics, brand differentiation tactics and the need for brilliant and durable pressure sensitive labeling solutions.”
Legislation and compliance
There are several legislative acts that household products labels must adhere to. The Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA) is designed to promote value comparisons while preventing unfair or deceptive packaging and labeling of many household items. According to INX International’s Lambert, the FPLA requires each package of household “consumer commodities” to include on the label: a statement identifying the commodity, like detergents, sponges, etc.; the name and place of business of the manufacturer, packer or distributor; and the net quantity of contents in terms of weight, measure, or numerical count. Lambert adds that the label must show the measurement in both imperial and metric units.
“The FPLA is administered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as it relates to foods, drugs, cosmetics and medical devices,” says Lambert. “The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) administers the FPLA with respect to other ‘consumer commodities’ that are consumed or expended in the household.”
Household product labels must also conform to the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA). This regulation requires precautionary labeling on the immediate container of hazardous household products. “This helps consumers safely store and use those products and to give them information about immediate first aid steps to take if an accident happens,” adds Lambert. “The Act also allows the Consumer Product Safety Commission to ban certain products that are dangerous – or the nature of the hazard is such – so the labeling required by the Act is not adequate to protect consumers.”
Additionally, The Household Product Labeling Act of 2009 requires companies to list all product ingredients clearly on the product or product packaging. The Act states that consumers have a right to know whether harmful chemicals are present in products they use to clean their counters, children’s toys, clothing, and other household objects.
According to Mactac’s Hensley, the household products label is a burgeoning segment of the market. A study, “Laminated Labels Market Forecast to 2020” from MarketsandMarkets, says the home and personal care segment is projected to grow at a CAGR of 4.42%. This represents higher growth than food and beverage, pharmaceuticals and durable and retail labels.
Hensley believes that the industry will see continued growth in the use of plastic containers, as well as squeezable containers that require the ability of label materials to accept deformation at low force and recover completely.
Brand differentiation will also be key. “Using a variety of special effects like varnishes, textures and specialty inks will be used to give the perception of quality,” says Hensley, adding, “Colorful, appealing labels need to compete with major brands on the shelf.”
The sizes of the containers – and therefore the labels – might shift too. Individual containers, in the 12-20 ounce range might become more popular among millennials who do not have big families.
“Dion Label Printing expects to see the household products market continue to show strong growth in the coming years,” says Obara. “New household product companies are popping up constantly to keep up with consumer demand for new products. Some strive to keep up with cleaning product formulation advances as technologies develop. Others are looking to provide more sustainable products that are good for the environment, safer and healthier for the consumer.”
UPM Raflatac’s Ruppert sees the market moving to thinner materials for sustainability gains to reduce cost and increase efficiency. Also, extended content labels will continue to grow as new legislation and regulations go into effect, he says.
In addition, social media has built a presence with household products labels. “With the rising popularity of social sites that are promoting DIY (do it yourself) cleaning and organizing trends, consumers are seeking multi-purpose household products more than ever,” adds Obara. “Products that can be used on various surfaces or applications both save costs for customers and reduces storage needs. These multi-purpose products will often require extensive labeling needs such as multiple direction panels and instructions.
FLEXcon’s Bennett notes that the “future is now in this market” due to the rise of digital imaging and the surge of reseal technologies. He adds that there will be an increase in easier portability for one time or limited uses, concentrated chemicals, and the reuse of containers with the offer of bulk refill purchases. Run sizes will also shrink as brands search for new ways to position their products.
While growth will continue, Weber Packaging’s Erbach expects to see a trend toward natural products. “Consumer demand is driving the household products area to create more environmentally-friendly products,” he says. “The branding and label design will follow this growth to convey the importance of this issue.”