Observations after LabelExpo 2022

As we are beginning the last quarter of 2022 and the holiday season, it is a good time to reflect on trends we are seeing in our industry:

State of the Label Industry

  • Demand for labels is up
    • As customers are able to solve supply chain issues and hire more personnel, they are producing more products that require labels
  • Flexible packaging demand continues to be strong
    • Continued growth in “Grab and Go” products which are a good fit for wraps
    • Many consumer facing companies are switching to or emphasizing flexible packaging to reduce landfill space
  • As inflation hits consumers, more are shifting focus to buying food at groceries stores rather than restaurants
    • Alcohol packaged for retail sales rather than kegs or bulk for restaurants
    • Produce packaged for grocery channel rather than food service similar to what we saw in early 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic
  • Delivery services to home has peaked
    • We are seeing more packaging being designed for retail channels rather than specifically for delivery via services such as InstaCart
  • Delivery vs Price
    • Although price is always a consideration, purchasing decisions are currently being driven by ability to deliver by needed date
    • Supply chain Issues are present for our customers in a lot of areas other than labels. An example is food grade CO2 for beer
  • Reshoring
    • As large manufacturers deploy capital to shorten supply chains, opportunities for label converters emerge.
  • Hiring is easier
    • Labor markets are beginning to loosen up in a lot of areas, including the Upstate
  • Supply chain has returned to pre-pandemic levels for many supplies
    • We are able to purchase most items at pre-pandemic lead times
    • Paper continues to be a challenge. The Supply Chain is still not recovered from the UPM Raflatac strike yet, and may not before the middle of 2023.
  • Freight/Transportation continues to be a challenge
    • Delivery lead times continue to be longer than pre-pandemic
    • Costs much higher
    • Lead times expected to extend as we move into the holiday season
  • Digital Print is increasingly a good fit for a larger variety of jobs
    • Able to run multiple skus for brand owner without plate changeover
    • Small runs for seasonal/cost, cost specials

What sets us apart from our competitors is our commitment to the success of our clients. We view each customer relationship as a partnership, and want to leverage our 25+ years of experience to help solve labeling and packaging challenges.

Century Printing and Packaging is still a family business, locally owned and operated that believes in building relationships with customers in order to meet or exceed their expectations by focussing on customer support and service while implementing the most innovative and creative printing and packaging technology available.

“Enjoy our website and know that we are a value-driven company that works hard every day to earn the respect and trust of our customers.” Ben Waldrop, President

Employee Profiles Century Printing and Packaging Tim Hess

I am originally from Illinois and moved to Indiana, but have lived in the Upstate for 30 years. Before coming on board with Century Printing and Packaging I worked for a distribution company for 22 years, but they phased out their operations in South Carolina and that’s when I ended up here.

Tell us about yourself

I am single and my father recently passed away, but my mother still lives close by. Dad had cancer and they gave him six months to live and he lived another six years. I have two brothers and one sister, one brother and my sister live close by. I like to run and I’m into mountain biking. I play a lot of basketball and they call me “old man”. I like camping and anything outdoors. I used to like trail running but those days are gone (laughter).

How long have you been at Century and describe your role?

I’ve been here eight years and I started out as a delivery guy. Then they moved me into the press room and now I’m up front in the office. I order all the materials like papers, laminates, substrates, boxes and much more to keep the warehouse going. I am part of the ISO team and perform the audits and corrective actions. I like doing the ISO certification and duties.

What’s the ISO certification process like from your perspective?

They can be pretty strict and I have a limited role in it. However, I get to learn what everyone here does when I do an inside audit. You learn their process and what they do so it makes you appreciate the entire operation. You get to see the big picture of our company and it opens your eyes. It’s just not that simple. When I was hired I didn’t know anything about printing and packaging. I was a warehouse supervisor for 22 years so I had no experience. I’ve learned a good bit through the years and feel like I have a good handle and understanding of what we do.

What do you think are the strengths of Century Printing and Packaging?

I would say teamwork. Ben and Neil will do anything and they won’t ask you to do anything they aren’t willing to do themselves. It makes you feel better because in some companies the owners don’t get their hands dirty and spend more time telling people what to do. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Ben Waldrop take the trash out and simple acts like that just make you want to work harder. Both Ben and Neil reward hard work and I’ve been in companies where they don’t do that. It’s refreshing to see how they acknowledge the hard work I try to put into everything I do and others on the team.

How are the relationships with vendors in ordering materials?

They are pretty good, most of them are very honest with you and we’ve had problems with dates due to Covid and the supply/demand logistic issues. It’s not going to let up. We are still having to make a lot of changes to meet customer demands and expectations, but so far we have been able to do that without huge disruptions. So I work closely with production in terms of materials and the finishing department in terms of what we want to get out on a particular day.

You’ve been described as the “WD-40” guy at Century, so you are all over the place on any given day right?

I average about 16,000 steps per day between production, finishing, pre-production and the front office.

How do you think the company is viewed by vendors and customers?

Our vendors are very respective of what we do and circumstances even in times of material/shipping shortages or delays and Covid. Most of our vendors help us find alternative solutions to materials despite the global shortages. I’ve been over-ordering to compensate for the shortages and to get ahead of them for our customers. I’ve had to order for one of our customers and the materials are two weeks behind which puts production 6-8 weeks out. We’ve had several ship materials that are close to what they normally would get and we have to make sure those materials will work and we contact every customer to make sure they are okay with a substitution material that requires their approval before we go to production.

Given the extreme shortages and delays in manufacturing this year how have you dealt with suppliers and customers?

I got to Ben and Neil and we try to find an alternative supplier and material. If we can’t get what they want under normal conditions we tell them up front and we are honest about delays in material, or shipping. However, I have to say we’ve been really fortunate to find alternatives for our customers that work on the finished product. We’ve made the majority of our deadlines despite the global delays in product, shipping and logistic delays.

How do you deal with these challenges?

We had one customer where we couldn’t get their specific printed surface/material. The label wouldn’t stick to the box and we made it good with them. I was able to order a different material that sticks like glue and it’s working. We go out of our way to make it good for our customers.

Tim, describe the culture and dynamics of Century Printing and Packaging

When I first started the turnover was higher and we have made so many strides. They have invested in racks, shelving and turnover is no longer an issue. We have a team in place that is experienced and morale is good. We have a strong team in place. These guys reward hard work and they take notice of it compared to a lot of small companies that don’t reward or acknowledge extra effort. And with me personally, they have done that! I’ve had three major jobs in my whole life and these guys get it and take care of me and the rest of the team.

At Century Printing and Packaging we have a long line of tenured employees who make up our team. We are proud of their work, spirit, and the contribution they make to our quality of work and production. All of them work hard to fulfill customers’ orders and produce high-quality work.

Century Printing and Packaging, Inc.
Greer, SC 29651
800.344.7509

Vendor Relationships Are Critical to Business

Businesses can’t do business without doing business! Let that one sink in for a moment. In order to produce your product or perform your services, you have to rely on multiple businesses, suppliers, and vendors to get the job done. Companies involved in manufacturing have to deal with a wide variety of vendors to make their products or goods. In today’s marketplace, the kind of relationship you have with your vendors is critical due to supply chain disruptions, logistics, and labor issues, not to mention the rate of inflation.

One of Century Printing and Packaging’s oldest vendors is Wilson Manufacturing. Wilson makes rotary tooling in hard, solid, and engraved dies, anvils, and print cylinders as well as flexible tooling (magnetic dies). Flexible tooling provided by Wilson is ideal for printing pressure-sensitive labels of different shapes and forms. We sat down with Kevin Harfst, Southeast Territory Sales Representative at Wilson to discuss their products, work, and relationship with Century.

Tell us about Wilson Manufacturing

Our start is similar to Century’s but we are a little older. We started in the mid-70s in a garage. Mr. Wilson had left a big company that made presses that did both printing and die-cutting. He saw the potential for more tooling and started his own company. Since those days we’ve grown into about a $20M company. Most of our growth has occurred in the last 20 years as we discovered some cutting-edge technology with machine sharpened tooling.

Why was that so important?

Once we were able to machine sharpen these dies that had historically been hand sharpened, which is exactly what it sounds like. Guys would sit around and look through a jeweler’s loop and have these dies that would sit on a jig in front of them and they sharpened the blades by hand using different types of scraping tools. Machine sharpening is much faster and the quality is second to none compared to hand sharpening.

Describe Wilson’s relationship with Century?

Century and Wilson have been working together for at least 20+ years. Over the years they have dealt with different people at Wilson and they have been there every step of the way as we have grown and watched them grow as well. I got involved with them about five years ago as I moved from our west coast territory to the southeast region where most of my family is located. They are definitely the gold standard for customers from the point of communicating, and understanding exactly what they need and their work. The needs we are able to service for them and what they come to us for we’re able to hit that on the head 100% virtually every time. We have bigger clients, but they have been so consistent from year to year and the growth they’ve had has definitely kept them in a higher customer weight class.

What do you think about Century entering its 25th year?

The growth of Century Printing and Packaging over the past 20 years is something that we have paid close attention to and they have certainly helped us grow as well. As they have embraced and invested in cutting-edge technology so have we. They were one of the first printing companies to start doing magnetic dies and cylinders. And just recently they are the first in the U.S. to invest in a brand new hybrid printing platform.

How did Covid affect your business?

We have not been as challenged to the extent that the printing companies and label companies have been securing materials with supply chain issues and material shortages. 80% of our steel is made in the U.S. so we have not had an issue getting our raw materials, but it’s only a matter of time as the inventory of steel in the United States is predicted to come down. Covid really affected us in a different way. Because many of our customers are in different parts of the country their businesses were closed at the height of the pandemic. Now everywhere is pretty open and going.

Describe your role at Wilson

Primarily sales, but I do more than quoting and order-taking because I have a technical background and I’ve been doing this since 1996. I like to get out and get into the companies that I call on to see their production and talk to their production team to go over various tricks of the trade that we can help them with to make their product run better and help their press operators feel more at ease. I also get involved with the crew that does the estimating and purchasing so they can use some of our benefits like our web services that can help them in ordering or getting information on a specific product.

What is a trend in your industry?

Adjustable anvils are big. It is tied in with the problems customers are having with getting their materials. All of these materials they run through their presses get die cut from the top, but these rolls of material go over what is called an anvil. You have a male-female setup in the die station with the die top-cutting and the anvil being the surface below that the die cuts against. What we’re seeing is that the materials have such a variation amongst the liners so by creating an adjustable anvil we can accommodate the variations in the different liners.

At Team Century you hear a lot about the importance of relationships with customers and vendors can you address that?

What Century is doing is custom printing and die-cutting. They aren’t servicing a blank label market, or a generic product where someone calls in and they have an inventory of what they need. It is total custom printing from the artwork down to the shapes they cut. By being able to build a customer-vendor relationship from the standpoint that Century and Wilson have it works out very well if you can trust each other. And know that each can take care of needs as they arise because every die that comes along on our end is different and a lot of the materials they may cut are different from time to time. They may have a dozen standard materials, but they branch into different laminates, varnishes, liners, and substrates. So having a proven relationship built on trust with someone you know is going to be able to deliver specifically what you need is critical. It’s a win-win!

Century Printing and Packaging is an ISO 9001:2015 certified company located in Greer, South Carolina. Flexographic, roll stock film, flexible packaging, digital printing, nutraceutical, food, and craft beer labels are among our extensive print products and technologies. We are family-owned and operated. Call us today about all of your printing or packaging needs. Our southeast location allows us to have a two-day shipping point via FedEx or UPS ground to 80% of the U.S population and we can expedite as necessary.

Ben Waldrop
President
Century Printing & Packaging
Greer, SC 29651
800.344.7509

Craft Beer is Gaining Traction

Tap and tasting rooms have reopened across the country and the craft beer market is growing again. The craft brewery business has suffered the last two years from Covid19, inflation, rising fuel, and material costs, and logistical challenges just like every business category. The industry had to make significant shifts at the height of the pandemic as restaurants, bars, taprooms, microbreweries had to close in the early rounds of the pandemic. This forced them to focus on packaging beer for consumer sales and less B2B, or wholesale. Critical supply disruptions also affected access to hops, cans, CO2, and other brewing materials. The industry is rebounding despite ongoing challenges. Government funding and loans were a lifesaver for craft breweries across the country.

The Brewers Association defines an American craft brewery as a small and independent brewer:

Small: Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales). Beer production is attributed to a brewer according to the rules of alternating proprietorships.

Independent: Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.

Brewer: Has a TTB Brewer’s Notice and makes beer.

According to the Brewers Association, there are nearly 9,000 craft breweries in the U.S. employing directly and indirectly 400,000 people, supporting local economies by providing jobs, generating revenue, and paying taxes. The industry contributes roughly $62+ billion to the U.S. economy. Craft beer accounts for 12.3% of the $94B overall beer market.

While the giant breweries have large budgets to market their products on a national level, craft breweries focus on niche and regional markets combining creative packaging and beer labels while relying on unique recipes instead of a one-size-fits-all approach. Walk into any beer aisle and craft beers jump off the shelves with vibrant colors, wild artwork, funny names, and creative labels to stand out from the competition.

Printing craft beer labels is an art. Reputable and experienced printers work closely with the brewery’s art department and their pre-press department to get the exact look and feel of the label and packaging. All of this is preceded by the printer getting the right label material that will endure temperature variants, especially in cold and wet environments when beer is on ice, or in a cooler. Adhesion is critical for beer labels and having an experienced craft beer label printing vendor is a plus. They are familiar with the food and beverage industry regulations and know what will and won’t work. The last thing you want is for your craft beer label to slide off the can or bottle.

At Century Printing and Packaging we have been answering the call for craft breweries and distilleries in terms of high-performance labels and packaging. We are investing in the industry and learning all we can about your printing and packaging needs. We have innovative products designed specifically for craft breweries. We have years of experience running beer labels on film with a film liner, which can be applied at high speeds and is more readily available than some substrates.

Contact us today to discuss your unique printing and packaging needs! We are members of the Brewers Association.

Ben Waldrop
President
Century Printing & Packaging Greer, SC 29651
800.344.7509
(Images: Brewers Association and CPnP)

Revolutionary Butter Wrap

There is a new cutting-edge material available to dairies and butter producers in the U.S. The metallized paper is from AR Metallizing, a Nissha company located in Italy. Currently, it is exclusively offered in the United States by Century Printing and Packaging located in Greer, South Carolina.

This innovative product is grease-proof for butter and other dairy based products. Grease in handling butter is one of the biggest complaints from restaurants and consumers. Water-based inks adhere very well to the product which further attests to its sustainability and a continued commitment to environmentally friendly products. The new wrap also provides a light barrier which preserves the aging of the butter. Traditional butter wrappings allow light to penetrate the butter and promote faster aging of the product.

Foil is the traditional film used for butter wrapping by a large number of dairies and until recently it has been the industry standard. However, this new material preserves the butter longer, and is sustainable unlike traditional foil.

Providing higher sustainability and product wrapping for regional dairy and butter producers is something Century Printing and Packaging has made a significant commitment to for the industry. Butter producers need to ensure that their product can be protected from light which affects and progresses product aging. Water-based inks are good for food safe products. Century has a 25 year track record of using water based inks which are environmentally friendly.

Century Printing and Packaging will be exhibiting this ground breaking product for the butter industry at the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA) being held in Atlanta in June. We are proud to promote and display this revolutionary product for the butter and dairy industry.

We have plenty of this material in stock to fulfill regional dairy orders. This material from our Italian partners is revolutionizing the butter industry in terms of product integrity, preservation and sustainability.

Regional dairies contact us today about possibilities for your butter products and wrapping. We look forward to seeing you at the IDDBA in June and showing off this cutting-edge wrapping material. There is nothing like this material in the U.S. for dairy and butter producers so don’t miss the opportunity to engage and contact us regarding the possibilities for your dairy. Stand out and emerge from the competition with this incredible wrap that preserves your product.

At Century Printing and Packaging, our metallized paper runs with an added part to our Corona Treater allow us to treat this type of material for better printability and ink adhesion. Metallized paper can run at faster speeds than foil increasing productivity for a greater ROI and high-quality sealing.

Having the ability to run short volumes which is good for the slow movers of a product family, seasonal items, and test marketing is an advantage. Combined with medium and large volume capability, we are a great fit for companies using this brand new material.

Ben Waldrop
President
Century Printing & Packaging
Greer, SC 29651
800.344.7509