As new medical devices are introduced to the market in ever-increasing numbers, it also becomes increasing critical to have effective, concise, brand identity-oriented messaging on their labels and packaging. Between sterile barrier issues, tamper indicating features, and FDA mandated label information, ensuring that the label and package both complement and advance a device manufacturers brand identity becomes more difficult and problematic. That’s why a label printer with industry experience and a team in place who knows how to balance the competing issues is critical for quality, cost effective, and compliant labeling systems.
When I first got started in the industry decades ago, function and compliance were pretty much the overriding features of many device labels. Much like the story of railroad tracks being almost the exact same width as Roman war chariot wheels, patient label sets are still almost all a half inch tall per unit. Why? Dot matrix printers printed 6 lines of info per inch and patient labels needed three lines. One of the first attempts of making a label for a medical device that actually had some decent graphics on it was the Medtronic Spectrax line of pacemakers circa 1980 or so. It was a stretch for we flexo printers because not only was the harvest / sunset motif printed in fairly complex (for the time) four color process, but it was also perforated and had pinfeed holes for the above mentioned dot matrix printers. Because of issues of that nature, getting input from your label supplier on what exactly can be achieved using the current technology is critical. A confession: At the time I may have not been the best guy to ask about color and marketing issues. In a meeting, a couple of the design / marketing types keep talking about the color teal. I will admit to having had no clue at that time as to what the hell color teal was and asked for help. When one of the incredulous designers said, “You don’t know what teal is?” I thought the question was posed in a bit too condescending of a manner and told him that I had harvested and eaten a number of blue wing and green wing teal ducks over the years and had to guess it was some sort of blue /green blend. This provoked a fairly even split of hilarity and incredulity among the meeting attendees, but it was actually kind of fun. I am still not the go-to guy by any means on that kind of thing, but we have the people on the aforementioned label team who are.
As brand identity becomes more sophisticated and important, is also has more and more of an impact of labeling, especially with real estate being at a premium. Corporate branding and thick guides that are published on correct and proper usage of logos on printed media are now the norm. ‘Making it pretty’ is not that simple even on food, hard goods, and consumer packaging but on terminally sterilized medical device packages it is significantly more complex. Sometimes I think it is instructive to think of certain processes backwards. When I teach rolling as a sea kayak instructor, I always begin with the position a person is in when they are coming out of the water and back to upright. It just seems to work better because if people know what it feels like to successfully complete the roll at the end, it becomes easier to visualize when going over into the water on the front end. With a device package, the “finish” is usually when the shelf carton hits the garbage in pre-op and the device gets dumped from the tray or pouch into the sterile field. A number of nurses panels have proven that the only thing the OR nurses really look at is whether it is indeed the correct device and that package integrity is maintained. Going back a step from that is the warehouse in the hospital that needs everything clearly marked and legible for storage. One more step back to hospital sourcing and we begin to find brand identity to differentiate between competing devices and put the device manufacturers expertise and reputation at the forefront. Going further back to stores or finished goods inventory at the med dev manufacturer and legibility and ease of picking product are important.
The other important item is when devices come back from the hospital for restock. A robust and well-designed tamper indicating label on the packages can save serious dollars by preventing unnecessary repackaging and resterlization costs. On the manufacturing floor, ease of adding variable data, be it via thermal transfer or laser printing, is very important for good throughput on the line. Which brings us to the genesis of the whole process, label design.
Design for a new device label should involve all the players from the design engineers, packaging engineers, marketing and branding, regulatory affairs, and (sometimes forgotten) the people who are actually going to have to execute the design, your friendly label printer. If we label printers actually have that 2” thick ‘corporate style guideline’ we can help to incorporate those guidelines into a functional package. If you want a good yet cynical overview of this process, read my Label Haiku blog post from about four years ago. Things have not changed much, but we have all learned how to operate and gain some elbow room in the haiku situation. Gordie Howe of the Detroit Red Wings would tell you he wasn’t mean or vindictive, he was just trying to create some room to operate efficiently. One of our more effective techniques to create room within corporate guidelines (other than elbows and butt ends) is the rapid prototyping process. With a combination of digital printing and magnetic die tooling, we can create samples of the label project on the exact material with the exact diecuts. This is both cost-effective and can compress the timeline of getting the finished product to market. Someone one told me those two things were fairly important, haha. Extended content labels can increase the amount of text and verbiage and create that needed extra space as well. Symbols, both EN 980 and ones created by the device manufacturer, can also be very useful for space conservation.
If the project managers, engineers, and marketing folks at the device manufacturers can put their heads together with the our AWT project managers, engineers, and prepress / press experts, the combination is pretty much as unstoppable as Gordie Howe planted in the crease in his prime. We have a process in place, a successful process over the years, and are ready to help create a cost-effective and timeline-friendly terminally sterilized device package.
At AWT Labels & Packaging, we don’t simply print labels and flexible packaging; we also provide a customized and personalized experience for our customers. We understand that each packaging project is different and because of that, our experienced sales team and project managers work hand-in-hand with our research and development team to ensure that all new label and packaging requirements are executed seamlessly. When it comes to selecting the most effective materials, our sales team and project managers collaborate with AWT’s dedicated sourcing experts for recommendations.
Have new product launches or product line roll outs? We can help organize the timing and delivery to your designated production facility.
Struggling with selecting the right material construction? Are you holding a finished product sample of a label or flexible packaging construction that you need to replicate, but don’t know how it’s composed? We can help! It’s not uncommon for our customers to begin a project in which all they have to go on is a physical sample, without knowing how it came to be in the first place. Fortunately, our sales team, project managers and R&D team collaborate to serve as “detective scientists” who can dissect the structure and crack the code on its composition.
Need prototypes? We have you covered! Once the design and materials are confirmed, we can take your finished graphics and print (or simply print blank) mockups and prototypes to give you a feel for the application before the entire project goes to print.
Need troubleshooting help? If you’re stuck with inventory of previously printed containers with outdated information on them, our team can engineer a shrink sleeve with updated graphics to make the product salable. Also, if your current labels or flexible packaging structures simply aren’t functioning properly, our team will help you identify the problem’s origin and will pose a solution.
Have a specialty label/flex pack request? Our business development team oversees labels and flexible packaging projects for many markets, including medical, household, beauty, food and beverage, OEM/industrial and specialty. Your unique challenge is our exciting opportunity!
Need to hit an exact color or know what the “perfect” color will look like on your material? We’ve got you covered! We will provide ink drawdowns and suggestions on how to achieve your color.
Beginning a new label or flexible packaging project can be overwhelming if you don’t have experienced and dedicated support to help execute the project. At AWT Labels & Packaging, we pride ourselves in our ability to strategize, organize and have fun while helping your team through the label/packaging conversion process. Contact us to get started on your next project.
Sustainability is a real movement for change, both in what we do and how we look at things. The earth has limited resources and as its inhabitants, it’s our responsibility to reduce our negative impact on these resources. AWT is committed to helping create a sustainable world not only by implementing eco-friendly practices within our building, but also in the label/flexible packaging solutions we provide to our customers.
At AWT, it’s not only about maintaining the environment. It’s also about economic, financial and social responsibility. They go hand-in-hand, playing an integral role in how we run our business, make decisions and live our lives. Did you know that reducing energy usage can significantly reduce utility expenses? Plus, the more people get on board with using ecofriendly materials, the more the costs will go down to buy said materials. AWT is focused on sustaining our environment, and we employ several practices that reduce our impact:
As a flexographic printer and converter, AWT is committed to ensuring that operations are environmentally sound and that all relevant regulations are applied. In fact, AWT’s passion for creating an environmentally conscious business has earned us “Great Printer” status by the Printing Industry Midwest, for meeting and exceeding their environmental audit points. Our commitment to reduce our impact on the environment continues to grow daily.
Contact us to see how we can help with your next eco-friendly project!
Many organizations struggle with the best approach to designing complex film structures for flexible packaging. Complex structures are required because there is no single polymer or material that is ideal for all situations; one must combine the best properties of several materials in order to provide an optimized structure for each packaging situation.
Just as there are numerous tools and methods for solving quality issues, there are also many methodologies for the design process. One such method for designing an optimum flexible packaging structure entails four steps: Identify, Design, Optimize, and Verify. Most flexible packaging converting companies will have expert packaging professionals who are skilled in this process and can provide assistance.
The first step is to identify the packaging issues, define the problem and summarize the package objectives. What are the critical characteristics that the flexible packaging film structure must provide? The most common demands are for packaging structures that deliver barrier properties to protect the contents from oxygen, water vapor, light, or aroma transmission. Frequently, there are special requirements for use on high-speed packaging lines where the flexible packaging film must provide sealing properties tailored to a particular packaging line. Is the packaging environment difficult to manage? For example, a plant producing and packaging roofing shingles has severely high temperatures and dust exposures which can make sealing of the package difficult. Does the flexible packaging need to hold aggressive compounds that could degrade the packaging over time? All of these parameters must be documented and the appropriate materials selected to address each.
Once all of these critical factors are identified, the design phase begins with the selection of materials that address each parameter. As substrates with the desired properties are selected, the designer must determine the best method of assembling the various and sometimes incompatible material layers. There are multiple lamination techniques for joining the substrate layers. Also available are combination substrates, which achieve unique properties through the coextrusion of films with multiple, distinct polymer layers.
After the material layers have been defined, the designer must optimize the structure so that it can be produced with the manufacturing equipment available. The converting operation will have specific equipment available within their manufacturing base. If a particular lamination method is not available internally, then the converter may need to outsource that portion of the packaging film assembly to a subcontractor. For example, the best lamination method might be extrusion lamination and the converter only has adhesive based lamination available.
This is also the stage where the costs of materials and converting are evaluated and alternatives are identified. The proposed packaging film structure must be within the original parameters established with regards to price, availability, and any other constraints as defined by the customer. If the customer requirements are satisfied, the process is ready to move into the trial and testing phase.
In the last phase, the converter needs to verify the design by actually producing some trial materials. These will become the flexible packaging samples used to determine if the design criteria established in the first steps are satisfied. The converter and the customer will perform qualification testing (shelf life, barrier, sealing, etc.) as well as accelerated aging and any other fitness for use tests as defined by the customer. It is also time to test the film structure on the customers packaging lines. Again, a set of acceptance parameters are defined to provide evidence that the packaging film functions within the established packaging equipment performance criteria. Once these steps are complete, it will be time to move into larger size trials followed by the scale-up and commercialization mode.
The development process outlined above may seem simple, but there are many potential pitfalls and areas where adverse situations could occur. This is the primary reason that AWT provides access to seasoned flexible packaging experts who can guide customers through the development process to yield optimum results in the shortest possible time frame. Contact Us to get started.
I’ve heard and witnessed this happening countless times: the instruction or direction for use booklet (IFU/DFU) moving freely around inside of the medical device package during transport and consequently, punctured the sterile barrier of the medical device. Now, not only is the device potentially no longer usable and expensive to replace, but worst of all, your customer needed to use that device today! Ugh.
The good news is you can avoid such a travesty moving forward … by simply converting IFU/DFU’s to onserts. Yes, it’s that easy!
But wait, what’s an onsert?
An onsert, also known as an Extended Content Label (ECL), is a booklet that is affixed to a pressure sensitive label on a package. These booklets provide extra space for additional information that is needed, and avoids having to make several separate labels.
Other benefits of using Onserts:
How to get started:
Contact the experts at AWT! We’ll discuss your needs and work together to develop a game plan that’ll get your project to market on time and on budget. AWT specializes in unique, innovative and demanding label and packaging solutions for medical, industrial/OEM, food and beverage, personal care/health & beauty, household and specialty markets.
More than 35 years of experience has taught us a few things – and helped us to become the most advanced provider of custom packaging, labeling and converting solutions in the country. From eye-catching consumer labels to medical device applications that can stand up to sterilization, we have a unique blend of precision processes, quality systems and research-based ideas that will meet your needs – no matter what challenges you bring to the table.
Labels on beauty or personal care products have a unique opportunity to draw more visual interest on the store shelf than other products in, say, the insect repellent spray section of the store (no offense to bug sprays). If a beauty or personal product label has a dynamic and visually engaging design, not only will shoppers grab it off the shelves and buy it, but once they’re home, let’s be real – they’re probably going to use it as a featured prop in decorating their vanity/bathroom and then, maybe even take a picture of their perfect arrangement and post on social media.There is no question graphic design is imperative to entice the consumer to pick it up in the store. Here are 3 design trends to consider when designing your beauty product label.
Gone are the days of minimalist, borderline-boring designs. Thanks to clever use of typography and negative space, these clean, modern, versatile designs simply beg to be put out on display. As an added bonus: clear labels, metallic accents, and an opalescent sheen can add delicate dimension and intrigue to the clear messaging.
Designers are having a field day creating beautiful, visually complex and dimensional labels. For intricate 360 degree designs, consider using a shrink sleeve or pressure sensitive label wrap instead of a printed silkscreen container. These print methods tend to be less expensive to produce than silk screen and you can achieve tighter registration for graphics and text while using a broader range of colors to capture the details.
Single use and travel size packages come in many forms, including flexible pouch with resealable labels and flexible pouch with EZ pour spouts to make it easy for your customers to maintain their self-care routine while on the go. No more sacrificing their favorite cleanser at the airport TSA because it’s over 3 oz.! Plus, aging populations also benefit from the smaller sizes, as they can be a more convenient and affordable single use price point and easier to use than larger, heavier sizes.. Beyond meeting the needs of your customers, one more benefit for the brand owner with travel or single-use products is expanding the price point/quantity selection consumers can choose from.
I recommend whenever possible to explore options for flexible packaging because you can save money in product shipping and storage. You can learn more about the economic and sustainability benefits of flexible packaging by visiting one of our previous blogs.
It’s easy to make a lasting impression with the right label and package solution. Contact AWT to see how we can help you get there.
H/T: www.sephora.com, www.ulta.com, www.randco.com, & www.thezoereport.com/living/home/vanity-organization-ideas-2016/?sr_share=pinterest#slide-1
It’s frustrating when Brand Owners have to throw away labels because the brand copy, ingredients or nutritional facts change! Consequently, the obsolete labels are “trashed” and a brand new batch is produced with the updated information. The top two causes of obsolescence are commodity market fluctuation and updates to FDA requirements. Okay great, but what the heck does that mean?
Commodity Market Fluctuation
Corn, Chicken and Turkeys, oh my! Many of the components that go into packaged or canned foods are susceptible to demand shortages due to environmental causes, animal illnesses, and a variety of other reasons. When these shortages occur, companies often times have no choice but to swap out one ingredient for another. If that wasn’t stressful enough, every time an ingredient is changed, new labels need to be created. Take the avian bird flu epidemic of 2016 as an example: Over 45 million birds were stricken with the flu, creating major hen and egg shortages. As a result, many companies started using powered eggs as ingredients, which required them to update their labels to reflect the change(s).
The FDA takes their responsibility to protect the public’s health very seriously and makes improvements to food label requirements on a regular basis. The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 (21 CFR 101) is being adjusted since scientific information now links chronic diseases such as chronic obesity and heart disease to diet.
Here’s a list of nutritional label items that were adjusted:
For visual folks such as myself, here’s what the Nutrition and Supplement changes look like:
These Nutrition and Supplement Fact updates require a speedy implementation. Manufacturers have until July 26, 2018, to comply with the changes and manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales have until July 26, 2019, for compliance. However, with the Trump administration, there is some thought that the regulation changes may be pushed back. In anticipation, some companies are holding off on making changes until they know more. This approach will likely get riskier as the deadline looms closer.
As the “face” of your product, front labels require eye-catching graphics that command attention from shoppers. It’s important that the consumer immediately recognizes the product name and brand before taking that next step towards the next option. In fact, these statement-making graphics play a big role in differentiating how to manage front label obsolescence versus back label. There are a couple different strategies when building the design: It’s trendy for labels to feature call-outs of nutritional highlights on the front of a package. If this is your angle, it might be best to print digitally so that the content can be refreshed quickly and inexpensively.
Other companies stick to a more “traditional” look for their front labels, which can create a great opportunity for flexographic printing to be utilized. In fact, for longer runs (10,000 linear feet and higher) it can be more cost-effective to run flexographically than digitally. Plus, assuming the product to which the labels are adhered is in a consistent rotation at the store, you won’t have to worry as much about label storage costs. It’s okay to stock up!
When approaching a nutrition facts update, consider printing back labels in shorter runs on a digital press. You’ll have the opportunity to save money in a few different ways:
With all the different factors to consider, sometimes managing food labels can feel more like juggling eggs. Before any eggs get dropped, it’s important to partner with a printer that truly understands food labels, managing obsolescence, and can navigate you through the myriad of complexities without negatively impacting your customers. At AWT Labels & Packaging, this is our wheelhouse. We are committed to finding the most cost-effective solution for your project and even offer Supplier Managed Inventory (SMI) programs to help further manage inventory. Contact Us to discuss how we can help you out.
Flexible packaging is taking over the shelves both in stores and at home and it’s pretty easy to see why. It’s quite economical to produce, easy to transport, and takes up less storage (as well as landfill) space when compared to many of the rigid packaging options out there. With consumers and brand owners alike jumping on-board the Flexible Packaging Train, it’s safe to say that the uptick of flexible package use isn’t stopping any time soon. In fact, the Future of Global Flexible Packaging to 2020 report by Smithers Pira says that the global market for flexible packaging is projected to grow 18% by 2020.
Here are some highlights from the 2016 Flexible Packaging Transition Advantages Study that break down what consumers and brands think of flexible packaging:
|When consumers were asked to choose between flexible and non-flexible packaging for a product they were considering purchasing (assuming the product was exactly the same and only the packaging differed), 71% of Americans said they would prefer flexible packaging over non-flexible packaging.||Among those who increased use of flexible packaging in some way, 57% were able to lower costs of production.|
|79% of Americans believe there are benefits to having food products stored in flexible packaging versus non-flexible packaging.||55% of those who increased their use of flexible packaging reported a sales improvement.|
|46% of Americans are willing to pay more for food products stored in flexible packaging than they would for food products stored in non-flexible packaging.||58% of respondents who have already transitioned to a higher mix of flexible packaging intend to use more in the future.|
Although its popularity is growing at lightning speed, flexible packaging can be a double-edged sword when it comes to environmental responsibility. According to Lightweight Advances in Flexible Packaging: FPA Member Case Stories by the Flexible Packaging Association: Flexible pouches not only contain less packaging material by weight, but when empty, they require fewer pallets and trucks for distribution and storage. This saves energy and cost associated with the transportation and warehousing of packaging materials. Plus, did you know:
The flip side of the environmentally-responsible sword is that technology just hasn’t caught up with where it needs to be in order to effectively recycle flexible packaging. Flexible packages (especially those intended for food) are composed by fusing together multiple layers of varying materials and agents. Unfortunately, current recycling systems aren’t technologically equipped to separate, distribute, or reuse the various layers. To get into the nitty gritty details, check out this post from Packaging Digest.
That being said, there’s a lot of great work being done to increase recyclability. Organizations like the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA), the Flexible Film Recycling Group (FFRG) and the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APPR), just to name a few, are making significant strides in developing new processes and technologies to effectively sync flexible packaging, recycling and sustainability.
At AWT Labels and Packaging, we’re dedicated to providing the most cost-effective, environmentally-friendly option for your flexible packaging (and label) printing needs. Contact the Experts at AWT to get started on your next project.
What’s trending in label and packaging designs in 2017? Modern Nature.
The fast-paced world we live in has created a need for us to relax, refocus and reset. Sounds like a good idea, right? But how does one actually accomplish this? Many psychologists say that time spent in nature should do the trick, but since that’s not always an option for city dwellers, packaging design intends to bring nature to you in 2017. Prepare to feel reinvigorated by seeing earthy, mineral and jewel-toned colors incorporated into clean, modern label designs. The eco-friendly trend continues as there will be a growth in recyclable/recycled packaging, clear packaging and pouches.
Did you know that the average adult spends over nine hours each day looking at a smartphone, tablet or computer screen? Granted, this interconnectedness can help get a lot of tasks accomplished, but it doesn’t leave much time for us to stop and smell the roses. This juxtaposition inspired the 2017 PANTONE color of the year choice, Greenery (15-0343). According to PANTONE Color Institute, The more submerged people are in modern life, the greater their innate craving to immerse themselves in the physical beauty and inherent unity of the natural world. https://www.pantone.com/color-of-the-year-2017. Metallic face sheets, embossing and natural-looking, unbleached paper are great options to use on consumer goods labels because they are great at catching eye appeal and increasing the product’s perceived value. A variety of visual nature references will greet you on labels and packaging at the store, giving you reprieve from the seemingly endless beeping of email message alerts and to-dos.
Trying to make a quick decision of what to buy at the store? Don’t worry, designers have you covered. In 2017, you’ll see a variety of bright colors and fonts used on labels. Each typeface enthusiastically calls attention to an important aspect of the product, making it easy to quickly process information. Every year, more and more information seems to be added to labels, directing the typographic design to be not only visually appealing, but also quite functional.
As technology in flexo plates and press equipment continues to evolve, so does the aesthetic quality and complexity of the product graphics. Sharper graphic images are used to call the shopper’s attention from a distance. Designs feature intricate patterns that add deeper dimension to the visual. Not only will the packaging look impressive at the store, but it will also jazz up your pantry!
Features like QR codes, augmented reality, and extended content labels bring their own exciting, interactive dimensions to design. Whether you’re whisked away to another dimension of branding bliss via augmented reality, or diving deeper into company messaging with a QR code, or even simply hoping to find additional instructions and languages thanks to an onsert, these powerful enhancements use limited space to express a big message. These creative solutions allow brands to provide their consumers additional, complex messaging without taking up any extra real estate on the store shelves.
Want to learn more about how you can incorporate the latest label and/or packaging trends into your Packaging Brand? Simply contact the experts at AWT. We’re here to help!
Trendy, user-friendly packaging is quickly taking over the pet food market! Increasing consumer demands are motivating the specialty pet food market to expand and diversify its packaging options. As a result, pet food companies are saying “goodbye” to old style, multi-wall paper bags/metal packaging and saying “hello” to flexible plastic packaging solutions such as re-closeable bags and pouches. These stand up pouches help the consumer fill their kitchen pantries with product that can be stacked neatly in a row for easy access and reuse at a moment’s notice.
Thanks to advancements in flexible packaging, many new re-closeable stand-up pouches feature high-end graphics that appeal to the consumer and make purchasing pet foods fun! One of the hottest pet food packaging design trends is the new “matte” look or a combination of matte and glossy finishes. These finishes make the products really stand out on the shelves and attract the attention of pet food buyers across all age groups (including Millennials, who pay close attention to aesthetic appeal)!
In addition to high end graphics jazzing up the packaging, many different styles of pouches are now being used in the pet food markets including: flat-bottom box pouches, bottom gusseted stand-up pouches, pinch-bottom box pouches, quad bags, retort pouches and even liquid filled pouches. Pouches also incorporate many closing styles including: press-to-close zippers, slider zippers, double-track zippers and even hook-to-hook closures. Some pouches may also include fitments, spouts and even micro-perfing.
Common dog food structures are typically a reverse printed 48G PET laminated to a 48G metallized polyester which then gets laminated to a linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE). The LLDPE sealant layer thickness is usually determined by the net weight of the pouch. The heavier the contents of the pouch, the heavier the LLDPE gauge. Typical sealant layer thicknesses can range from 2 mil-5 mil depending on overall net weigh of the pouch or bag.
Pets Are Where the Money’s At
Sales for all pet products & services totaled $103.5 billion globally in 2016. This reflects a 4.7 percent increase over 2015! Dry dog food was the largest market globally, racking up nearly $30 billion in sales and growing 4.6 percent in 2016, accounting for almost 40 percent of the $75.25 billion global pet food market. It doesn’t stop there! Dog food is projected to continue to hold the greatest share of the pet food market through 2017. Locally, the U.S. has the largest pet care market and growth continues about 4 percent per year. Did you know that the average US household spends about $355 annually on pet care? This is a huge amount compared to the global household average which is only a mere $50/year. Yet the U.S. dominance comes with a caveat, especially where pet food is concerned: all the growth is in value sales, not volume sales, which are actually declining.
Through consumer research and market trend analysis plus a desire to stand out among the competition, pet food manufacturers are stepping up their game when it comes to packaging their products. If the current wave of rebranding, re-packaging and specialty formulation is any indication, the industry will be looking at innovation as a significant part of their marketing strategies for some time to come.
To learn more about flexible packaging options, click here to contact the experts at AWT Labels & Packaging.
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