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Global label trends and application technologies

Doug Thompson offers his views on how brand owners worldwide are using developments in label production technology to differentiate their products on retailers’ shelves

Doug Thompson Domino Printing Sciences

The growth of supermarket own-label drinks products and changes to consumer buying habits have presented a growing challenge to brand owners that need to ensure their products stand out on retailers’ shelves.

According to research, consumers take just seven seconds to decide which product to purchase when choosing from competing in-store brands, and as a result, drinks manufacturers have had to rethink the packaging and labelling of their products.

Over the past few years we have seen many innovative approaches from drinks manufacturers that have been keen to take advantage of many of the latest developments in label production, to ensure their products are differentiated from those offered by their competitors.

Substrates, inks and finishing techniques

Brand owners are increasingly experimenting with a range of different substrates, inks and finishing techniques in a bid to achieve maximum stand out on the shelves of retailers.

Recent campaigns have seen manufacturers use applications such as thermochromic inks on drinks packaging, which change colour when the contents are cold enough to drink.

Other drinks producers have experimented with a range of finishing applications including foiling and embossing to enhance the appearance of labels and make their products appear more prestigious.

We are also seeing a growth in the popularity of different substrates including shrink sleeve labels, and the use of tactile, textured materials by drinks manufacturers to ensure their products have multi-sensory appeal.

Personalisation and customisation

The personalisation and customisation of labels is another trend being explored by many drinks manufacturers.

The current mass personalisation campaign being conducted by one global soft drinks manufacturer - along with the coverage the campaign has generated in both the media and social networking sites – is likely to prompt other manufacturers to follow suit.

One major Dutch beer manufacturer has already experimented with the personalisation of labels for its bottles and cans in a bid to drive consumer engagement, while other manufacturers are choosing to customise labels for different regions or special promotions.

This personalisation and customisation is enabled by digital printing, which is revolutionising the production of labels and packaging as it is now cost-effective for manufacturers to move to smaller batches.

Digital ink jet printing technology has paved the way for drinks manufacturers to explore personalisation and to produce customised products for different regions, or limited edition designs. Digital print applications can also help meet consumer demand for more on-pack information, whether directly onto the packaging, or attached to a label; additionally, there is also demand for larger print, and true-type fonts, backed up by changes in European legislation; this can be a dilemma for beverage manufacturers that need to provide the level and variety of information required in a limited amount of space and without impacting on production efficiencies.

Here digital printing can provide a real advantage as it enables manufacturers to produce smaller batches of labels for each geographic area, eradicating the need to print many different languages on each product and freeing up extra space on the label. This extra space can then be used to accommodate larger print sizes or region-specific marketing campaigns, for example.


For high-end drinks manufacturers and traders the financial stakes involved in counterfeit drinks can be high. Take for example the recent case in the US, which saw millions of dollars in damages awarded to a wine collector that had paid tens of thousands of dollars per bottle for several rare wines at an auction, which he later found were fakes.

High-end brand owners are increasingly exploring the use of 'product passports' which provide complete product traceability from original source through the logistical supply chain to the customer, providing quality control as well as combating the rise in product counterfeiting.

Vintage French wine producer Chateau Cheval Blanc invested in a Domino D-Series laser, equipped with software linked to an integrated database, to scribe identification information onto both the glass bottle and the product label and deliver a range of text, 1D and 3D datamatrix and alphanumeric coding and logos, to safeguard against potential counterfeiting threats.  The D-Series laser also delivers notification of the vintage, the number of the bottle and a QR code, which, when scanned by the customer, identifies the number of the individual bottle and directs them to the company’s website. 

Counterfeiting problems are not just confined to high-end drink manufacturing, however, as even mass-market brand owners are at risk from alcohol fraud - the UK government estimates that alcohol counterfeiting costs the country more than £1bn a year in lost revenues.


Of course smartphone-scannable codes such as QR codes have an additional benefit for brand owners as they enable interactivity between consumers and the product on the shelf.

For example, one Spanish wine producer recently resdesigned its back label to feature a QR code that directs consumers to a mobile site, which hosts additional information including tasting notes and wine and food pairings.

Future trends

Label production technologies are continuing to evolve and offer huge opportunities for marketers and brand owners looking to make their products stand out on the shelves.

For example, the advances being made in digital ink jet label printing is enabling variable QR codes to be printed within a continuous production process. This doesn’t require additional set up time, and therefore offers huge opportunities for marketers and brand owners looking to increase personalised and localised communication messages directly to specific groups of consumers.

Unless there is a sea change in consumer buying habits, brand owners will continue to strive to differentiate their products in the face of growing competition both from well-established products and supermarket own-brands.

Therefore it is more important than ever for brands to stay on top of the latest developments in label production technology, to ensure that their products are not left behind in the race to stand out on the shelves.

Fortunately, the evolution of digital coding and labelling technologies ranging from laser, continuous ink jet, thermal ink jet as well as the new digital ink jet label presses means that there are now production solutions for every type of application.


29 May 2013