November 29, 2016
drinktec 2017 shows trends of labeling and equipment technology
Direct printing on the verge of a breakthrough?
Labeling and equipment technology is a subject area in the field of tension between marketing experts, designers, paper and foil manufacturers as well as technicians in bottling plants. Their not always congruent demands must be brought together if the desired result is to be achieved. Without one of them, the others cannot succeed, and vice versa. The reason is that a label is the “brand ambassador” at the point of sales. Everyone involved in the process of creating a container design, exhibitors as well as visitors, gather at drinktec 2017, the world's leading trade fair for the beverage and liquid food industry, in Munich from September 11 to 15. Trends are made there that affect the market over the next few years.
The beer bottle or the soft drink container is on the shelf and waiting for its buyer. In addition to the price and type of container or the sales package, the label is the only selection criterion. It serves to produce a direct sales approach at the point of sale and creates the recognition effect of a brand. Packaging and labeling technology will occupy considerable space at drinktec. Approx. 50 percent of exhibitors will present packaging solutions, which is unique in this range. In addition, drinktec has created a dedicated area (Hall A2) with the World of Labels specifically for manufacturers of labeling technology and labels.
Stefan Richter, Head of Inspection and Labeling Technology at Krones AG, Neutraubling, considers drinktec to be an “essential trade fair, also thanks to holding it once every four years. It is completely international and attracts a global audience almost magnetically. For Mr. Krones, it is also a platform to capture the mood of the market and to obtain valuable feedback from the customers around the world.”
The supporting program is also addressing this issue. The top issues of the future in the packaging area are dealt with in the Innovation Flow Lounge and in the field of packaging technology at the drinktec forum.
“We see both old friends and new customers from around the world at drinktec as the world's largest industry gathering. This an opportunity that we gladly want to take advantage of!” stated Prof. Matthias Niemeyer, CEO of KHS AG, Dortmund.
Module machines and self-adhesive labels
“The marketing departments in the beverage world want maximum flexibility,” Stefan Richter stated. “Bottle design is advertising, and that is highly individual. Consumers like to rely on the first appearance of a product when they make purchases, and manufacturers can support this with the appropriate design. As a producer of labeling machines, we experience first-hand that the quantity of ordered module equipment is increasing steadily from year to year.” Bottlers have all options open with module machines. Different labeling units of almost any kind can be docked, regardless of whether for cold glue, hot glue or self-adhesive labels. As a result, beverage manufacturers remain flexible in their choice of designs even years after a large investment decision. The trend in labeling plastic containers is toward increasingly thinner foil in the PET segment. Another interesting development is represented by pre-glued sleeve labels. Special self-adhesive labels offer many customization options. They are now no longer limited to nonreturnable packaging, but instead have also become successfully established on returnable bottles in the beer, water and soft drink area as wash-off labels. The self-adhesive label is removed in the bottle washer, and then the container can be refilled and labeled anew. “Higher product diversity, short changeover times and smaller batches,” Mr. Richter explained summarizing trends in bottle design.
Highly individual solutions thanks to direct printing
This trend is also in line with direct printing. Regardless of whether PET, HDPE, metal (can) or glass, round container or shaped bottles, digital printing can be applied almost anywhere and provides highly customized solutions. It is all a matter of chemistry between ink and container material. “The print quality of direct printing is getting better all the time, and the speed is increasingly faster,” according to Mr. Richter.
In addition to the general trend to reduce packaging material and toward increased sustainability, the market is also changing in the area of labeling and design technology. “The trend toward individual bottle design is continuing and will grow even more,” Prof. Niemeyer stated and emphasized direct printing specifically in this context: “The industrial implementation of a digital printing process with low migration and UV-curing inks, which provide a food-safe solution for PET bottles, is very interesting in this area. Bottlers save material with the direct printing method and can flexibly implement a new look for a container at short notice.”
A new trend: serialization
Another trend in the beverage industry supports labeling technology, i.e., serialization. Strictly speaking, this is the transformation of an object into a byte stream. This term from computer science combines two requests from the industry: the customization of products on one hand and the traceability of product paths on the other hand. “For example, labeling technology makes it possible with the application of a QR code on a container to individualize it and trace the product path via use of the code by a consumer,” Mr. Richter explained. The customer in turn has the option of checking the originality and authenticity of the product using a smartphone to scan the QR code. At the same time, his action is forwarded to the manufacturer who can then enter into the desired interaction with the consumer. What Google, Amazon and Co. can do today can become a reality for the beverage industry tomorrow. In other words, the Internet of Things, Industry 4.0, is becoming a topic for beverage manufacturers.
RFID technology, the “identification with the aid of electromagnetic waves”, has already been introduced in the beverage industry. It serves for authenticity protection on one hand and anti-theft protection on the other hand. In a southern European country, for example, a well-known whiskey distiller consistently employs RFID technology in its high-quality products. An RFID transponder is hidden in the back label, which can trigger an alarm at an attempted theft, for example. “Using RFID technology is very easy with modern labeling technology. However, transponder costs remain an issue,” Mr. Richter added.
Despite all the new developments, there is continuity to see at drinktec 2017. The good old paper label definitely still has a future. It can be processed at high speeds, looks good and will remain in the market for the foreseeable future.