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.