“In wine, the label is the highest form of advertising,” explains Stephanie D’Cruz, associate product manager, Select Solutions, at Avery Dennison. “There are no commercials on TV, no billboard, so you want the label to be part of your brand throughout all stages of consumption.”
In many cases, a wine is only as popular as its label. This is increasingly true with millennials. According to Ali Bowyer, vice president of sales and marketing for Tapp Label, converters utilize several techniques to their advantage in order to catch a consumer’s eye. Some of the more popular traits of successful wine labels include natural, green, clean and streamlined designs, as well as contrast, layering of design elements and combination techniques. Brands are also experiencing further fragmentation into various tiers, oftentimes adding second and third labels.
Creativity is key, too. “We are seeing a move toward a clean-and-classy look with spot varnish treatments and embossing,” says Phil Stockwell, general manager at Digital Dogma. “Also, a western Apothecary style is breaking some of the traditional label rules by being a bit more inventive.”
In order to stand out on the shelf, spot varnish treatments and embossing offer a visual pop to Digital Dogma’s products, Stockwell adds. Hot-stamp foiling also resonates with a large portion of the wine buying population, he says.
As part of the Global Wine Label Awareness Report 2016, AWA Alexander Watson Associates examined the state of the global wine market. According to AWA, the worldwide demand for wine labels is estimated at 638 million square meters with an annual growth rate of 2% through 2018. This means that wine label volumes have increased from 2013-2015.
Europe is the largest wine producer in the world, accounting for 276 million hectoliters in 2015. The region makes up 62% of global wine production.
It is also worth noting that pressure sensitive labels continue to absorb market share from glue-applied labels. Pressure sensitive labels are expected to grow annually at 2.8% while glue-applied will increase by 0.1% through 2018. Sleeving is expected to grow by 7.1%.
With all the new technologies available to brands, wine manufacturers are looking to enhance their images – which in some cases could mean a shift away from a cleaner, traditional label. “It’s really surprising to see how many wineries go through rebrands,” says Alex Kidd, creative design manager at Avery Dennison. “It’s totally based on customer research. Sometimes you’ll see very drastic rebrands, and other times it’s just a very subtle redesign to the label that the average consumer might not even notice.”
Even though some wineries have traditionally remained static with their designs, UPM Raflatac anticipates new trends in the future. “We see the labels becoming more functional, either from a performance aspect or as a platform for social media information,” explains Jean Willson, segment manager, Wine, Spirits & Craft Beverage, UPM Raflatac Americas. “These beautiful labels need to stand up to ice-bucket performance while being used as a ‘billboard’ for consumer information – things like the story behind the wine or what food the wine is best paired with. Knowing that the label is ‘white space’ for consumer interest, the label material must be high quality and print exceptionally well.”
“Without a doubt, several traditional labels are being revisited from a graphics point of view,” says Percy Agboat, director of Narrow Web Tag & Label, North American Inks, Sun Chemical. “Although it is common to see non-traditional looking wine labels in North America, we only need to look at some of the established European brands to see that several well-recognized brands are revising the label look to incorporate more vibrancy and varnish texturing. Much of this is being driven by today’s consumers. The wine market is so competitive that label packaging is a key area to explore differentiation.”
Willson adds that the industry has seen several successful trends, which should continue moving forward. Wine labels have been featuring luxurious, traditional, highly textured materials that mark the wine as a well-appointed offering. In addition, dyed label materials allow the design to pop on the shelf without any white side rim to the label. Solid black material has also begun trending.
It is important to remember that each wine label will not cater to everyone. What appeals to a baby boomer likely will not attract a millennial, and vice versa. “In terms of label design, you have to segment your customers on a generational base right now because different groups are looking for different things,” says D’Cruz. “Millennials are going more toward the eye-catching, fun, bright, bold labels and they’re loyal to brands, so it’s very important for those labels to stand out and be different and have more personality and more originality. Millennials are more likely to select a wine solely based on the label than any other age group right now that buys alcohol.”
D’Cruz adds that baby boomers tend to prefer more “old-school” labels, where the region and chateau might be included.
According to Willson, millennials prefer a lighter and cleaner label that conveys a wine’s flavor and easiness to drink.
A Vote For Paper
Even though substrate providers have developed countless new materials, paper continues to be the leading substrate in the wine label market. According to AWA, paper facestock materials were estimated at 584 million square meters, while film accounted for just 76 million square meters globally. Avery Dennison’s D’Cruz adds that the industry is still “predominantly paper.” Shapes and textures are also critical to the substrate, as is attention to detail.
In the case of films, the material will offer a shiny look as opposed to an uncoated paper facestock.
Substrate providers are reacting accordingly, as well. Avery Dennison is launching four new facestocks at the 2018 Unified Wine & Grape Symposium. These materials are designed to pair with the company’s performance adhesives to excel in the wine segment. Cotton White Tree Free is a tree-free, uncoated, 100% cotton white matte paper featuring a velvet grained textured feel. Grape Touch is another responsibly sourced material exclusive to Avery Dennison. This paper is comprised of 15% grape waste from actual wine production. Meanwhile, Envi 96 Bright White combines a white, bright label with Avery Dennison’s Aqua Opaque adhesive and coating technology that keep labels white, even after prolonged periods in an ice bucket. Finally, Estate Label No. 14 is a 100% post-consumer-waste paper label that maintains color and strength, even in wet conditions.
Avery Dennison’s standard wine portfolio features 100 materials and the appropriate adhesives that are designed to optimize the performance of the label.
Meanwhile, Sun Chemical provides the market with a full line of specialty coatings that can offer multi-sensory special effects, allowing the substrates to jump off the shelf. Sun Chemical’s SunInspire sensory coatings line offers visual highlights like high luster metallic, fluorescent, glitter, pearlescent, as well as iridescent finishes.
“When our converter partners meet with brand owners, they provide input at the beginning of the design process that would help enhance a package’s shelf appeal by making it pop or stand out from its competitors at the grocery aisle,” explains Agboat, along with Charles MacLean, CEO of ASL Print FX. “They then turn to Sun Chemical to help provide inks, coatings and varnishes that specifically meet the needs of those individual customers. Frequently we provide a specific type of ink color or varnish that didn’t exist previously and get them what they need along with the appropriate type of finish.”
For UPM Raflatac, the most commonly used substrates continue to be 60# or 70# uncoated wet strength paper. “What presses can do with those papers today is amazing – producing beautiful textured labels from smooth stock, which helps the printer minimize their inventory of specialized materials,” says Willson. “They might carry three or four stocks, and from that base they can produce a variety of labels with finishes such as linen or felt.”
Not only does UPM Raflatac promote its standard offerings, the company has designed several substrates that work particularly well in the wine space. WL90Y Glacier is a high end bright white uncoated wet strength sheet that has excellent wet opacity properties, and WL76J Glacier Plus has an added bonus of a weld for ultra-performance in ice bucket conditions. Additionally, Fleur de Coton, Silver Orion and Velmart have found success in Europe, but these wine materials are also available in the Americas.
In order to better serve the wine market, UPM Raflatac has just opened a new slitting and distribution terminal in Santiago, Chile to better service the growing wine market there and around that region.
Shifting To Digital?
Like craft breweries, there are an increasing number of wineries in North America. As smaller wineries look for labels, they will often do so in smaller batches, making digital a viable option.
“In our view, digital printing is the future of the wine label industry,” says Tapp Label’s Bowyer. “Digital printing is carving a larger portion of the market each year. The main challenge is customer education about the advantages of this technology while overcoming some preconceived notions.”
According to Digital Dogma’s Stockwell, wine brands are taking advantage of sequential numbering – which allows customers to engage in a one-to-one experience with the brand. “We feel digital is a great fit for wineries, with their process and last minute verification of information along with government approvals,” he explains. “Digital offers much better turnaround times for their label needs.”
Stockwell points out that there are unique challenges associated with digital printing, which is a newer phenomenon. Keeping up with these trends is critical for converters. “There are some new and innovative processes coming to the industry that could offer many unknown techniques on a digital format like digital foiling and embossing,” says Stockwell.
UPM Raflatac’s Willson explains that smart technology can also be used in tandem with digital printing. “Digital labels are being used for the smaller, more personalized offerings – whether a special vintage or targeted audiences,” she says. “There are some very cool labels out there with hidden digital printing that links the consumer to a website or social media channel when the label is scanned.”
As Tapp Label’s Bowyer mentions, digital printing is increasingly becoming more prevalent in the wine labeling market. In addition to digital, social media and smart technology could carve out a niche in this space, making for an interesting future.
“There’s this whole idea of connecting to social media,” says Avery Dennison’s Kidd. “Is the label social media gold or ‘Instagrammable’? Will someone post it to social media? That’s something we’ve been seeing more and more and will continue to see in the future.”
In addition to boasting aesthetics that are pleasing to the eye, wines must convey a brand’s story. Natural wines are a trending product, and the label needs to articulate the uniqueness of that particular bottle. Kidd says these wines largely feature a clean, simple label that is designed to connect to its audience, which is different than the average grocery wine shopper. The label also needs to exist in the digital space, which paves the way for smart labeling. This could include augmented reality or RFID technology.
“Smart labeling could be viable if the budget is there,” explains Kidd. “It could be a point of purchase asset that talks about the vineyard and where the wine comes from. It’s all about finding different ways to connect with the consumer and tell a brand’s story.”
Smart technology can help deter counterfeiting, which Sun Chemical’s Agboat says is a real threat in the wine industry. “Thanks to Sun Chemical’s partnership with Document Security Solutions (DSS), a leader in anti-counterfeit and authentication technologies, to cross market and sell one another’s high-level anti-counterfeiting products, brand owners can utilize AuthentiGuard to help supply chain personnel and consumers to validate product authenticity using a smartphone,” he explains. “Multiple covert taggant-reader systems, special effects inks and smart sensor technology are other options available to a brand owner.”
UPM Raflatac is looking to maximize the availability of all developing technologies, and this includes delivering a brand story. The solution needs to be hip and trendy, all while proving to be beneficial for the environment. The goal is to reach a newer audience, especially one that is increasingly buying wine.
“UPM Raflatac is labeling a smarter future by developing innovative and sustainable labeling solutions,” says Willson. “And for the wine industry, the future of wine labeling means staying ahead of the millennials who are now a primary purchaser of wine. This demographic sector isn’t specifically loyal to a brand and wants to experiment with many different varietals. However, once they find a brand they enjoy they want to identify the brand quickly on the shelf. The millennials also want to know the story behind the wine and ask the bigger questions of sustainability and the environmental impact of making the wine. Our company plays a key role in this, as our goal at every stage in the label value chain is to minimize negative environmental impact and maximize positive societal impact.”