How to Drink in Success Through the Beverage Labels Niche
Now that the new year has found people striving to make good on various resolutions, we cannot overlook the desire among businesses to enforce some different practices, too. While many might see changing a calendar as only a symbolic move to make, others truly consider it a chance to boost their well-being, and we could argue that companies have the most to gain. After all, their survival depends on achieving great standing with their customers. It’s OK, for example, as the year unfolds for someone to need a few attempts at a gym to feel comfortable, but businesses can usually not afford that same pattern of easing into an endeavor for fear of having their numbers slump.
As these companies, therefore, seek to sate customers through their services, a number of goods are craving attention, with beverage labels being among the most covetous and most inviting to explore in the print world. Eager to see how distributors can benefit from affixing the marketing of such products to their 2020 goals list, Print+Promo connected with Jenny Johnson Wolf, a partner at Label Specialties Inc., Louisville, Ky.; Nick Heinl, vice president of shrink sleeves for Repacorp Inc., Tipp City, Ohio; and Tim Mlnarik, director of sales and marketing for I.D. Images, Brunswick, Ohio.
Given the name of her place of employment, one can gather that Wolf and her team pride themselves on fulfilling their roles as a label printing and manufacturing business, or easily understand that their company’s very existence means labels always stand to be enviable eye-catchers. While most might suppose that the contents of a beverage holder deserve the ultimate credit for a sale, what adorns the front of a container can be equally influential, especially if it’s flashy.
“Consumer behavior fascinates me,” Wolf said of how imbibers—specifically millennials—are influencing the field. “Smart marketers are preparing for a millennial market. Take the wine market, for example. The wine industry has seen some pretty significant growth in the last 10 years, and it’s still increasing today. New wineries are popping up in towns across the United States, and this is creating greater competition.
“A story from Wine.net shows that most of us are relying on the label when we’re choosing a wine,” she continued. “The label is a mighty powerful tool! According to a study they quoted, in 82 percent of instances, survey respondents admitted they made their selections based on the appearance of the wine labels. This helps us to see that consumers really do gravitate toward the shiniest objects.”
Holding that “the label world just gets prettier and prettier each year,” Wolf noted that so many aspects of that universe make it a compelling one either to wander into or become more immersed in as businesses decide on how they will stand out. With respect to trends, the last five years have been pivotal, as highly specialized labels, namely ones relying on variable printing, have fastened themselves onto the industry’s consciousness and are gladly welcoming company.
“Today, the number of specialty stocks available for beer and wine is honestly mind-blowing,” Wolf said. “The key to a good beverage label is the availability of beautiful stock materials that stand up to a refrigerator or a bucket of ice. The magic behind a truly great label is the combination of amazing artwork printed on the right stock, and then you add some embellishments, and you create the perfect label.”
A flawless marker, then, in her observations, has come to be one that incorporates glitter varnishes, holographic foil options and raised UV varnish, elevating labels to work-of-art status. Heinl appreciates the innovation, too, and respects the associated creativity that it has engendered.
“Over the years, we have seen the trend of beverage companies expanding beyond a pressure-sensitive label on a bottle to shrink sleeves on cans and on-the-go, stand-up pouches,” he said. “Smaller niche batches of multiple flavors and seasonal drinks demand short runs of labels, shrink sleeves and flexible pouches. This trend is due to on-the-go lifestyles, convenience and the environment. Another design trend we are seeing is seasonal short runs, personalization, individualization and hyper-customized designs, as consumers are demanding products to be as unique as they are.”
Heinl also spoke highly of the beverage industry’s affinity for higher-end varnishes and cold foil treatments that are appearing on labels, shrink sleeves and flexible pouches. He pointed out, too, that although they have been on the market for some time, fluorescent and glow-in-the dark inks for digital presses are receiving longer looks. He, Wolf and Mlnarik agreed that reliance on such elements of the industry will only intensify, and credited technology for that growth, with Mlnarik stating that the desire to differentiate enables brand, look and feel to go hand-in-hand, making improving the speed to market a key component of everyone’s operations.
“We are seeing QR codes being hidden within the artwork, and when snapped with a smartphone, they produce videos and augmented reality stories,” Heinl said of another vertical-specific boon. “For the consumer, the beverage becomes an immersed experience instead of just a drink. We believe the future will expand these technological embellishments to bring more connections, stories and experiences that connect the consumer to the brand.”
Every vocation and task within that calling come with potential hurdles, and fostering a future for labels has its share of production and sales snags. Since beverages comprise a competitive market, print resellers, as Heinl pointed out, have an opportunity to help the customer navigate and create a unique solution for their drink, but what troubles can arise?
“New products need quick, short runs, which can be a production challenge when you already have full press schedules,” he stated. “Another challenge for our food and drug customers is getting artwork approval from the government in a timely manner. Most of our beverage customers want to look high-end, which adds more work that goes into producing the labels or sleeves with special embellishments and customized variable print.”
Getting in the door with a beverage brand resounds as the biggest struggle that distributors face, according to Wolf, because most beer and wine brands use a packaging house to fill and seal their bottles and cans, uniting them with a third party that often provides labels as a part of their service.
“Sometimes, they aren’t the best labels,” Wolf surmised, “so I always encourage folks to get in the door with a brewery or winery with labels that don’t necessarily go on product.”
Mlnarik offered that design or shape can occasionally be a challenge to convert, and explained that since label selection is application-specific, understanding the scope of a project’s or customer’s Critical to Quality components is a must for achieving the best outcome.
“Ask questions to determine not only those aforementioned parts, but process as well,” he said. “Involve us in the process as early as possible. We have technical folks and design folks who can help.”
As for the materials that dominate the composition of beverage labels, Mlnarik revealed that I.D. Images has seen a good amount of work involving matte BOPP, SG paper and clear polyolefin, with Wolf mentioning that shrink sleeves—dependent on heat for their application and lacking an adhesive back—have become the darlings for breweries, especially for their tall boy cans.
“If I were a betting girl, I’d tell you that we’ll be seeing more and more embellishments on shrink sleeves in the future,” she said. “The technology isn’t quite there, but it’s getting close.”
Regarding tips for becoming a labels superstar, our sources found themselves in a very giving mood, with being tenacious and showing enthusiasm for the task being their themes.
“The No. 1 tip is to take high-quality samples into any meeting,” Wolf advised. “Folks love to see beautiful labels. They want to touch the stock, feel the textured varnish and see the sparkle up close. Look to get in the door at a brewery or winery by selling promotional items, and wait for an opportunity to sell them labels.
“Always ask if someone is having any trouble with their labels,” she elaborated. “In the beverage industry, you’re likely to hear one of two common complaints: that the label falls off when the bottle gets wet, [which is] totally fixable with the correct stock, or they have to wait too long to get labels, [which is] totally fixable with the right label supplier. Start small, too. Small batch wineries and breweries have popped up across the country. In fact, some of the best label jobs we run started small. A small winery or brewery that has a good product and amazing labels will grow, and when they do, a distributor may just have an opportunity to grow with them.”
“Find an unsaturated niche in which to sell,” Heinl suggested. “Find a new company, [such as] a start-up, and help them grow. Offer a wide range of products and run lengths, as you must be able to provide anything the customer might need—labels, tags, RFID, tamper seals, anti-counterfeiting solutions, shrink sleeves, flexible pouches, long runs and short runs and an array of embellishments.
“When selling, don’t focus on just emails and calls,” he added. “Get out there, and find solutions for your prospects and customers. If they label a bottle, see if you can save them money by switching them to a can or flexible pouch. The alternative packaging could save on warehouse space, shipping costs and so on. Look at the on-the-go packaging and single-serve packaging for adults and children. [Also,] know your customer’s application on every project, how it is used, stored, shipped, etc. [Lastly,] be honest with your customers. Trust goes a long way when building partnerships.”