1st March 2019
Premium products such as cosmetics, perfume and luxury food rely on beautifully designed packaging to reflect the quality of their product and achieve their shelf appeal. Quality is paramount and the luxury category tend to favour clean, minimalistic packaging over busy designs with cluttered messaging.
The challenge online coding systems often face is having to contend with unusually shaped packaging, novel designs and elaborate embellishments, making it much harder to reliably overprint batch numbers, date codes and barcodes. Offline coding systems and high-precision thermal inkjet printing can provide reliable solutions to meet these quality challenges.
Many premium brands have realised the benefits of coding their products offline. Booja-Booja, a luxury free-from chocolate truffle manufacturer – supplier to Waitrose, Holland & Barratt and Sainsbury's switched from hand labelling to an offline solution when the company were looking to make their production line much more efficient. Coding quality and speed underpinned their decision.
Tim Morgan, production manager at Booja-Booja explains: “For traceability, we need to have the best before dates on our truffles but doing it manually was inefficient from both a time and cost perspective. Also, having an old-fashioned sticker on the pack didn’t really chime with our beautiful packaging. Booja-Booja is growing every year, and we're constantly looking for ways to make improvements to our production line. Bringing in the RF Lite system made our coding operation leaner and there’s was also a welcome cost saving,”
Coding packaging such as cartons, sleeves or pouches offline before they are filled enables them to be brought to the production line ready printed, explains Richard Pether, Director at Rotech. “This presents considerable advantages for code quality, as coding the pack in its flat form results in a consistently clear, perfectly positioned code.”
Short production runs often associated with exclusive or limited edition products are another reason why manufacturers might consider adopting offline coding. Rather than installing a printer on each production line, a single offline system can cater to different packaging types and product ranges.
Practical and cosmetic
Nowadays, thanks to solvent-based technology TIJ printers can also cope with applying code direct onto glossy surfaces prevalent in the luxury brand market, often with greater clarity than continuous inkjet (CIJ).
Because TIJ systems print at a resolution of up to 600dpi the font of any overprinted information can be adapted to match the carefully-designed branding on the package. This can be especially beneficial in the cosmetic market, for example identifying different lipstick shades on a small packaging space without losing brand differentiation. Likewise, if brand owners prefer coded information to be clear but also discreet, TIJ print density can be lightened.
In contrast, CIJ systems typically print characters using a 7x5 matrix, which doesn’t provide great resolution and cannot hope to match specialist fonts. TIJ also offers more general advantages over CIJ in terms of convenience, cleanliness and cost. For instance, the cost per character using TIJ can be four times less expensive than CIJ. And they use a clean, compact, cartridge-based system that’s virtually maintenance-free, with no associated spillage or mess.
London based e-cigarette company Shoreditch decided on a Rotech standalone friction feed overprinting system fitted with iJet TIJ coding system to meet labelling rules without having to make changes to the rest of its production line. It is also allowing Shoreditch to protect its branding and minimise the number of unique carton designs it needs to deploy across its range of vaping products.
Following a 19 May 2017 deadline, all vaping liquids and cartridges for sale in the UK are required to comply with the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations (TRPR) 2016. TRPR requires all nicotine containing e-liquids, and the hardware to hold them, to meet strict labelling standards. This includes displaying a health warning about nicotine over at least 30% of the two largest surfaces of the unit packaging.
“We previously put batch codes directly on the bottle labels but there’s not much room on there. We’re a brand-led business and we didn’t want to use the real estate of the bottle for the health warning since it wouldn’t leave much room for anything else,” explains Andy Kirby, director of Shoreditch. “We therefore decided to insert the bottles into individual unit packs so they can have the warning and all the other information on there.”
Fighting luxury fakes
High-end brands are also targets for counterfeiting, with cosmetics, perfumes and personal care items particularly vulnerable. In June 2017, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) reported that legitimate brands lose around EUR 5 billion annually due to counterfeit products, representing almost 8% of the sector’s sales, with an estimated 80,000 jobs lost as a result.*
€605 million, or 3.3% of the UK pharmaceutical sector’s sales, is now lost annually as a result of counterfeiting, with 2,940 direct jobs lost.And task forces are finding more fake drugs every year.
TIJ can help strengthen anti-counterfeiting measures. While the main coding information can be printed as normal, UV-fluorescent inks can also be used to add security information to the pack that only shows up under UV lights. What’s more, the systems used to feed packs through the printer can also be used to add a security label.
With the luxury packaging predicted to grow twice as fast in Western Europe as packaging overall over the next few years (3% per year versus 1.5%**), more than 5% per annum globally, premium brand owners need to consider how they will continue to catch the eye of luxe-loving consumers, without losing out to fraudsters or damaging brand reputation with poorly placed codes. “Premium packaging is the single touchpoint for consumers and you need to let the quality speak for itself. This applies as much to the packaging container itself as the codes on it. Premium packaging commands a premium price, so even relatively low-frequency errors are likely to be expensive in terms of packaging waste, adds Richard.