In Living Color

Labels with eye-catching graphics make dairy products pop on the shelf.
by Shonda Talerico Dudlicek
Creating some of the beautiful designs found on today’s dairy products takes coordination among the digital, graphics, labeling and packaging worlds.
But suppliers are meeting these needs of dairy processors, who also want their labeling and graphics needs fulfilled quickly.
Designing packaging can be an expensive, time-consuming task, but is made easier by full-service graphics departments equipped to design a logo or package all the way through to printing the label on the actual package.
Digital services have hastened the work flow, and Duncan, S.C.-based Cryovac utilizes digital printing in its full-service, in-house graphics department. Services range from conceptual design work to the required printing plates.
Images and proofs are sent digitally, rather than physically, from plant to plant, saving time. “We can go directly from the computer to a substrate and make prototypes for customers so they can use those at photo shoots or market surveys, or for product testing for size and distortion,” says Roxanne Baker, graphics team leader at Cryovac’s Simpsonville, S.C., manufacturing facility. “That is a trend we’re seeing, that customers need to see more of that prototype packaging.”
Cryovac prints products, makes shrink bags and thermo films, and packages dairy products ranging from blocks of cheese to bags of dairy powders. “Trying to shrink wrap a wedge of cheese may present its own challenges. That’s something that’s very difficult to lay out art to follow on correct placement because of the size and shape. So we use prototype packages that are printed on a digital press to help a customer test,” Baker says.
Full-Service Labeling
Cryovac’s graphics department is at the manufacturing plant, which is advantageous for the customer, says Chuck Dunlap, marketing director of the dairy packaging business in Duncan, S.C. Customers can visit one location “for a trial, stand on the floor and watch their art run,” he says, “decide if they like it or they want a change, go next door to the graphics office and make that change, go back out and see it run again.”
Ameri-Seal, Chatsworth, Calif., also performs smaller print runs for test marketing, which is becoming increasingly popular, and helps dairy processors keep their costs down.
“The customer sends us their empty bottles and containers and we sleeve the product at our facility using heat/steam tunnels. We then send the empty containers back to the customers for them to fill. This is an added service when customers order film from us. They want unique packaging to help make their products pop on store shelves,” says Devin Millstein, Ameri-Seal’s marketing vice president.
Ameri-Seal is a manufacturer and converter of PVC, PETG and OPS heat-shrinkable sleeves, focusing on tamper-evident seals such as clear and printed shrink bands. Ameri-Seal also supplies bands called pre-forms, which create a tamper-evident seal around the tops of cottage cheese, yogurt or sour cream tubs.
Ameri-Seal has a full-body sleeve for single-serve milk and yogurt containers. Up to nine colors can be printed on these sleeves with Ameri-Seal’s rotogravure printing process. High-shrink heat-shrinkable sleeves, with up to 80 percent shrinkage, allow customers to put heat shrinkable labels on unusually shaped bottles, jars and containers, Millstein says.
“But another cutting-edge service today that wasn’t around a few years ago is the digital proof process. Ameri-Seal supplies digital proofs of printed sleeves upon request. This shows customers their completed design and product within days rather than weeks. Digital proofs are a great benefit to customers in a hurry to see their completed products,” Millstein says.
Fort Dearborn Co.’s products and processes include low-shrink PETG shrink film, catalyzed water based inks for process printing and enhanced product resistance for full body shrink sleeves. The company also installed digital presses at multiple locations.
“With digital printing, product concepts and design alternatives can be produced quickly — usually within 24 hours — on virtually any substrate, allowing creative service marketers and packaging engineers to visualize a variety of graphic effects and decoration options without breaking the bank,” says Michele Donahue, marketing communications coordinator at Elk Grove Village, Ill-based Fort Dearborn.
SleeveCo, Dawsonville, Ga., offers a full line of application equipment and experienced support staff, beyond its line of full-body labels, tamper-evident bands and other products in PVC, HS-PVC and PETG films.
In labeling technology, servomotors are the latest advancement. B&H Labeling System’s new high-speed Marathon XL roll-fed labeler SMARTdrive™ has an all-electronic drive train, digital, multi-axis servomotor control.
“Dairy processors are looking for labeling machinery that produces attractive containers, to maximize the shelf impact of their products while minimizing costs,” says Roman Eckols, president of B&H Labeling Systems, Ceres, Calif. “Traditionally, dairy processors have used shrink-sleeve labeling technology to handle contoured containers but this type of equipment is very complex.
“Processors are now increasingly asking for labeling machinery that achieves this same high level of product shelf appeal while improving productivity. The Marathon roll-fed labelers from B&H, coupled with a downstream shrink tunnel, allow dairy processors to label contoured containers while greatly simplifying the labeling operation for improved reliability and uptime.”
Osio International Inc. manufactures shrink-sleeve labels, heat- and cold-seal roll-stock and woven polypropylene bags. The company developed thinner gauge PET-G film and recently rolled out holographic metallized shrink sleeve labels.
“Shrink-sleeve labeling has grown in popularity each year for the last decade. A significant effect of the use of shrink labeling is the development of custom-shaped containers. A flat labeling surface is no longer a requirement, so we are seeing bottles created specifically for the label instead of the other way around,” says Rick Whipple, vice president of Anaheim, Calif.-based Osio International.
Milk that Pops
As dairy faces greater competition at the grocery store, packaging needs colors and designs that really pop. A 3-D or an embossed-look label are what some dairy processors are asking for, says Baker. Screens or dots can create new effects like feathered edges and color gradients.
“When you screen colors, you use as few colors as possible but screen them in such a way to produce more and more colors. The product pops on the shelf so it appeals to the consumer’s attention,” Baker says. “Layering similar colors is very common now. We’re seeing the layering of color to build effect or saturation just for the shelf appeal of it.”
Metallic and black inks are popular for high-end products. Green is often chosen for a “positive environmental scene,” Dunlap says. “As people try to find a niche to differentiate them from a commodity, colors can be an avenue for doing that, for instance, people making an organic product and their typical use of green.”
Colors have long been used in packaging to differentiate products in the line, such as red caps for whole milk and blue caps for 2 percent milk. Dairy processors use colors in cheese packaging to establish differences in product quality and extension, Dunlap says. “People are packaging their extra-sharp cheddar in black and perhaps product that hasn’t been aged as long in a different color.”
Millstein says the most popular design trend she’s seen is 360-degree graphics on containers, bottles and jars. “Heat-shrinkable sleeves allow this type of coverage. The benefit is more real estate for art, verbiage and design. And again, metallic inks and see-through film panels are rising in popularity,” she says. “Paper labels used to be more popular, but not anymore. The PVC, PETG, OPS heat-shrinkable sleeves are slicker in design and appearance and help create major product buzz.”
The use of shrink-sleeve labels has been steadily increasing in the dairy industry, Donahue agrees. “The demand for impactful graphics is growing due to the rise of competition in the marketplace. Colors and designs vary from product to product, but the dairy industry is always looking for innovative packaging as well as vivid, bright colors,” she says. “The basic product is still the same but the flavors, packaging, sizes and colors are constantly changing.”
Fort Dearborn’s HiColour printing system incorporates design, prepress, color management and printing, and it recently added a seventh color. The HiColour system delivers up to 85 percent of PMS colors and creates packaging with rich, vibrant colors so products stand out on a store shelf, Donahue says.
“Dairy processors have really tried to transform milk into a suitable alternative for those now living in the world of convenience. Convenience is becoming a major trend in almost every industry, and each brand marketer is looking at ways to transform their product into the ideal convenience product. Single-serve milk cartons are a perfect example of that,” Donahue says. “Also, the idea of putting milk in bottles that are created for vending machines transformed the thinking of brand marketers when choosing their container. Revolution in the marketplace has caused brand marketers and dairy processors to continue reinventing their products to stay competitive.”
Thermochromatic inks – inks that are sensitive to temperature changes – are also hot. Farmingdale, N.Y.-based Seal-It Inc. uses thermochromatic inks to imprint disappearing and reappearing messages, says Sharon Lobel, the company’s president and chief executive officer.
“We can print on a milk bottle, ‘Refrigerate me,’ and you don’t see it. But when it gets to a certain temperature, when it gets too warm, when it’s sitting on your kitchen table, that message will pop out. You put it back in the refrigerator and the message goes away,” she says. “Thermochromatic can be adjusted to any temperature, so it can go from hot to cold, cold to hot.”
Tamper-evident bands have also received a makeover. At Seal-It, processors are asking for the band to be color coordinated with the product’s packaging. “One label has a horizontal perforation around it with a tamper-evident band so when you twist the cap around it breaks that perforation – throw out the tamper-evident band and you’re left with a label,” Lobel says.
With a broad palette of colors available in screens and complementary shades and full 360-degree coverage, dairy products are transformed into works of art. “You can make your product very vivid and your product sells. It’s the new way to go. It’s so much more effective than a carton. Milk cartons used to be very blah and now you have a new generation and it’s very exciting. Each one is more beautiful than the one before it. You see a lot of splashes or milk pouring over or some splashes coming out of it,” Lobel says.
“It’s gotten very, very creative and the labels are absolutely beautiful. You go into a supermarket and you can see these labels from across the store. And that sells your product. If it’s appetizing and colorful and beautiful, they’re going to try it. And then it’s up to you if it’s going to work or not.”
Shonda Talerico Dudlicek is a freelance journalist and a former managing editor of Dairy Field.