Enhancing Shelf Appeal

Monday, September 18th, 2017

In an increasingly competitive market place, brand owners have to explore new ways to differentiate themselves against others. Pressure sensitive materials can open up a world of creative decorative solutions. By Marcel Coté, segment director Asia Pacific, Food, Beverage, Wine & Spirits, Avery Dennison

Grant Hutchinson, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

The premiumisation trend has well and truly established itself within the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry in Asia Pacific over many years with leading brand owners focusing on effective ways to differentiate from their competitors and capture greater consumer market share within a highly competitive and often commoditised retail environment.

The beverage industry is no different across all sub-segments including bottled water, ready-to-drink (RTD) spirits, wine, beer and juice just to name a few, with brands looking to differentiate their quality store keeping units (SKUs) from their commodity lines to command a premium through unique packaging design.

While there are many decoration solutions available which can achieve a range of unique looks, such as shrink sleeves, in-mould labelling and wet glue applied labels, only one truly provides the widest scope for creative expression and individualism—the Thomas Hawk, San Francisco, USA pressure sensitive (PS) label, also referred to as a self-adhesive label or as many consumers would describe as a ‘sticker’.

A sticker unfortunately comes with the perceived view of being a simple bright white rectangular label which looks cheap and cheerful. When you explore the boundaries of the PS world, however, you soon learn that this could not be further from the truth and that PS label materials themselves can enhance creative design to a new level.

The PS label is constructed of a face stock (printing surface which we will focus on in more detail), adhesive coating (sticks the label to the primary packaging) and a release liner (used to carry the PS label until the point of application at which time it is discarded or recycled).

The label actually requires pressure to adhere to another surface which is where is gets is name ‘pressure sensitive’ this is usually achieved with an automated label applicator and in some instances by hand application.

Decoration Of Choice

PS labels are already the decoration of choice within the wine industry in the Western world to achieve a premium look and feel, however, PS labels are still widely underutilised across the broader beverage industry, particularly in Asia Pacific.

Over the past few years in emerging markets including China, India and throughout the ASEAN region, beverage brand owners are beginning to shift from wet glue applied paper labels, wrap labels and shrink sleeves to PS labels to improve the quality and consistency of their packaging and overall product image to compete with global brands who are actively winning share in local markets.

So what gives the PS label a creative edge and brand owners the freedom to express themselves and connect with consumers seeking a more indulgent drinking experience?

Well, the answer lies within not only the label technology, but the individual creative minds and capabilities within the value chain itself. Only when the full story of the PS label is truly understood can brand owners take full advantage of this technology to create an individual image which truly reflects the premium product and engages many of the consumers senses at the shelf.

Statistics suggest that there is greater than an 80 percent probability that a consumer will purchase a product if the product is picked up and handled which is why it is imperative that premium products not only look great, but entice the consumer to physically connect with the product at the shelf.

PS Material Selection

Delirium Tremens, Round Lake, Illinois, US

Unlike other decoration solutions, there are literally thousands of different PS label materials available to label printers ranging from rich textured specialty papers, vibrant metallised foils and films through to contemporary pearlescent and more modern transparent synthetics to striking holographic, textile and even wood veneer products.

The options for individual look and feel are almost limitless, with the development of new specialty PS label materials constantly being introduced to the market place. For many global brand owners, the unique label material selected will be specified for a products application throughout the world as it forms part of their brand equity and provides consumers the assurance that the product is genuine and of original quality.

When combined with label printer converting embellishments such as unique die cut shapes, die cut viewing windows, die cut text and logos, debossed or embossed images, rough graining areas, spot varnishing, high build textured varnishing or metallic and holographic foil stamping a one of a kind label can be produced which not only looks great, but has an iconic feel that encourages the consumer to touch and explore the package more closely becoming connected at a deeper level.

Therefore, establishing a ‘one of a kind’ purchase and consumption experience in the consumers mind increasing the likelihood for a repeat buy.

The challenge for any creative team is to select the appropriate label material which connects with the brand. The best way to explore these options is to contact a PS label printer and/or raw material supplier for swatch books containing samples often times already printed and embellished to illustrate the potential impact the label can have on any given product.

Industry experts will be able to assist with the selection process to ensure the appropriate product options are provided to suit the specific beverage application from a performance standpoint.

As there are many face stock material options, there are also many adhesive types designed to perform in all applications, for example ice bucket, refrigeration and freezer conditions where the label must be adhered throughout the product lifecycle to primary packaging surfaces including glass, rigid plastics and aluminium.

Here are just a few PS material trends which illustrate how selection of the appropriate PS product is helping to differentiate premium SKU’s.

  • Bright reflective silver metallic materials printed in vibrant colours are matched with RTD Spirits targeting younger millennial consumers.
  • Clear transparent film labels with minimal design on unique PET and Glass bottles are matched with premium water and juice brands to illustrate high quality, freshness and nothing to hide purity.
  • While uncoated textured paper labels with embossed text and spot varnish are typically found on premium wine and spirits brands connecting the consumer with the heritage and refined quality contained within.

The Print Process

Traditional printing processes including offset printing, letterpress and UV flexographic printing typically provide up to 10 colours which allows virtually any design to be reproduced in high quality, high impact graphics.

While high quality digital printing has entered the mainstream which enables brand owners to personalise and/or individualise their products easily and effectively. Producing double sided printed labels is also achievable through the converting process and a great way to create exciting and engaging products particularly with translucent beverages including water, beer, cider, white spirits and wines where the back label can be used to convey and image through the actual contents of the bottle (The reverse printed side is visible through the front of the bottle).

Holistic Approach To Label Design

Shenghung Lin, Taipei, Taiwan

Beverages which exude a premium image have effectively matched the right PS material or in many cases multiple PS materials and printing embellishments with creative design and unique container shapes.

Rather than focusing simply on the label design in isolation, brand owners have looked at the task of product development holistically with the aim of expressing the unique value of their product to their consumers at the retail shelf.

Some brand owners cleverly choose to replicate best practice packaging design from one sub-segment into their product line rather than ‘reinventing the wheel’. A great example of this is with many craft beer and ciders brand owners, opting for uncoated, textured paper PS materials with a matt finish and simple graphics to promote a premium image.

This style is directly adopted from within the wine segment to distinguish premium wines with heritage and quality from the cheaper lower tier varieties.

Through effective collaboration with designers, printers and label material suppliers through the design and development process, brand owners can develop truly enhanced shelf appeal of their premium beverage products that engage consumer’s senses during the purchasing moment of truth.

PS label materials help to unlock the creative boundaries and enhance the perceived value of their products increasing the probability of both top and bottom line sales growth.