Seasonal labels capitalize on those times of the year that are short-lived but highly enjoyed. Popular end-use markets might include the food and beverage arena, as well as novelty and gift items.
According to Kim Beswick, Memjet general manager for Desktop Systems, food & beverage acount for more than half of the self-adhesive label market. She says a number of factors contribute to the demand for seasonal food and beverage labels. “During the holidays, many consumers send special packages of sweets and snacks to friends and family as a traditional way to add to the holiday cheer,” notes Beswick. “Also during the holidays, consumers will more likely purchase seasonal products to add to the festivities in their own homes or to give as a host/hostess gift. Subscription food orders also make popular gifts for out-of-town family members who might enjoy receiving specialty food gifts during the holidays, or even monthly.”
The growth of digital printing further enhances the seasonal labels market. According to Markets and Markets’ Laminated Labels Market Forecast to 2020 report, digital printing is projected to grow at the highest compound annual growth rate of 5.2% from 2015 to 2020 when compared to other conventional printing formats.
“Digital printing of labels helps every business segment throughout the year, as it allows for flexibility, lower volume runs, no setup fees and quick turn-times,” says Gary Paulin, director of sales and client services at Lightning Labels, an all-digital label manufacturer bases in Denver, CO. “We do, however, see an uptick with some segments as they prep for holiday sales.” Applications vary on a yearly basis, he says, as many customers will start producing greater volumes of higher demand SKUs as the holiday season nears. Holiday-specific labels certainly increase in popularity during those specific times, and, Paulin adds, “Seasonal labels and stickers have always been an important part of the labeling business.”
There is not necessarily a consistent pattern from season to season, either. The “in” item in 2016 might not translate to 2017. “At Wizard Labels, we honestly don’t see much repeatable seasonality,” explains Steve Smith, founder and president of Wizard Labels. “There are a couple of minor bumps throughout the year, but the peaks and troughs don’t show any identifiable pattern from one year to the next.”
According to Smith, the holidays are always a popular time for season label requests – even if the type of work varies. “We often see something of an up-surge getting closer to the holidays, which even starts happening early in the fall,” he says.
Beswick cites several trends that have been apparent for Memjet. There is consumer demand for personalized brand experiences. In addition, the consumption of specialty food products, snacks and beverages – including craft markets and private-label strategies – are on the rise. Smaller brands are often the driver of unique experiences, too.
“We also know that digital technology makes seasonal label changes and other types of customization much easier to manage,” adds Beswick. “The ability to communicate more quickly and easily to consumers via customized labels, seasonal offerings, and delightful, resonant messages and packaging truly drives product marketing teams and digital label offerings.”
Seasonal labels often run on a variety of materials. Wizard Labels focuses on specific substrates, running the vast majority of its work on BOPP. The converter avoids the industry-standard 60# semi-gloss paper, instead opting for White BOPP as an entry-point material. White BOPP accounts for more than 70% of Wizard Labels’ work, followed by metalized BOPP and clear BOPP.
“With more material options available in much thinner consistencies, there are also now more opportunities to create ultimately thin labels with unique and creative aesthetic appeal,” says Kim Hensley, marketing manager at Mactac. “No longer are CPCs and brand owners simply seeking traditional labels that look nice and will last the life of the product – they want more. They want durability, yes, but they also want aesthetically pleasing, creative labels that they can get on-demand and at low cost – making the stakes for printers to produce great labels on narrow web presses high.”
Seasonal labels might require a higher price, but in the long run they can generate more revenue. “Although the per-piece costs of short-run seasonal labels can be higher, they come with several financial benefits, including less obsolescence, lower storage/management costs and lower capital investment in inventory,” explains Beswick. “On the marketing side, seasonal or more dynamic customized labels and messaging can have a dramatic impact on brand perception and revenue. However, to tell this story, one must sell higher up in the organization, where the bigger financial and brand benefits can be understood.”
Cindy Cooperman, global director of packaging and brand, X-Rite, says regions play a role in this market too. “Seasonal labels can be used to draw attention to products during holiday seasons or to add some cache to summer versus winter labels,” she says. “Another model is regional. Take, for example, private label products that are versioned for the store in which they will actually be sold. This approach is very doable with digital printing, as long as the back-end distribution logistics are there. The versioning could be demographic or more localized to the actual store name and location. Some stores may need more than one version, shortening runs even more.”
A digital market
The unpredictable nature of seasonal labels lends itself to digital printing. Converters will often run small batches of these labels, as they will only be applicable for a short period of time.
According to Mactac’s Hensley, digital label printing provides several advantages. “Digital technology has truly enhanced narrow web printing,” says Hensley. “Prior to the invention of digital narrow web printing, print run-lengths of less than 10,000 were hardly a possibility. Now, minimum run lengths are virtually non-existent.”
In addition, digital printing allows for reduced costs and lead times, as well as personalization opportunities. Waste and setup time is reduced too because there is no need for printing plates. In terms of quality, printers can now match a large number of Pantone colors by mixing CMYK, which makes digital a viable solution for full-color jobs.
“Digital printing is a mature technology at this point,” says X-Rite’s Cooperman. “It has opened the door to more cost effective, smaller lot sizes and more variability in terms of regional or seasonal products. When a specific brand color is required, some brands prefer printing shells with conventional printing technologies and overprinting those shells with the regional or seasonal information on a digital press. Some EP-based digital presses, such as those from HP Indigo and Xeikon, offer special toners that likely satisfy the needs of many brands and could eliminate the need to print shells.”
“Digital provides much more flexibility and image quality for endless product variations, which in the hands of a decent designer can certainly create additional attractiveness on the retail shelf,” adds Wizard Labels’ Smith. “A shelf full of otherwise identical labels with a single plate change to identify the various seasonal variations is probably much less compelling than the same products with beautiful images of the flavors involved.”
For Epson America, product manager Mike Pruitt recommends his company’s SurePress L-4533AW digital label press, which is suitable for food products requiring white ink, indirect food contact and a high color gamut using a safe water-based ink set. The SurePress L-6034 is a higher speed UV inkjet press, which can be utilized for general printing such as food and beverage in hard packaging.
“Digital label printing enables users to create customized labels, which help businesses closely identify with the end user, resulting in an easier sale,” explains Pruitt. “Digital varnish is one embellishment technique converters use to stand out in the label space, as it allows them to mix matte and glossy looks.”
Memjet’s Beswick notes that digital printing works with a number of materials, as well. “Any label substrate, from a plain, uncoated facestock to a glossy label with an inkjet-receptive coating, will work, including matte and gloss-coated synthetic and film labels,” she says. “There are many options for digital inkjet-compatible labels, and they are broadly available from a range of label converters and other suppliers.”
Memjet-based systems use CMYK that can come with finishing options like diecutting, lamination and slitting. Memjet-based devices from some of the company’s partners can also be retrofitted onto current flexo presses to take advantage of existing embellishment capabilities.
Smaller converters, specializing in niche or craft markets, could also benefit from using desktop or mini-press label printing systems. “These nimble solutions are able to create seasonal product varieties or communications easily,” adds Beswick. “We see converters and brands, both large and small, adapting Memjet technologies to keep up with the increasing demand for quick turnaround and short-run digital labels.”
“Where digital can play an important role is making labels more personalized and relevant to the consumer,” says Cooperman. “Subconsciously, a consumer might be more drawn to a clever regionalized or seasonal label. For example, we are seeing more and more of these types of campaigns. Frito-Lay recently launched a collection of NFL ‘Lucky Bags’ for Tostitos tortilla chips and the Share-a-Coke campaign are great examples of how versioned labels and packaging can set a product apart.”
The on-shelf “Wow factor”
When the holiday season rolls around, an eye-popping label will often be the differentiating factor at the point of purchase. “A promotional or seasonal label is designed to promote your product, catch and hold a hurried consumers’ attention, and set your product apart from the competition,” says Mactac’s Hensley. “Promotional graphics and seasonal decals can dress up your mailers and gifts, and allow you to add personalization.”
In many cases, brands would benefit from research and testing to better learn what resonates with customers on the shelf. “Testing multiple labels and messages is an excellent way to find out what drives the greatest response,” says Beswick. “Digital labels are truly flexible and give the marketing department an efficient way to test and tune multiple messages.”
According to X-Rite’s Cooperman, color consistency plays a major role in branding – and color can often be the deciding factor on the shelf. “The key here is process control and the ability to harmonize the look of the print across a variety of printing technologies and substrates to create the true brand image that’s consistent,” says Cooperman. “This is easier to do than ever before when presses are calibrated and profiled, and operators can take the time to color check output using a spectrophotometer and control lighting conditions for visual evaluation.”
For a brand to evaluate color, X-Rite offers ColorCert to enable real-time quality checking and reporting. Brands and label operations can start with a digital reference for specified colors such as the spectral value or DNA of the color. This eliminates confusion, especially across more complex supply chains.
“Unique and expressive graphic design elements are the key to being effective in truly ‘speaking’ to the prospective customer,” says Lightning Labels’ Paulin. “We all gravitate to – and are more likely to purchase initially – a product whose packaging and label messaging are directly relatable to our tastes, both via visual and verbal messaging elements.
“Packaging, specifically labeling, will always influence shoppers’ decisions to purchase, regardless of how they are produced,” he adds. “The ability to produce shorter runs or multiple versions does give the manufacturer the ability to deploy varied designs, thereby capturing customer segments in a more affordable and specific way.”