Beverages, excluding beer, wine and spirits, might include coffee, juice, sports drinks, water, and countless others.
Niche brands are seeking an increased presence in the beverage industry, especially as organic ingredients and healthier lifestyle options are becoming all the rage. Beverage brands are employing cleaner labels while highlighting natural ingredients and sugar reduction.
“A good beverage label should be a one-piece label that is easy to apply automatically,” says Farzin Bakhshian, sales manager at SixB Labels. “The label should target the demographic that it is seeking. For example, juice should promote health, while sports drinks advocate hydration and so on.”
This is a market, however, where new brands can have their presence felt. According to Indra Nooyi, former CEO at PepsiCo, 9% of beverage sales come from new product innovation. This encompasses extended and new brands.
The Freedonia Group, in a webinar entitled, “Innovation: The Evolving Beverage Industry,” said that in 2017 alone, 13,000 new brands were launched. Only four of those brands will hit more than $100 million, so there is a place for short-run digital printing aimed at a targeted audience.
Design will play the biggest role in the success of a beverage label. “A good beverage label has colors that pop and great graphics that speak to the brand image,” explains Angel Harvey, product manager, films, at Avery Dennison. “The unique shape of the bottle and, of course, the right material also are key factors.”
“Beverage labeling is all about shelf appeal and today’s brand owners are trying to capture a certain look. With only seconds to persuade potential customers, the labels on bottles and cans are just as important as the liquid inside,” says Kim Hensley, marketing manager at Mactac. “With a goal to stand out as much as possible at the point of sale, brand owners are seeking labels with special effects that give the perception of quality, such as varnishes, textures, the ‘no label look’ and specialty inks, in addition to vibrant, colorful labeling solutions.”
There are multiple trends regarding beverage labels. One is the no-label look because the label looks like it has been printed directly onto the container. It is also important for the labels to adhere to the container in a variety of environments. “In beverage labeling, you need an adhesive designed to stick quickly and stay in place as needed – whether your application condition is room temperature or something more challenging, like 20F to 40F,” says Hensley. “The label and adhesive must meet needed durability despite cold, moisture and repeated product handling.”
“The majority of the new requests we get are for clear material, so the color of the beverage can be seen,” explains Bakhshian. “There is usually a white base to be printed underneath all graphics, so they stand out as well.”
The Freedonia Group’s Chad Henry believes that the beverage industry is constantly evolving, citing a number of trends and requirements for successful beverage labels. One of the key characteristics of a good beverage is convenience. Portability and ease of use are critical, especially for a culture that is constantly on the go. In addition to promoting convenience, as well as health and well-being, the packaging is increasingly becoming more sustainable. The label must also convey online, as more consumers are purchasing their food and beverage products on a computer or smart phone.
The package needs to be functional, too. Beverage labels, says Henry, must maintain freshness and the edibility of the product. It has to protect the contents from damage, leaks and contamination.
As sustainability becomes more of a presence in the labeling supply chain, there will be an increased use of recycled and recyclable materials. Top material choices will include PET, bioplastic and thicker reusable glass. “Sustainability is important, and certain adhesives allow for resource optimization,” says Katja Kivelä, marketing manager, films, UPM Raflatac. “For PET containers, we offer both permanent and wash-off solutions. The permanent adhesives are the same solutions as with glass bottles. Our wash-off RW85C adhesive is recognized by the Association of Plastic Recyclers for its ability to cleanly separate the label from the crushed PET flakes during the recycling process, which enables more bottle-to-bottle recycling and promotion of a circular economy, which is important to many brand owners.”
UPM Raflatac adds that sustainability trends include packaging design and packaging processing improvements, light-weighting, such as the growth of PET bottles in soft drinks, and waste reduction.
UPM Raflatac’s PP Clear offers a premium no-label look, while PP Silver produces eye-catching and decorative effects. Vanish labels provide an invisible no-label look, which is a key trend in canned beverage labeling. The new Vanish PCR labels offer the same excellent no-label look but are constructed with a 90% recycled content face.
Avery Dennison promotes several technologies for sustainability, including its CleanFlake adhesive technology for PET bottle recycling, ClearCut Adhesive technology, and a variety of paper and film facestocks for beverage labeling applications.
Mactac provides customers with the 640-AT acrylic adhesive and the Chill AT hot-melt rubber adhesive. Both adhesives are suitable for cold and damp environments, as well as elevated temperatures. They contain water resistance properties, maintaining adhesive integrity and aesthetic appeal if exposed to water or moisture.
Shrink sleeves have seen a surge in usage in this space. This creative packaging option allows for customization and flexibility, making the entire canvas of the product a billboard for the brand. “There is more freedom when it comes to container shapes, sizes and designs to complement product use, flavor, consumer lifestyle and more,” says Avery Dennison’s Harvey. “With more health-conscious consumers looking for more information about ingredients on the label, such as non-GMO, dairy free, gluten free, and so on, shrink provides a larger billboard to do so with less clutter.”
“Light blocking sleeves have extended the shelf life for some products, which has a very positive impact to the store and producer of these beverages,” adds Kyle Strenski, director, global business development at UPM Raflatac. “The nature of shrink has allowed for 360-degree labeling and use of non-traditional bottle shapes.”
The beverage’s container will also dictate the subsequent adhesive choice. According to Bakhshian, glass containers require a different adhesive than plastic containers. Paper and polypropylene are the two most common materials used for beverage labels, while a majority employ polypropylene substrates.
The various shapes used in the beverage world also affect the label. “The shape of the container affects the shape of the label,” says Bakhshian. “If the bottle is straight, then generally a rectangle works best. However, if the bottle is concave, then the label has to have some curvature to match the bottle. In addition, if the bottle is not rigid and is made of a conformable plastic, then the label material should be conformable, as well. Otherwise, the label will wrinkle after application.”
With a multitude of shapes deployed in beverage labeling, diecutting is also a key consideration. “Almost all beverage labels are automatically applied,” adds Bakhshian. “For automatic application, diecutting needs to be consistent and precise. The majority require a clear polyester liner. Clear polyester liners do not break in high speed applications and having no lint (paper liners) make clear labels look more transparent. Everyone likes to have the ‘no label look,’ a clear label that blends with the bottle as if the printing is directly on the bottle.”
“Certainly, the adhesive is dependent upon the sub segment within the world of beverages,” says Harvey. “This depends on whether the beverage is water, sparkling water, soda, juice, or tea. Many of these beverages could have different packaging. In general, water-whitening resistance, good overall adhesion and sustainability all come into play.”
With a greater number of brands available, especially those targeting smaller subsets of the population, digital presses have become a viable alternative to print beverage labels. Freedonia Group’s Henry adds that digital printing “has provided low cost, high-quality options” in the beverages space.
SixB Labels, a converter based in Dallas, TX, utilizes two Epson SurePress L-4033AW digital label presses to print a variety of labels, including those in beverage applications. The company provides 85 different substrates and adhesives to its customers, and Epson presses are compatible with a wide range of materials. Digital has allowed SixB Labels to excel, especially with a growing number of short-run requests.
“Digital printing allows us to print the most demanding designs,” explains SixB Labels’ Bakhshian. “Epson opaque white underneath the graphics allows the printing to stand out even more to create a great contrast between the image and the bottle and create the perfect ‘no label look’.”
SixB Labels has also been recognized with several awards, specifically for work in the beverage sector. The company earned the Premier Print Award from Printing Industries of America for labels produced for Texas-based customer Central Market. The “Best of Category Digital Printing: Tags and Labels” winner features the Central Market Iced Tea Jug Labels for placement on metal tins.
According to Kirit Naik, director, R&D, Americas at UPM Raflatac, growing digital print technology is especially helpful in the beverages segment. This is opportunistic for printers using digital production presses, as well as smaller digital printers.
“Everything is becoming digital, including printing,” says Naik. “In the beverage labels market, digital printing provides more decoration options and creates excellent brand images with instant, superior print quality. With the latest thinner substrate options available, and with digital printing providing personalized labels, you can have small job orders to create seasonal products as opposed to the traditionally printed can. Now, small companies can even bring in in-house printing capabilities due to the lower cost of printers.”
Avery Dennison’s Harvey says beverage labels continue to mimic modern social movements. Especially among millennials, certain characteristics are often seen in buying trends.
According to Larry Levin, executive vice president at IRI, in the Freedonia Group webinar, water continues to drive the greatest segmentation of new products. Recently, Dunkin Donuts iced coffee served as the top beverage with a $67.1 million launch, but the next two beverages were waters. Nestle Splash accounted for a $55.2 million launch and Lifewatr ranked third with a $50.4 million release.
Innovation, especially with new products and brands, will attract the next generation of buyers. “You’re not trying to have your product in front of all people, you want them in front of the right people,” explains Levin. “We continue to see small companies break through with innovation. When a consumer sees a product that is going to hit his or her heart or head, they’re going to adopt it no matter the size of the company.”
Millennials are now making up the lion’s share of shoppers, with 47% of the population coming in at under 40 years old. By 2022, one-third of CPG dollars will be driven by millennials.
“Millennials are much more likely to call themselves early adopters,” says Levin. “We’re seeing more plant-based products and a graduation toward healthy eating and natural products. There is a quest for diet, exercise, simpler ingredients, and food and beverages that are high in fiber and protein.”
Consumers are increasingly looking to buy from green companies. Millennials are pinpointing retailers where they can consume the product, and they often identify the proper medium – websites, magazines, newspapers, etc. – to learn about the beverage and subsequently find the buying location.
As far as convenience goes, a quarter of the population likes to eat on the go, says Freedonia Group’s Henry. This includes 40% of millennials. The container, be it a glass bottle or flexible pouch, must be easy to handle, open, store and dispose of without creating a mess. With an on-the-go lifestyle across multiple demographics, Henry says pouches and flexible packaging represent a huge opportunity for growth. Juices and fruit drinks, such as Capri Sun, are examples of possible pouch applications.
For branding purposes, beverage companies must think about the product beyond the first year of inception. Brands must maintain distribution and innovation with different varieties and flavors. Levin notes that when products continue to be promoted in the second year, sales tend to increase. It’s important not to let a product languish as 90% of product launches fail to meet critical milestones.
For example, Chris Campbell, president and CEO of Chameleon Cold Brew, details an intricate process in product creation, ranging from ideation and formulation to the testing and refinement stage. Campbell’s company recently unveiled its Cold Brew Latte with Organic Frothed milk. Not only does the beverage advertise clean, organic ingredients, but it promotes the use of less sugar.
“Health and wellness are making more waves in this market, and we will continue to see aesthetics and informational content on these labels to further attract end users of all demographics,” adds Sara Shereen Bakhshian, business development and digital marketing director at SixB Labels.
In the future, pressure sensitive substrates will continue to drive beverage labeling. “More and more high-end products – even bottled water – are switching to pressure sensitive labels instead of paper cut-and-stack labels,” says UPM Raflatac’s Strenski. “Brands need their labels to attract younger generations, which is where eye-popping graphics and sustainability factor in.”