Matt Rompala, Avery Dennison’s product and business development manager, Wine & Spirits, tells this site that the pressure sensitive labeling and packaging materials specialist first launched its wood veneer labels (which use real wood and thus give different effects on each a bottle) as part of its wine portfolio.
The product has now been taken up by Colorado's AC Golden Brewing Company, which worked with converter Smyth Companies to create a wood veneer label for its barrel-aged beer Framboise Noir (pictured), which is aged in oak wine barrels with blackberries.
Wood veneer labels authentically reflect barrel-aged brews
“About a year and a half ago we launched the wood veneer labels as part of our wine portfolio, and then noticed that a lot of breweries were experimenting with barrel-aging beers to offer more depth of flavor, mellow the high alcohol content and improve the flavor for the consumer,” Rompala tells us.
“There’s really no better way to communicate that than with a wood veneer label. Make it compatible with Flex Cell or digital printing technologies,” he says.
“Each label is really unique – the grain patterns are not identical from label to label. Natural blemishes from the wood translate to the material – going from blemish-free identical labels to this. Getting our customers used to this and conveying it as a benefit has been a bit of adjustment,” Rompala adds.
“That’s been one of the challenges for us in terms of commercializing this material and raising awareness. Our customers feel they’re taking a little bit of a step out of the norm by printing on this material," he says.
Rompala agrees that there is an increasing trend towards more individual labeling products being demanded by Avery Dennison’s customers (label converters) and the latter’s customers, the brandowners.
Shorter label runs for efficiency and effect
“The trend has been to getting shorter runs – whether with HP Indigo or other inkjet platforms that are growing at a very fast rate, providing shorter and shorter runs of labelling material,” he says.
“There are efficiency reasons, but there is an interest in more individual one-on-one connections with consumers, and that means there’s a trend towards shorter runs, fusing pressure sensitive with digital direct printing that companies are trying to promote to enable this as well. We’re looking at that too,” Rompala adds.
Asked if Avery Dennison is working with substrates other than wood that could be used to better foreground the production process of beer, Rompala says the firm does get occasional requests to look at new materials.
Substrates other than wood: 'We had a burlap, canvas-type material...'
“For example, we had a burlap, canvas-type material – a couple of requests from companies that wanted to make a label out of that. But it gets challenging when you have to replicate and manufacture that material in a large quantity – both in terms of the value chain and getting it into a pressure sensitive material at a high level of quality."
Rompala believes pressure sensitive labeling has great potential in craft beer, where lots of breweries use cut and stack labels, but increasing competition means shelf standout and the right packaging (as part of which labeling plays a crucial part) is increasingly important.
Pressure sensitive labels allow brands to use more unique shapes and a broader range of materials, and Rompala says the last five years have already seen spirits move in this direction.
“Look at all the new flavors of vodka, rum, even certain new whiskies now infusing flavors – that’s a lot of complexity at the bottling line,” he says.
“With pressure sensitive, you have ease of changeover, different operational benefits that expand beyond just shelf appeal,” Rompala adds.
Consumers expect to see craft premium in packaging too
“We see that in spirits – now in craft beer they’re able to, not only get volume growth but retailers and even consumers are saying ‘Hey, we’re willing to pay a premium for that product!’” he says.
“So there’s certainly a culture of reinvesting in the brand and improve the shelf appeal and get a return on investment from operational savings and some ease of complexity on the bottling line.”
Avery Dennison launched the second iteration of its craft portfolio earlier this year – papers, films and now wood veneer substrates targeted at converters and ultimately brand owners.
Rompala says that craft brewers are trying to differentiate themselves from large breweries such as Budweiser in terms of the image and positioning they want their brands to uphold, and are taking cues from the wine sector. The use of ‘more authentic’, textured materials just one example.