What Mars did for M&Ms, digital printing is doing for beer and other products in customizing and personalizing products, though US converters are just beginning to tap those capabilities.
Since Hewlett-Packard acquired Israel’s Indigo Digital Press a decade ago, this alternative to offset printing has expanded worldwide to 1,400 presses, according to Christian Menegon, business development manager for labels & packaging in HP’s Maastricht, the Netherlands office. US adoption of the technology has been slow, but package converters that have added digital capabilities are finding a ready-made audience among newer food and beverage firms.
Olde Mecklenburg Brewery in Charlotte, NC typifies this group. The four-year-old microbrewery introduces a different beer style every month. Two years ago, it introduced a Christmas variety pack with three different styles, including Yule Bock. Printing a folding carton and special labels for a limited run would have been prohibitively expensive and time consuming with conventional technology, but Copac Global Packaging Inc. in nearby Spartanburg, SC was able to fill the order “within a few days” with its digital press and inline priming unit, according to Vice President Tom McRae.
“One-to-one packaging is what brand owners want,” observes HP’s Menegon. Israel’s Bears Brewery lets customers personalize labels with photos and personal messages. In Europe, Heineken picked up on the idea in 2010 with 42 label designs and personalized text and images. Mail order six-packs sell for about $38. Closer to home, Kimberly-Clark offers personalized boxes of Kleenex.
Short press runs and just-in-time printing, not novelty offerings, will elevate digital’s place in food packaging, Menegon predicts. Manufacturers are moving away from long press runs that require large inventories that lock them into ingredient declarations and package call-outs. They are shortening their orders to print jobs that are loss leaders for converters.
For more information:
Tom McRae, Copac Global Packaging Inc., 864-579-2554
Christian Menegon, Hewlett-Packard Nederland BV, 32 477 592 961, christian.menegon@hp.com