The Difference in Printing Pre-Consumer and Post-Recyclable Materials

Post recyclable material is a material that has already been recycled. These materials can include paper, cardboard, plastics, metals, film, and more. Most of it falls into the paper/cardboard category. Many customers have great intentions of environmental stewardship and want to reduce the environmental footprint in their product manufacturing. However, many customers do not realize that when it comes to printing on these materials it is typically more expensive and lower quality than pre-consumer materials.

Consistency is a benchmark for printing and packaging companies. Whether they are running thousands of labels, or a few hundred a printer wants a consistent finish, look and feel so at the point of purchase every product on the shelf looks the same. Inconsistent colors, ink runs, smudges, and other flaws can kill product presentation. Customers want consistency in the finished product because it affects brand image and sales.

Think of it this way. The majority of auto manufacturers ban paint shop workers from using antiperspirants because they can flake. When the paint goes on an auto body that has these flakes the paint will become pitted affecting the finish on the vehicle. Or after it is painted a worker can prep it for clear-coat and the flakes get trapped between the paint and the clear-coat finish. Imagine two vehicles of the same make, year, and color on a dealership lot. They are identical except one has pitted paint and the other does not. Which car is the consumer going to choose? Fortunately, most auto manufacturers catch the problem through a series of quality inspections, but sometimes a vehicle gets shipped because someone missed it.

When a printer begins to print labels for your product a post recyclable material with inconsistent fiber construction can be a nightmare like the pitted new vehicle. Things like color and ink absorption can be very inconsistent using post recyclable sources. Print customers seeking sustainability in requesting these materials can sacrifice their brand appeal versus the competition despite good intentions.

One of the best ways a manufacturer can practice environmental stewardship is to select an experienced printing and packaging vendor committed to sustainable practices in their company. For example, they recycle, manage their power usage, use water-based inks avoiding resins and inks that contain VOCs and other toxic vapors that can contribute to pollution. Water-based inks also get better density and color match than the alternatives. Check to see if the printer has access to FSC® (The Forest Stewardship Council) approved paper sources. These paper sources are a better fit than post recyclable material and they provide consistent quality ensuring brand continuity throughout the process.

What is FSC®? FSC certification ensures that products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social, and economic benefits. “The FSC Principles and Criteria provide a foundation for all forest management standards globally, including the FSC US National Standard (v1.0) that guides forest management certification in the U.S.” FSC® Forest Stewardship Council®

Sustainability, environmentally friendly, and green are great terms, but sometimes they can be confusing for customers because they lack the knowledge and experience in regard to these terms and printing sources. The result can be damaging in terms of quality, brand image, and costs. Experienced printing and packaging professionals committed to sustainable practices help educated and guide their customers by providing value through quality, consistency, customer service, and satisfaction.

At Century Printing and Packaging we take great pride in helping our customers achieve their goals through quality and consistency that begins by listening to them. We have 27+ years of experience with water-based inks. We have access to FSC certified paper suppliers committed to ethical environmental stewardship. Contact us today about your printing and packaging needs.

Ben Waldrop, President
Century Printing and Packaging, Inc.
Greer, SC 29651

The Difference in Prime and Non-Retail Labels

Labels have a variety of functions for applications across diverse product platforms.  Most people think of labels on a product you would buy off the shelf of your local grocery, Target, or other retail chains.   In the printing and packaging industry, these are called prime labels.   Prime labels adorn products that consumers can see, hold, examine and read.  

Prime labels help sell products.  These labels depend on form as well as function at the point of sale.  Consumers are attracted to products with labels that are attractive, colorful, and have a great “look and feel”.   So, it’s incredibly important these labels are consistent in appeal and appearance.  They need to be consistent in terms of the material, laminate, fonts, colors, etc.  Many prime labels have a laminate or varnish finish to give the label a nice gloss that’s clean and aesthetically pleasing to the eye on the retail shelf.

Non-retail labels are based more on their function to provide important information.  They don’t have to be appealing because most of them are located on products in locations where they are not seen by consumers. Things like chemical labels, government-required safety or information labels on industrial equipment, vehicles, lawn equipment, and the like.  For example, the label on a wiring harness or fuse box diagram contains vital information about that equipment or particular part.  It doesn’t have to look flashy and its finish has to be durable and able to perform in hot, cold, humid, water, and even dirty environments.  DOT requires non-retail labels for tire pressure information on the inside door jam of the driver’s door for vehicles manufactured for the United States.  These labels have to consistently stick and perform in a variety of weather, chemical, and wear and tear environments.  They provide vital information for the end-user, owner/operator, but don’t have to focus on aesthetics like their prime label counterparts.  

There are by far more prime labels produced than non-retail because of the countless “one-off” products like a container of tomatoes.  The tomatoes are used fairly quickly and the container can go to recycling, but the label is no longer needed.  Think of how many vitamin and over-the-counter pill bottles a typical family goes through in a year, versus the car or lawnmower they own for several years with non-retail labels that never change.  It’s simple math because of the overwhelming number of retail products produced worldwide.

A great example of a non-retail label that is required and regulated by law is gas pump labels required by a state’s respective Department of Agriculture or Weights and Measures in terms of weights, measures, calibration, and certification.  These have to stay on until the next annual inspection when a new label is applied to the pump.  These labels are exposed to harsh weather, diesel, gasoline, benzene, kerosene, dirt, grease, and grime.  Their performance is far more important than their appearance.  These labels have laminate outside because they offer greater barrier protection to fumes and fuel spills than a varnish finish you will find on a prime label on a retail shelf.

In terms of label finishes laminate provides you the ultimate protection for outside and print.  Varnish is less expensive and you can use a plate to coat it in areas of the label you don’t want varnished.  

Regarding prime labels consistency, high-end graphics, a glossy, attractive finish that doesn’t get lost or look bad are critical.  Consider the craft beer industry.  Your regular retailer has various craft beers inside a “beer cave” (walk-in cooler)  and you can view a variety of beers.  If the label is sliding off a bottle or can and the competition has appealing labels that stick this is going to be a barrier to purchase for the brewery.  You don’t want to detract from the eye test on the shelf.  

In Non-retail labels performance is more important because of the material adhesive, barrier protection, legal requirements for certain information that meets regulatory requirements.  For example, a chemical label not made for retail sales, but on the exterior identifies the product proper applications,  mixtures, concentrate, hazardous use policy, and any other warnings provides important and regulated information to the buyer and end-user.  In the world of chemical labels, there are some products that require both a high-performing and standout label.  

Depending on the units you are purchasing it is critical that your label and packaging vendor can produce consistent labels.  A major portion of the cost is in the setup for printing the labels.  Every time you have to set up a different run it increases your costs versus having the labels printed in a single job.  Wise manufacturers know the demand for their product, sales numbers, logistics and plan ahead so they have enough labels, but aren’t caught holding the bag with labels that never get used because demand is lower than expected.  That said, you need to make sure the print quality, look and feel is consistent whether they are in the same run, or multiple printing runs.

One of the industry trends to watch closely in the label and packaging industry is the online sales factor.  As more and more products are sold through Amazon and other online retailers, the prime label is not as important as it is on a retail shelf in a physical location.  The reason is that in an online purchase label quality looks relatively the same and your product is rarely distinguished from similar ones side by side digitally.  What you click on doesn’t matter as long as you get the product.  This will be an interesting trend to watch for manufacturers and the label and packaging industry.  

At Century Printing & Packaging we understand the importance of shelf appeal optics when it comes to the “look and feel” of a product at the point of sale.  Our flexible packaging printing and labels not only stand out but stand up to the environmental performance conditions required of them.  We have extensive experience in printing both prime and non-retail labels.  Our goal is to produce high-performing labels and flexible packaging that stick, attract, and perform.   We are experienced in beer, craft beer, CBD, nutraceuticals, food-grade film, flexible packaging,  and much more.  Contact us today to discuss your unique needs.