The continuing popularity of the ‘no label look’, created using clear film label facestocks, is not the only driver for film usage in self-adhesive labels today. Film release liner, PET or PP, is increasingly a choice today. The combination of film facestock and film liner enables serious downgauging of label laminate, to deliver more labels per reel, fewer roll changes on press and on the labelling line, and therefore significant time and cost savings. Cost savings are additionally enhanced by recycling the film release liner: world shortages of PE granulate and high demand have made recycled liner a financially viable commodity.
However, it is in the realms of film that self-adhesive labels today see their greatest competition. As stated, film-based shrink sleeve labels, stretch and wrap-around sleeves, and in-mould labels are today enjoying faster growth rates. However, these technologies are opportunities as well as threats, and self-adhesive label converters today are embracing the concept of ‘one-stop shopping’ – offering their customers not only the self-adhesive path, but also the non-adhesive technologies which can be profitably and ably printed on their narrow-web presses.
Label converters today are, indeed, at the centre of an intermingling of technologies in the packaging chain, offering both web-fed self-adhesive labels and sheet-fed wet glue labels, as well as flexible packaging and tube laminate. They are also experiencing, in the M&A arena, buyouts by flexible packaging companies wishing to expand their offering, and also mainstream packaging companies purchasing self-adhesive label converters to develop their capability to provide perosnalised packaging.
The narrow-web presses that characterise self-adhesive label production have in recent years mostly employed the flexographic print process, most recently coupled with speedy UV curing. However, the fast-developing narrow-web digital colour print options – particularly the HP Indigo and Xeikon – are dramatically changing the face of label print today. As brand owners and retailers opt for shorter production runs of their products, delivered more often, as well as multi-versioning of products using the same basic packaging, so the speed, flexibility, and shorter-run capability of digital print is proving itself.
Linerless self-adhesive labels – which briefly enjoyed popularity in the 1980s – are enjoying a resurgence of interest; and technology advances have made them a real success currently for supermarket catchweigh food pre-packs in particular. Limitations on label shape have held this format back, but developments are ongoing and this is an area to watch.
On-press trends include an ever-broader toolcase of special finishes for labels, such as photochromic and high-gloss metallic inks; time-temperature indicators; holograms; and tactile varnishes. Designed to enhance the consumer’s experience of a product’s packaging and create shelf ‘stand-out’, they partner highly-engineered permanent and removable adhesives to deliver the perfect performance for the brand owner’s needs.
Labels: adding value to packaging