Overcoming Challenges with Packaging Materials and Labeling
Why do some packages not survive the trip to your customers? What if your labels fall off? Are you doing enough to reduce your environmental impact and packaging costs? There are a lot of problems that arise when you launch a new packaging solution. Don’t let challenges with packaging materials get you down. Here are some factors you should consider when creating or updating your packaging materials and labels.
Protecting Products and Labeling Across the Product’s Life
The main role of packaging is to protect the product inside. That means it has to keep its contents intact from manufacturing to use of product. Each part of the logistics chain poses new challenges for packaging design. Can the packaging withstand being stacked in a warehouse? Will vibrations during transport lead to damage? Is there a chance the end-user will damage the product inside when they open the container? These are just some of the factors you need to consider for your packaging.
Labels need to work with the packaging and the product’s life cycle. Beverages see several changes in temperature as they move from warehouses to trucks, store coolers, and home refrigerators. Likewise, the labels also experience major changes in humidity, from dry storage to wet, ice-filled coolers. The label needs to contend with these environmental factors directly as well as shrinkage and expansion of the container from temperature changes. Pick the wrong label adhesive, and that movement and moisture will separate the label from the container. Long-term storage adds to these challenges, especially for chemical products. Warning labels must stay intact throughout the product’s life, even if it sits in a storage building for months or years.
Direct sales are changing how products are handled. Instead of being palletized and shipped to stores for display, cases are broken down so individual products ship directly to consumers. This decrease in tertiary packaging and increase in the number of shipping channels a product passes through increases the chance of damage. Again, it’s not just the package you need to worry about. Exterior labels need to survive the trip, which often involves abrasion and temperature shifts as the product moves between warehouses, vehicles, and the customer’s doorstep. Smeared or torn shipping labels can keep products from reaching their destination.
Sustainability: Better for the Planet and Your Bottom Line
Consumers are increasingly looking for ways to cut down on waste. Switching to greener packaging doesn’t just attract customers and reduce your company’s environmental impact. Done right, packaging changes can be better for your bottom line. Lighter packaging costs less to ship, especially when making major changes, like moving from glass bottles to aluminum cans. Multi-material packaging is almost impossible to recycle, and it’s usually more expensive to produce than single material packages.
Choosing recyclable packaging products is good, but it’s even better if you can make it easier for consumers to reduce packaging waste in landfills. According to the EPA, about a third of municipal solid waste was either recycled or composted. Only 8.7% of plastics were recycled, compared to 17.2% of aluminum, 25% of glass, and 68% of paper and cardboard. This is largely down to convenience. Plastics are divided into different categories, with different numbers indicating different polymers, polypropylenes, and resins. Only a few of these categories of plastic waste are recyclable. Worse still, different recycling programs take different plastics, adding to the confusion. However, recycling other materials is straightforward. At most, the end-user just needs to sort glass by color or make sure the lids are left off of bottles.
Label materials have more of an effect on recycling than you may realize. Metal is recycled by melting empty containers and converting them into new products. Anything non-metal is burned or melted in the process, so it’s important that these materials don’t cause issues with equipment. While the current volume of wrapped and labeled cans is still small, plastic-based labels may be refused in the future, because they leave behind a film on recycling equipment. If you need to use label materials that aren’t compatible with recycling, use removable adhesives. This lets the user peel off the label before recycling.
If plastic packaging must be used, then flexible packaging that can be kept for reuse or repurposing is a great eco-friendly solution. Single-use packaging, on the other hand, only contributes to plastic pollution and complicates waste management. Reuse is a part of the value chain of the circular economy.
Choosing sustainable packaging isn’t just about convenience for the end-user. When the packaging industry and packaging companies reduce their carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions, everyone wins because we’re all stakeholders on our planet.
Maintaining and Explaining Freshness
When you’re selling food, you don’t just need to protect your products against physical damage. You also need to protect them from damage due to water loss, flavor changes, and microbial growth, while giving them an appropriate shelf life. Packaging innovations like airtight containers, breathable containers, insulation, Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP), and edible coatings all help combat these problems. While you can do your best to protect your products, your customers may be throwing out perfectly good food due to confusion about expiration dates. The FDA estimates this results in 20% of all home food waste.
Depending on the wording, the consumer may think a product won’t taste as good or is inedible. Likewise, there can be confusion between production dates and freshness. A consumer may not know how long their coffee will last after its roast date or that temperature changes can damage beer long before it becomes stale. Care must be taken to instruct the consumer on how and when to consume a product. To address this problem, the FDA encourages manufacturers to use “Best if Used By” on all freshness dates that are related to quality, not safety. Settings and label formats are easily accessible through the color HMI display on all label applicators, and the printer applicators provide several different communication types to send label formats and variables.
Addressing Sourcing Issues
The pandemic has caused supply chain issues across all industries, but these are nothing new. If you only use one source for any part of your product, any interruption can halt your business. That holds true for your labels and containers. Downtime at your printer, paper shortages, and shipping delays caused by bad weather can leave you without a way to label your products.
If you want to avoid these problems, you need to increase your options. There’s a huge range of adhesives, materials, inks, and coatings available for labeling, which means you can usually find a couple of options that will work with your containers. By planning ahead, you can switch to these alternative designs when there are supply problems for your regular label.
A just-in-time inventory system is great for efficiency, but only if you can keep deliveries consistent. Consider adding a safety stock of material to fill in the gaps. This can be extra labels that you keep in storage on-site or extra paper at your label supplier.
Pressure-sensitive labels have a major advantage over other labeling technologies because one machine can apply a wide range of labels, even if they use different labeling materials. Our label applicators are available in several configurations, letting you choose between merge, blow-on, and tamp-blow applicators. We make models that work with all types of packaging, from bottles to shrink-wrapped fruits and vegetables. Our print and apply applicators work with print engines from top brands like Zebra and Sato. These machines can handle both direct thermal and thermal transfer printing, letting you choose between thermal and standard labels.
Keep Production Running Smoothly with a Flexible Labeling System
CTM Labeling Systems builds labeling equipment to fit a wide range of needs, from multi-purpose devices to container-specific machines. Looking for a way to streamline your product labeling and overcome packaging challenges? Contact us, and we’ll get you in touch with your local distributor to combat your challenges with packaging materials. They’ll work with you to build a solution that fits your packaging and production system.