drinktec 2013: Labels and packaging ideas for creative applications

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Smoothie manufacturer and drinktec exhibitor “innocent” came up with a witty idea for styling its products: fans knitted little woolly hats to fit on top of its PET bottles. In Germany alone, 200,000 hats were turned out in one year. What a great marketing idea! But of course, one thatґs outside the scope of large-scale industrial production of beverage containers, because the volumes involved here are around one trillion per year. Which amounts to a vast array of different labels and different designs. drinktec 2013, the “World’s Leading Trade Fair for the Beverage and Liquid Food Industry”, will be showcasing innovative solutions and all the top trends in this area.

Packaging is nothing without a label, and of course labels are no good on their own. The art lies in getting the right combination. In September 2013, in the exhibition halls at the Messe Mьnchen exhibition center, drinktec will be presenting the entire spectrum of innovative and sustainable solutions: packaging plus packaging technology, labels and labeling technology.

The consumer expects an ever greater diversity of products to choose from. So flexibility is the watchword for manufacturers, both in terms of the liquid content as well as the packaging it is presented in. For marketing experts and designers, too, the challenge is to keep coming up with an ever more distinctive, high-quality visual image for the product. Nowadays, looks count a lot in the purchasing behavior of end consumers. A tour of drinktec 2013, and a visit to the section called “World of Labels” (Hall A2), will reward creatives from the marketing departments of beverage and liquid food manufacturers with valuable new ideas and input.

Self-adhesive labels – high-value and attractive
According to a market survey by the labeling association Finat, self-adhesive labels are now accounting for a good 55 percent of all labels used. One reason for this is the wide field of applications for them, and it is this, combined with the diversity of finishes they offer (e.g. embossed, varnished or laminated), that makes them an excellent choice for high-quality labels. High-gloss label paper with a lively, metallic surface effect, for example, is sure to get noticed. Then thereґs the “no-label look”, where the content is printed directly onto the pack. Reel products in label supply systems permit continuous automation and, thanks to automated delivery, change-over times on the labeling machines are shorter, because no new handling parts are needed for the different label forms. Furthermore the machines donґt get soiled with adhesive residues. In the premium segment of wine, sparkling wine and beer, the no-label look is always an eye-catcher; in product marketing in particular the transparent labels open up new design possibilities, and the users are happy, too, as the labels are resistant to damp and wear.

Sleeves – perfectly packaged, right on trend
In labeling technology for PET containers, the trend is clearly towards wrap-around plastic foil and sleeve labels. Sleeve labels work on virtually everything. Even container shapes that were previously considered impossible to label are no longer a problem for modern shrink sleeves. Exhibitors at drinktec 2013 will be presenting the latest finishing techniques and improved foils: shrink sleeves, roll-on, shrink-on and stretch sleeves. The foils are ever stretchier, modern stretch sleeves have twice the stretch capacity as before, and less material is needed to manufacture them. So thereґs no longer any need for a shrink tunnel. That saves energy and space. For Markus Mьller, Product Manager Labeling Technology, at Heuft Systemtechnik GmbH, drinktec is a very important event: Traditionally drinktec has been a key platform for us, a place where we present the latest developments and innovations in sustainable inline quality control of beverages and their packaging and for improved efficiency in entire filling lines. And we show this live and in operation! That is also increasingly the case for labeling machines, too.”

Intelligent labels – experts expect more and more applications
Identification systems should be efficient, low on maintenance, cost-effective and yet of the highest technological level. Often laser and thermo-inkjet-based systems are used, and these are improving all the time, for example with the addition of track&trace features for continuous monitoring and documentation of the products. RFID (radio-frequency identification), despite its still high cost, offers great potential in stocktaking, traceability and brand and product protection. At drinktec 2013 visitors will be able to see the latest applications, for example, linking to sensors to monitor the cold chain. RFID tags are now suitable for almost all types of surface.

Adhesives – the secret lies in the combination
When using adhesives, the emphasis is on getting the right concept for each individual application, depending on container type, label material and sector. And the secret of success lies in getting the right combination. In the halls at drinktec 2013 in Munich, exhibitors will be showing ways of coordinating all of these factors to produce the desired result. In the field of synthetic adhesives, in particular, all kinds of new developments are happening.

Modular-design labeling machines – flexibility is the magic word
Batch changes at the press of a button, easy switch-overs for filling different products, bottle formats and materials with few modification parts – in a word, flexibility is whatґs wanted. A modular design enables various labeling units to be run on a single machine – for cold-melt, hot-melt or adhesive labeling. This facilitates the job of switching between different adhesion techniques and it makes it easier to combine different types of label. At drinktec 2009 already visitors were able to take a look at the state of the art in modular-designed machinery. Now, at drinktec 2013 the latest advances in this technology are being presented, it is a chance to see the future of labeling. These modular machines deliver maximum flexibility, are space-saving, can cope with many different requirements, and as such are suitable for multiple applications. In particular when lines are changed often, these machines boost cost-efficiency tremendously, thanks to plug & label units. Markus Mьller, Heuft Systemtechnik, explains: “The ever increasing diversity in beverages packaging and packaging styles is demanding compact, flexible solutions that are highly automated, high-precision solutions for applying different types of label and for rapid change-overs that save on personnel and material costs. There is a trend towards camera-based, servo-controlled processes for millimeter-precise fine alignment of bottles before label application and integrated inspection modules to check quality even while the containers are still in the machine. Visitors to drinktec 2013 can look forward to a chance to review innovative technologies not just in these areas.”

Direct printing – A question of time?
For some time now the sector has been debating whether printing the labels “inline”, i.e. in the labeling machine, is possible and in particular whether it would be economic. Because then all fillers would be able to reduce their stocks and produce their labels themselves, as required. As yet there are no truly economic solutions for large batches. Will this be changing soon? Thatґs one of the exciting questions to which drinktec 2013 will be providing an answer.