More recently innovations in printing materials and techniques have unleashed a new breed of smart or intelligent products that can not only enhance the visual appearance of the label, but can also offer specific functionalities. In some cases these innovations allow the label to appeal to a wider range of human senses and even interact with changing environmental conditions.
Finally this series of articles will cover the evolution of processes that facilitate the creation of multi-layer labels and booklets and allow print and embellishments to be applied not just to a single surface, but to a range of surfaces, perhaps within a booklet or form style construction.
WHAT IS AN EMBELLISHMENT?
Definition of embellishment - to make more beautiful and attractive; to decorate.
An embellishment adds an additional decorative finish to the surface of a label in order to enhance its visual appeal and make it more eye catching.
Perhaps the most common form of label embellishment is foil-blocking, where parts of the label design can appear in a high gloss reflective foil. Its superb brightness and mirror finish has effectively been used to simulate its historic predecessor, gold leaf. But today foiling is only one of many techniques and processes available to brand owners seeking to add value to their brands.
The role of the label as a packaging component is complex and rapidly evolving. From its early beginnings as a simple descriptive marker its role has been transformed. Today the function of the label is more diverse than ever before.
The label has always performed a key role in conveying mandatory and critical information, but the rise of the global brand has elevated the importance of the brand image and shelf-impact to new heights. The role of the label as a marketing tool reflecting the brand owners' carefully created image is critical. In some instances labels have become ‘works of art’ with a huge number of print processes, materials and embellishments at the disposal of the designer.
KEY MARKET SECTORS
There are particular market sectors such as the health and beauty care and premium drinks segments where the visual appeal of the branding and packaging is the most important function of the label.
In many other market sectors, premium sub-sectors are emerging as brand owners and retailers attempt to target more affluent consumers.
Here competition between brands and the desire to create visual differentiation on the supermarket shelf are driving an increase in the sophistication of label graphics and in the use of surface decorative embellishments.
In health and beauty care the intensifying competition between proprietary and own label brands is resulting in the introduction of ‘own label’ premium lines and a trend towards more innovative and visually striking labels.
The health and beauty care segment has one of the highest penetration levels of self-adhesive labeling. In this sector filmic substrates that are resistant to moisture are heavily used and the use of clear PP films to create a ‘no-label’ look, is popular.
Surface embellishments used on filmic materials offer their own particular challenges and there has been a trend towards tactile finishes that improve product handling performance for the user in wet conditions.
Within the drinks market the high value spirits sector has always used highly decorative labels, with many incorporating security features such as holograms, security threads, security inks and a variety of other anti-theft devices or counterfeit deterrence features (Figure 1.1).
Figure 1.1 - Examples of labels with a high decorative content
EMERGENCE OF NEW PREMIUM SECTORS
New premium sectors are also emerging. One of the most rapidly growing areas of use for self-adhesive labels is premium beers. Here decorative labels with a high added value content printed primarily onto filmic labels are making significant inroads (Figure 1.2).
Figure 1.2 - Growth in use of filmic labels with high decorative content for new premium beer sectors
Glue applied labeling technology still dominates for high- volume applications in both beers and spirits with many labels having a high decorative content in the form of metallic inks.
Although private food label brands are typically associated with cheap, low quality alternatives to name brands, retailers are now starting to develop their own ‘premium’ ranges (Figure 1.3). Tesco Finest, for example, uses black and metallic packaging to convey high quality.
Figure 1.3 - Premium ranges are emerging in the food sector with high added value labels
To continue to see this upsurge in private label purchases, they are going to have to innovate rather than imitate. Proprietary shapes, textures, colors, imagery and typography leave a lasting impression with consumers and allow products to stand out from the shelf.
LABELS THAT EXPLOIT A WIDER RANGE OF SENSES
Developments in the decorative function of labels will continue to evolve. A new area of interest in design is exploiting the human senses of touch and smell.
We are already seeing labels incorporating surface textures and ‘scratch and sniff inks’ appearing on the retailer’s shelves. Premium packaging is now seeking to engage all of a consumer’s senses, with tactile and olfactory trends emerging. Sight, is the most important sense when it comes to packaging, so we are seeing a move away from poorly used white space, to vibrant, colorful, eye catching designs. The power of touch and rich textures are being exploited and there is a trend towards sustainability and biodegradability.
OTHER MARKET DRIVERS AND DEVELOPMENTS
There are many other factors that are having an impact on the evolution of label structures.
New marketing and promotional demands that require more information to be carried on-pack, are resulting in new multi-layer structures and booklets that require a different approach to manufacturing and subsequent printing.
Significant escalation in the counterfeiting of goods and packaging and the rapid rise in retail theft has resulted in the emergence of new processes such as holographic foils which have both decorative and security benefits.
An exciting development is the ability to integrate active and intelligent components (such as RFID features) into the label itself.
New inks and materials mean that labels can react to changes in environmental conditions such as heat and temperature by changing color and this means that they can be used as visual indicators of product condition or freshness.
It is clear that the uses of labels as packaging components are many and diverse and will continue to expand.
The end user now has the potential to incorporate a variety of decorative and functional features into a single label.
SUMMARY OF DECORATIVE EMBELLISHMENTS AND SPECIAL APPLICATIONS
A brief summary of all the decorative embellishments and added value features covered in the Handbook are detailed in Figure 1.4.
Figure 1.4 - Summary of embellishments and added value features
Finally when considering the use of decorative embellishments the following cost considerations must be evaluated. ;
Embellishments & Special Applications
Laser Die Cutting
Special Effect Inks
These factors can impact heavily on project costs, thereby influencing the choice of decoration used for a label or pack.
Capital cost of equipment – The capital cost of embellishment equipment must be considered
Materials – Cost of prep, tooling, foil, special inks and adhesive
Cost of die or plates – Hot foil requires a die whilst cold foil requires ink and photopolymer plates
Set-up/makeready costs – Increased makeready times dependent on the type of decorating technology
Press speed – Press speed can be significantly affected by the embellishment process
Waste factor – Whether foiling or printing; be sure to include the appropriate waste factor