Megatrends in Packaging Redesign

How – and Why – Megatrends in Packaging Redesign Will Impact Your Business in 2022

Did you know that 73% of consumers are willing to pay more for eco-friendly packaging? Consumers’ desire to engage in sustainable practices is nothing new; however, the movement is reaching new heights thanks to the pandemic’s effects on consumer shopping behaviors.

Over the past couple of years, while consumers have been home-bound and taking great lengths to avoid large crowds, visits to traditional retail stores came to a screeching halt. Even consumers who had never made purchases online adopted e-commerce to fulfill all their shopping needs and utilized delivery services like DoorDash, GrubHub, Shipt, Drizly, and more. Accelerated social and online shopping trends have been on the rise. Still, recent surveys indicate that 67% of consumers say that their online purchasing increased since the pandemic, while 27% said it increased a lot.

Influential Megatrends

As a consumer yourself, you likely picked up a few new shopping habits since early 2020. But have you noticed anything about the packaging your deliveries arrive in? You may not have realized that this increase in online shopping has created a new demand for packaging materials and shipping logistics that have become a challenge to fulfill. More shipments to consumers are being made now than ever, and products that traditionally require only primary packaging now require secondary packaging as well. Packaging designers are working double-time to create new ship-ready packaging options that meet demand and logistical necessities. While demand is up, unfortunately, supplies are low.

Aside from basic economics’ supply and demand principles, three megatrends also influence packaging redesign. Megatrends are transformative forces that can have the power to change the trajectory of an industry by shifting priorities, driving innovation, and redefining business models.

Sustainability, Brand Experience, and Supply Chain Agility
Megatrend #1: Sustainability

Sustainability and environmental consciousness have been trending pre-pandemic, but there’s more emphasis on these than ever before. Considering recent research has shown consumers crave sustainability, in fact, 73% of consumers have stated they’re willing to shell out more for eco-friendly packaging, opting for reusable, environmentally friendly methods are increasingly becoming a high priority. Research has also indicated that consumers make purchasing decisions based on brand alignment with their values, and environmental responsibility proves to be a core value for many consumers. Knowing consumers are increasingly conscious of a brand’s values, and priorities, solutions for reusability and recyclability are now essential for brand image.

Megatrend #2: Brand Experience

Sustainability is arguably one of the most significant megatrends. Increasingly, consumers state and prove that packaging impacts their satisfaction with purchased goods with their purchasing decisions. Poll results show these are the most important factors when considering a purchase: Easily reused materials (65%); Environmentally friendly design (68%); Easily recycled (68%). Therefore, opting for reusable or environmentally friendly materials and avoiding the appearance of wastefulness or carelessness is essential to brand image.

Megatrend #3: Supply Chain Agility

Thanks to the pandemic, we’ve all felt the effects of the several disruptions plaguing the supply chain. The ability to be flexible and promptly respond to consumer requests and market trends has become a coveted core competency. Because of this, many businesses have made significant investments in solutions that’ll help aid them in meeting demands. While it may sometimes seem like a high upfront cost, investing in a solution that’ll allow for logistical agility is a sound investment and pays off long-term. Research indicates the microtrends involved in supply chain agility are:

  • Ecommerce friendly
  • Cost-Effective
  • Rapidly Adaptable
  • Digitalization Ready
What’s the Solution?

Being aware of these influential megatrends is excellent, but you may be wondering, “what do I do now”? or “what’s the solution?” You now know you want a solution that provides sustainable packaging creates a positive brand experience for consumers and allows you to control production, and offers quick order fulfillment. First, look for a print technology that allows for rapid fulfillment and allows you to print short or large-run quantities; this allows the flexibility to print precisely what you need and eliminates waste or obsolete inventory. Ideally, this print solution would also eliminate the need for plates, dies, set-up charges, and more pesky limitations and expenses placed by outsourcing or outdated technology. And lastly, this solution would provide the ability to print on various sustainable packaging options, keeping with consumer purchasing trends. Ultimately, your solution will simplify and enhance your printing process while effectively increasing fulfillment, efficiencies, and profits.

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Why Short-Run Package Printing?

Why Short-Run Package Printing is the Secret to Growing Your Business in 2022

Early adopters of short-run package printing practices have one thing in common: they are all experiencing an increase in post-printing, overprinting, and short-run capabilities, and ultimately, a greater bottom line. In this article, we will explore the current state of the packaging market and how the implementation of short-run package printing solutions is guaranteed to grow your business in 2022 and beyond.

  • Direct-to-Package Printing and Short-Runs
  • State of the Packaging Market
  • Demand Driver
  • Megatrends Influencing Package Design
  • Opportunities in Commercial Printing
  • Power of the T3-OPX
Direct-to-Package Printing and Short-Runs

Whether you’re looking to print directly onto cartons, products, gift bags, paper bags, shopping bags, or others, chances are good that you do not require thousands of each at a time. And if you’re like most businesses, you likely do not have the storage space to accommodate thousands of units of each.

Traditionally, many key business decisions were influenced by the required print run sizes of third-party printers and the lack of storage available for overruns. Allowing decisions such as which products and services to offer, when and how brand messaging is displayed and updated, product size offerings, and more to be dictated by something as avoidable as a required print run size is simply not good business practice.

Customers often approach us saying if only they had the flexibility to customize and print directly onto a variety of materials, or product sizes, or run sizes, then they could expand their product and service offerings to grow their company exponentially. The thing is, direct-to-package printing and short-runs are no longer mutually exclusive items. It’s no longer a one or the other decision. Today’s technologies empower businesses and commercial printers alike to print the quantity of their choosing, directly onto a variety of packaging materials – cardboard, paperboard, boxes, paper bags, wood, envelopes, gift bags, and more. If you dream it, you can likely print on it these days – in as few as one unit at a time.

The State of the Packaging Market

To understand why package printing decisions are having such an impact on the business overall, we need to take a closer at the current state of the packaging market and the trends that are driving it.

Currently, there is a record surge in demand for packaging, especially paper-based packaging. Basic economics tells us that price is a function of supply and demand. So what happens when there is a record surge in demand for packaging, but not enough supply in the market? The result is a steep rise in price, of course. In fact, the price index has increased by 3.5 times from two years ago. According to the US Producer’s Price Index for Pulp, Paper, and Allied Products, an upsurge in demand began at the beginning of 2020, at about the same time the Coronavirus pandemic began causing dramatic changes to our lives and economy.

You might be wondering, why would a pandemic cause a rise in packaging demand? It was not the pandemic itself, it was the effect it had on all us consumers. With mandated lockdowns keeping us homebound, we began relying on e-commerce and delivery services to fulfill most of our needs. The eCommerce landscape itself adapted as well, creating a fusion of online and offline experiences such as BOPIS (Buy Online Pick-up In-Store), and curbside pick-up, and same-day delivery options. Suddenly, items that never required secondary packaging with additional transport protection now relied on these materials.

The exponential growth of eCommerce spurred by the pandemic had led to a sharp increase in demand as well as for packaging materials. With no end to the pandemic in sight, the future of retail remains murky, and eCommerce continues to rule the landscape. This has forced manufacturers and shippers to rethink packaging design in order to overcome supply-demand challenges and has also provided an opportunity to consider the top megatrends in the packaging industry and respond to them.

Top Megatrends are Influencing Packaging Redesigns

As we discussed in the previous section, demand for secondary packaging materials has driven many companies and shippers to rethink packaging designs over the past year or so. At the same time, the packaging industry has an eye on the major megatrends shaping the industry and finding solutions to respond accordingly.

Megatrends are transformative forces that can have the power to change the trajectory of an industry by shifting the priorities of societies, driving innovation, and redefining business models. The top three megatrends may not come as a surprise to you if you are an informed consumer, but the challenges they pose can cause pretty serious headaches among those responsible for finding solutions. Let’s dive in to each megatrend.

Megatrend #1: Sustainability

Sustainability and concern for the environment have been trending since before the pandemic, but seem to be influencing consumer behavior now even more than ever. Consider this stat from Trivium Packaging’s 2021 Buying Green Report: 73% of consumers are willing to pay more for eco-friendly packaging. Solutions for key sustainability features like reusability, environmental-friendly design, and recyclability are more important than ever. Consumers are making purchasing decisions based on brand alignment with their own values, and for many consumers, environmental responsibility is a core value. Brands are tasked with aligning themselves on every level, down to their packaging, with this value.

Megatrend #2: Brand Experience

The percentage of consumers that say packaging impacts their satisfaction with a purchased product increased by 9 points from 2019 to 2020, according to Westrock’s annual Pulse Packaging Survey. It is, therefore, no wonder that sustainability is a megatrend. In fact, according to the survey’s 2020 results, consumers said the following key sustainability features impact their trust and satisfaction with a brand: Easily reused materials (65%); Environmentally friendly design (68%); Easily recycled (68%).

Megatrend #3: Supply Chain Agility

The pandemic can be credited with many disruptions, including the unveiling of an inflexible supply chain. An agile, responsive supply chain is a coveted core competency, and we are going to see companies making significant investments in these solutions. The microtrends involved in supply chain agility include:

  • Ecommerce friendly
  • Cost-Effective
  • Rapidly Adaptable
  • Digitalization Ready
Evolving Ship-Ready Package Concepts for Today’s Landscape

In review, the top three megatrends currently influencing packaging redesign are 1. Sustainability; 2. Brand Experience; 3. Supply Chain Agility. As manufacturers and shippers adapt their strategies and rethink their approach to packaging, package designers have the challenging task of assimilating these megatrends to produce optimized designs to satisfy today’s landscape with ship-ready concepts.

Ship-ready packaging is packaging developed for efficient distribution from point A to point B. While traditionally the typical retail journey was from crate to shelf, in today’s eCommerce landscape the journey is more often from manufacturer to consumer, mandating a much different set of logistics and packaging requirements, including both primary and secondary packaging.

In a report titled, “Beyond COVID-19: The Next Normal for Packaging Design”, McKinsey explored some different types of boxes, cartons, cases, and envelopes that could be “ship-ready with minimal added transport and protective packaging”:

  • Protection
  • Tamper-proof
  • Rapid fill
  • Return
  • Optimized for eCommerce
  • Ship-ready
  • Unboxing
  • Track and trace

Ship-ready bags, boxes, cartons, and mailers tend to have a great deal of variability (ie type, shape, size, thickness, weight, quantity, etc.) but what they typically have in common is their composition from natural wood fibers, ensuring recyclability.

Opportunities in Commercial Printing

Now that we have reviewed the current climate of the packaging industry, and the emerging trends and their influencers, let’s take a look at what it means for printers and how you can grow your business with the right capabilities.

We know at this point that small and medium brands have more specific needs than has traditionally been the case. We know now what packaging decisions they are making and why, so the question becomes, how can you fulfill these needs and turn them around in short-run quantities? Every company will be different, but this is a list of the requirements we most often hear that small and medium brands and eCommerce retailers are looking for in a commercial printer:

  • Must be able to post-print on a wide variety of package types
  • Printing should not be preceded by any coatings or pre-treatments of any kind, as this increases cost and complexity
  • Full-color printing capabilities
  • Low or no minimum order quantities
  • Short turnaround times

This is a pivotal moment in time where print service providers have an opportunity to be truly competitive, with the right approach. Consumers know what they want, and brands are ready to adapt and deliver. But businesses need to partner with print service providers that can support these needs. What it boils down to is businesses are using various package types and substrates, printed with varying messaging and in sporadic quantities, and they are needed on-demand. We’re constantly told that companies are looking for print partners can deliver the following:

  • One direct-to-package solution for a wide variety of paper-based package types
  • Digital inkjet (CMYK) that supports full-color short runs without plates
  • Industrial grade build and reliability
  • Economical and affordable for smaller print shops

To meet these demands, printers must invest in one single solution to print directly on a wide variety of paper-based package types, while also fulfilling the requirement for short runs in full color. Printers who can deliver on only one of these characteristics alone are being left in the dust while innovative printers are quickly adopting technologies that allow for specialized requests to be fulfilled, changing the expectations of their customers for the long term.

The Power of the TrojanLabel T3-OPX

AstroNova has a long-standing record as an innovator in the print technology space and quickly sought to find a solution to meet the needs of today’s unprecedented times. We knew whatever shape the solution took, it must be built with industrial-grade quality for longevity and reliability, and it must be affordable for smaller print shops to acquire and operate with excellent print economics. We collaborated with HP Specialty Printing & Technology Solutions (SPTS) to bring the TrojanLabel T3-OPX to the market.

The TrojanLabel T3-OPX is a direct-to-package printing solution that was launched back in September 2019, prior to the changes brought about by the pandemic, with commercial shipments beginning in January 2020. Since then, the product has been installed across 5 continents and has proven instrumental in answering the demands we began to see in early January 2020.

Outstanding capabilities of the T3-OPX include:
  • Flexibility to customize and print directly onto a variety of materials like postcards, boxes, paper bags, wooden planks, or thicker objects like blister envelopes, folded ship-ready boxes, and more
  • Late-stage customization and package and design versatility
  • High-quality, full-color printing directly onto materials with ink-receptive surfaces
  • Automated product handling and printing process for greater efficiency and profitability
  • Pigmented inks provide superior durability, optimized water resistance, lightfastness, and scratch resistance
  • Unique, self-calibrating, adjustable product height to ensure optimal print quality while providing fast product changeovers
Technical features of the T3-OPX include:
  • User-friendly, intuitive interface and built-in job library allow for easy operation and recall of product configuration parametersTrojanControl Software provides full local control plus a built-in cost calculator for easy job pricing and analysis
  • Built-in remote diagnostics capability allows for remote status and diagnostics, minimizing production downtime
  • Product grade designed for the rigors of 24/7 production
  • Automatic heigh calibration for rapid changeovers and accurate print height for substrate thicknesses ranging from 0-4” (0-100mm)
  • Economical CMYK ink cartridges provide outstanding print quality and vibrant, durable direct-to-package printing
  • High-speed printing and product transport – variable up to 19 ips, delivers the optimal balance of print quality and productivity
  • Feeder table and adjustable media guides enable easy integration with a variety of automatic feeder options with conveyor table
Conclusion

In conclusion, let’s do a quick review of five key takeaways:

  1. We’re experiencing exponential growth in packaging demand due to significant changes in the retail landscape, most notably due to an increase in the adoption of eCommerce by everyday consumers. While demand is up, supply is low.
  2. This demand has triggered a redesign of consumer packaging that must conform to the key megatrends of sustainability, brand experience, and supply chain agility.
  3. This packaging redesign is resulting in an opportunity for commercial printers and print service providers to expand their print offering by adding short-run printing capabilities on sustainable substrates like bags, boxes, cartons, and wood panels.
  4. Digital printing solutions like the TrojanLabel T3-OPX offer a valuable opportunity for printers to expand capabilities in this growing market in an affordable manner.

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Is In-House Label Printing Right for Your Business?

The very fact that you are reading this article is a pretty good sign that you would benefit from in-house labeling. There are many reasons to bring label printing and production in-house.

Consider these 5 questions to determine if in-house labeling is the right solution for your business:

1. Does your workplace house unused labels?

Look around your office or storage closets. Are you holding onto excess, obsolete pre-printed labels? Many businesses find their workplaces stuffed to the brim with labels they were forced to order because of the mandatory run sizes required of their commercial printers, when only a small amount was needed, or they became irrelevant soon after their arrival.

How does in-house printing help?

With in-house printing, businesses reclaim their storage spaces and budgets, printing only the labels they need when they need them. Printing a single label at a time is no longer just a pipe dream. Bring your label production and printing in-house, and you’ll never have to print one label more than is needed – ever. Run sizes are entirely customizable, and being in-house, you control how and when you print.

2. Have you ever been frustrated by your creative limitations?

Too often, we hear about companies who send their creative assets off to a commercial printer, only to learn an edit is desired, variable data is needed, or a small custom batch is required. It is a tale as old as time (or as old as digital printing). The amount of time, money and effort wasted due to relinquishing control of one’s creativity could make us weep.

How does in-house printing help?

When label production and printing are in-house, creative control is yours and yours alone. Update your label with a new announcement, customize labels for limited runs, or transform your designs for the holidays. If you dream it, you can now print it – any amount of it.

3. Is adherence to regulatory compliance vital to you?

Depending on your industry, compliance and regulatory details may change overnight. How are you ensuring your labels reflect up-to-the-minute information? If you are currently unable to, you may be missing out on valuable revenue opportunities. It is better to implement changes late than never. Still, we hear from many companies who say they wish they had integrated a flexible solution earlier once they realize the business impact it has.

How does in-house printing help?

In-house printing provides the freedom and flexibility to print what you want when you need it – an especially valuable feature when compliance requires frequent label design changes. Our customers know that edits need not equate to wasted pre-printed labels and money or extensive production time. New labels are printed immediately when a compliance issue arises, with no downtime or additional costs required.

4. Have delayed labels due to production or shipping cost your business?

Shipping delays and materials shortages are a reality most businesses are forced to live with right now, unfortunately. But outsourcing your label printing invites delays and logistical issues – not to mention lost revenue – that are simply unnecessary and avoidable. What if instead of waiting four weeks to receive an order of labels, you could now print and have them at your fingertips in a matter of minutes? When so much is outside of our control, label printing control is within reach.

How does in-house labeling help?

With in-house printing, you’ll never suffer from lost revenue potential due to shipping or delays ever again. While implementing an in-house solution requires an upfront investment, the long-term return is undeniable. Faster, more accurate printing capabilities means more product and shipments out your door and more money on your bottom line.

5. Does product demand forecasting or SKU proliferation give you a headache?

We all know that proper demand forecasting leads to more accurate budgeting, pricing strategy development, inventory management, and more. Often, just one issue can cause even the best plans to go awry. We’ve seen this most recently with the effects of the global pandemic, the reverberations of which will be felt for quite some time.

How does in-house labeling help?

When the need for new or unexpected SKUs and projects arises, companies with in-house label printing capabilities are more often able to meet and fulfill demands and, ultimately, pivot their plans with more agility. Today, companies are printing labels in-house, giving them the flexibility needed to shift with unexpected demands and to reduce their initial bulk buys, ultimately lowering costs all around.

If you answered yes to at least one of the questions above, your company would likely benefit from an in-house label printing solution. A variety of solutions are available today, ranging in price and capabilities, designed to fit the needs of any industry or application.

Speak with an expert today to learn how in-house labeling could benefit your business
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Harness the Power of Traditional Large Production Printing

Harness the Power of the Traditional Large Production Printing Press In-House with the TrojanLabel T2

If you think a reliable solution with flexible run sizes, zero downtime, and the highest print quality on the market sounds too good to be true, then it’s time to think again.

What impact could the power of a traditional large production press in-house have on your product offering and bottom line? What was once a rhetorical question is now a very real one. Today, many label converters, brand owners and manufacturers, and professional printing houses are not only considering this question, but they are also finding answers. They are doing so with the adoption of AstroNova’s TrojanLabel® T2.

The T2 is the first-ever high-volume tabletop label press capable of precise, consistent 24/7 production. It encompasses sizeable economic ink tanks and label roll capacities of traditional large production presses into a small footprint to fit into any size print workspace. Its modular design allows for print volume and speeds of printers many times its size. With the T2, businesses print vivid imagery on continuous or die-cut label materials and flexible packaging materials with various barrier options.

A Professional and Reliable Solution

Superior technology brings excellent ideas to life, as the innovative packaging company V-Shapes® discovered. V-Shapes strives to make life easier for consumers and improve their experience with products through packaging innovations. The company invented and patented a single-portion packaging solution that is opened with just one hand, making the packaging more user-friendly, hygienic, and efficient than the traditional single-portion packets on the market. The compact shape of the packets makes storage more efficient, cutting logistics costs and reducing bulk significantly, and packets make it easy to disperse 100% of the contained product, reducing waste.

The rapid response to the product validated V-Shapes’ understanding of the market’s need for such a packaging solution. It required V-Shapes to seek a printing solution to fulfill the volume of orders with the superior print and packaging quality customers expected. V-Shapes also wanted to offer clients the opportunity to decide the size, type of aperture, and graphic layout of their packets, to meet any need. As a professional and reliable solution with many unique features, the TrojanLabel T2 was the clear answer.

Watch the T2 in Action

Achieve Unique Printing and Packaging Demands

V-Shapes integrated the TrojanLabel T2 into its PRIME packaging machine, which applies a V-Shapes patented pre-cut on a 100% recyclable polypropylene semi-rigid lower layer. Then followed by exact dosing of liquid or semi-solid products ranging from hand sanitizer to honey and more. It then seals and cuts to form customized filled packets at up to 2,100 units per hour. The integration of the T2 delivers high-quality 1600 dpi printing in-line, using recyclable materials.

Integration of the T2 enables V-Shapes to successfully:

• Print vivid imagery on continuous or die-cut label materials, as well as flexible packaging materials with a variety of barrier options, engaging only a single operator
• Produce multiple separate output rolls from a single input roll with the use of built-in slitters, saving valuable time with no downtime between rolls
• Calculate the total cost per label for any size print job with the user-friendly Trojan Control interface
• Keep track of all images in the internal job library and queue up multiple prints
• Utilize remote tech support to diagnose and solve any problem
• Configure the frequency of mid-job maintenance, which takes approximately 10 seconds
• Leave and return to perfect roll-ups with 100% consistent print quality
• Calibrate electronically and adjust the height of the print head to print on thicker materials

CASE STUDY: How V-Shapes Uses AstroNova’s TrojanLabel T2 Press to Meet Production Demands for New Single-Use Portion Packet Technology

Increase Your Product Offerings and Bottom Line

Your unique needs require an outstanding, reliable solution, whether you are a label converter seeking to meet the demand for shorter runs, a brand owner or manufacturer with customer demands requiring in-house labeling, or a professional printing house exploring new opportunities.

Schedule a demonstration with AstroNova’s experts to learn how the T2 may solve your business needs and discover what impact the power of a traditional large production press in-house could have on your product offering and bottom line.

Effortlessly Design, Manage, and Print Your Labels In-House

…. All with CQL Pro Labeling Software

In the labeling industry, it’s no secret that having in-house labeling software can improve efficiency, saving time and money by effortlessly managing the combination of artwork and data that make up a label file.

With the help of professional labeling software, like CQL Pro, artwork can exist in various image types like png, jpg, pdf, tiff, etc.  Data can come from multiple data sources such as your company’s ERP or another external database.  Additionally, enjoy the ability to add other common label elements, such as barcodes, QR codes, date of manufacture, expiration dates, lot codes, etc.

Label Image Types

If you’re looking to print high-quality labels, it requires a suitable, high-quality printing file.  Here’s a brief outline for anyone who may be newer to the industry:

Vector: vector graphics are mathematically drawn points, lines, curves, and shapes. When scaling a vector image file, as it’s not low resolution, there’s no loss of quality, so it can be sized to your desired scale.  Vectors are widely used for logos, line art, 3-D renderings,  text, and variable data like barcodes.

Raster: raster graphics consist of individual, colored pixels that compose a single image.  While great for photographic elements and textures, these files can be sized smaller but not larger as it’ll compromise the resolution quality.  A sufficient resolution of at least 300dpi is recommended for these to avoid poor print quality. ( jpg, png, and tiffs are common raster image types)

PDF: As PDFs can use both vector and raster graphics, they’re typically the optimal choice for label designs.

How Can CQL Pro Labeling Software Help?

First, what exactly is CQL Pro? Compatible with any label printer in the market with a Windows® driver, CQL Pro is AstroNova’s advanced labeling software that allows users to easily design and print custom labels for color and monochrome label printers. Complete with Label Designer and Print Manager, users can create and edit label designs, design printer profiles, and easily monitor or create print jobs across any label printer model.

With an intuitive, easy-to-use interface, this software makes creating and accessing your label files simple and allows users to quickly print multiple jobs with differing designs and varying quantities, all without interruption.

Additional features include a label converter for easy conversion, job monitoring for in-process print jobs, and an easy-access launcher with shortcuts to your recent designs, print manager, print jobs, and more.

Learn more about CQL Pro labeling software and how integrating it can help you design, manage, and print your labels in-house.

Special Offer!

Download CQL Pro today for a FREE, full-featured 30-day trial!

Questions? Let us know, we’re here to help!

At AstroNova, we offer a total labeling solution. We provide the tools you need to integrate production efficiencies into your business and keep up with industry demands from a wide variety of label printers, materials, technical support, training, and a library of support videos. Contact us to schedule a free, web-based demonstration and to speak with one of our specialists!

Create a Valuable Customer Experience Guaranteed to Build Brand Loyalty

Learn How to Surprise and Delight Customers and Why it’s so Important in Today’s Market

Everyone loves to receive and open a package. Regardless of age, the anticipation someone feels when their package arrives and it’s time to dig in is a universal feeling. Now more than ever, with saturated markets and ever-changing marketing tactics, brands are fighting to find ways to stand out from the crowd, build brand loyalty, and satisfy current customers.  One way to create an impressive, valuable experience?  Create a unique unboxing experience for your customers.

Understanding an Unboxing

What is an unboxing experience exactly? To put it simply, it’s the act of unpacking a box or package that strives to create a memorable experience and interaction with a customer when first unboxing a product. This is an effective way to gain a competitive edge over the competition and stay top-of-mind for customers.  First impressions count – use the tactics below to create positive interactions and promote your brand.

brand loyalty

Build your Brand

This may seem like the most obvious piece, but brand your packaging and, more importantly, make it unique to your brand. Above all, creating this type of experience for your customers is an excellent way to stand out against competitors and build brand loyalty. This gives you an opportunity to garner a response from your customers – studies have shown 40% of consumers are more likely to make repeat purchases from a vendor that stands out and has premium packaging.

brand loyalty

Personalize the Packaging

Everyone wants to feel special.  So, you can ensure your customers feel valued by adding simple touches to make the experience memorable. For instance, examples of this include notes within the package or personalized messages.

Utilize Unique Materials

Consumers crave sustainability and are conscious of a brand’s values and priorities. Therefore, opt for reusable or environmentally-friendly materials and avoid appearing wasteful or careless, which can ultimately be harmful to your brand image—looking for high-performance, eco-friendly options? Browse GetLabels.com for a variety of materials to meet this demand.

Customers Will Market for You

Personalizing your packaging or creating a WOW unboxing experience for customers may seem like an unjustifiable cost. But, people enjoy sharing positive or unique experiences. Now, thanks to the power of the internet and with online unboxing videos being wildly popular, a single customer’s experience can be seen by any number of people with a simple upload or share. This creates an authentic experience that people enjoy viewing, and others may anticipate having the same experience themselves, encouraging a purchase, or creating simple brand recognition at the very least.

Trusted Solutions to Make Your Products Pop and Get You Started

QuickLabel QL-300 – a five-color tabletop digital label printer with the added capability of printing in white, allowing you to expand your labeling possibilities. This system enables brand owners to create high-quality labels with the utmost durability, ensure a competitive cost of ownership, and set their brand apart with vibrant, impactful product labels.

TrojanLabel T3-OPX – this wide-format overprinting system is designed to print on a wide variety of ink-receptive surfaces such as cardboard, postcards, boxes, paper bags, wooden planks, or thicker objects like blister envelopes or folded boxes ready for shipment.  Create a variety of customized pieces with the T3-OPX.

brand loyalty

TrojanLabel T2-C – a one-of-a-kind, a high-volume tabletop label printing press that incorporates the features and functionality of a traditional large production press into a footprint small enough to fit into any size print department.  This solution also offers the opportunity to print glossy and polypropylene labels guaranteed to make your branding shine.

TrojanLabel T2-L – the world’s first industrial-grade, professional digital press for flexible packaging utilizing water-based inks. This flexible packaging water-based inkjet press also comes with inline cold lamination. Therefore, the T2-L accommodates a wide range of flexible packaging solutions, expanding your options and unboxing possibilities.

brand loyalty

Interested in any of the above labeling solutions? Let us know. We’re here to help!

At AstroNova, we offer a total labeling solution. Above all, we provide the tools you need to integrate production efficiencies into your business and keep up with industry demands. From a wide variety of label printers, materials, technical support, training, and a library of support videos. Contact us to schedule a free, web-based demonstration and to speak with one of our specialists!

Is Your Labeling Process Inefficient & Costly?

The labeling process can be timely, expensive, and cumbersome – but it doesn’t have to be. Like with anything, the more you understand about the labeling process, the more you can work on integrating efficiencies.

When you step back and look at your current labeling process, have you considered hidden labeling costs? Do you actually know the total cost per label? Is your operation as efficient as it could be?

Stop Wasting Unnecessary Time and Money –
understand your print costs

While it’s true an estimated print job varies from technology to technology, there are variables to keep in mind when it comes to the actual ink costs, regardless of the specific technology.

  1. Size of the image
  2. Ink/color coverage breakdown- what amount of coverage are you looking for?
  3. Price per ink/toner cartridge – and approximate number of labels printable with a full ink cartridge

It’s important to note the type(s) of material(s) are important too and will ultimately play into the total cost per label but to keep things simpler, let’s focus on ink costs specifically.

How Are Ink Costs Calculated?

When it comes to digital printing, the process of estimating ink costs is done differently depending on the technology used – inkjet vs. toner.

Inkjet: A manual process where the label image is rendered and offers a breakdown of the amount of cyan (C), magenta (M), yellow (Y), and black (K) the image is comprised of. Based on this breakdown of colors, a cost per page (CPP) is provided along with an estimate of the expected ink costs over the lifetime of the printer.

Toner: A manual process where a PDF of the label image is loaded into a proprietary software tool which determines the percentage coverage of the area of a label for each toner cyan (C), magenta (M), yellow (Y), black (K) and white (W). A CPP is provided with a cost breakdown for each toner and other supplies such as the fuser unit and transfer belt.

It’s worth noting for either digital technology, the cost is calculated based on an average – not based on an individual label. This is because, over the lifetime of the printer, there’s bound to be extra ink consumption- from the automatic printhead cleanings and maintenance, ensuring optimal print quality to the toner particles that’ll inevitably stick to internal hardware to electrostatic charge. While these totals are typically insignificant, it’s essential to receive an average ink cost estimate to account for these things to ensure the best accuracy.

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For a free ink cost calculation, simply send us your label artwork and receive an accurate, complete cost per label – including ink and label materials. Stop wasting label materials, time, and money.
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How to Find a Tabletop Label Printer That Fits Your Needs

Once you’re aware of the different printing technologies and the pros and cons each one offers, here are some helpful tips for identifying which tabletop label printer fits your application needs.

If you’re unsure which print technology is right for you, you can find more detailed information on that here.

I understand the different printing technologies and their pros & cons, now how do I buy a tabletop label printer that fits my needs?

Now that you’re aware of the three key technologies available in a desktop format for printing color labels, how do you go about selecting the right printing technology and model for your unique application?

Start by looking at your product:

Consider its container size(s) and your favorite look and colors. Do you prefer your labels to have a shiny, glossy look, or perhaps a semi-gloss or a matte look is more appropriate? Will printing colors on white label substrate do the job, or does your product require you to print on clear or colored substrates of different textures? Nobody else knows your product or your branding requirements like you do, so only you can make that decision. This will ultimately help you arrive at the necessary label sizes that you’ll need and the vital elements of your label artwork.

Decide on your product packaging, transportation, and storage through its journey from the manufacturing location to the end-consumer:

Are there any special environmental conditions to consider? For example, does your product need refrigeration requiring labels that must withstand water droplets due to condensation? Will the product labels need to withstand prolonged exposure to moisture or sunlight? Do the labels need to withstand exposure to certain chemicals that perhaps make up part of your product? In addition to helping you select the right printing technology, these choices may influence your material preference and the adhesive backing.

Estimate Print Volumes:

Based on the sales forecast of all your SKUs, estimate your daily, weekly, or monthly print volumes by label size. Also, consider what a typical print run would be like. For example, let’s say you print 1000 labels of 4×3 in four separate print jobs on almost a daily basis. That is useful information.

Consider Variable Data:

Do you need your tabletop color label printer to print variable data information on your labels, i.e., serial numbers, dates, lot codes, etc.? If so, you’ll want your vendor to provide labeling software that’ll help you meet these specific requirements.

How will you be applying labels?

Will you be applying labels to your product(s) by hand, or by using an automatic label applicator?  Which is the most efficient option for your labeling and production needs?

Once you’ve given the above questions a thought, you’re ready to shop around for an appropriate label printer as an educated buyer. Some tips as you browse websites for printer specifications and contact label printer manufacturers or distributors:

Do they carry printers based on a single technology or different technologies?

Printer manufacturers/distributors who only carry one printing technology are more likely to push for their technology/product than look out for your needs.

Do they offer a total solution, for instance, label material supplies, software, and technical support along with the printers and ink?

If they do, they are more likely to ensure that the right printer is selected for your needs, and is functional so they can earn revenues from inks and materials. Like document printers, label printers are a very competitive segment, and hardware sales are typically made at very thin margins. By ensuring the printers, the inks, and the labels are engineered and tested for compatibility will ensure a longer lifetime of your investment.

Do they offer free remote web-based support?

Think of your label printer as a production machine that will invariably require some periodic maintenance and upkeep. Search for available support videos on the company’s website or YouTube channel, or sometimes it may be easier to call, email, chat, or have a live web-based conference call.  Do they offer the kind of support you’re looking for?

Does the printer company provide labeling software as well?

If you have any special or unique software requirements now or in the future, consider how much easier it’ll be for you to deal with a single vendor to ensure software and hardware are compatible.

Questions? Let us know, we’re here to help!

At AstroNova, we offer a total labeling solution. We provide the tools you need to integrate production efficiencies into your business and keep up with industry demands from a wide variety of label printers, materials, technical support, training, and a library of support videos. Contact us to schedule a free, web-based demonstration and to speak with one of our specialists!

Which Printing Technology is Right for You?

New to Printing In-House, Or Considering Making the Change for Your Business? It’s Important to Understand the Key Differences in Printing Technologies

While no single printing technology is perfect for all applications, it’s important to understand your specific application and the unique challenges it presents.  From there, you can find the best printing solution specific to your needs.

There are a variety of printing technologies on the market today, but which one is the best fit for your business or personal needs?

What are the different fundamental printing technologies used in desktop color label printers?

There are three fundamental printing technologies used in desktop label printing: Water Based Inkjet (WBIJ), Electrophotographic (EP), and Thermal Transfer (TT). Let’s take a deeper dive into each one and examine the attributes that make each of them unique in the world of printing:

printing technology

Electrophotographic (EP): 

Originally a photocopying technique, EP technology (also called laser or LED printing) provided a way to do higher volume document printing at faster speeds and lower maintenance frequency. Instead of using light reflected from an original document as in the old photocopiers, a laser (sometimes an LED) was used to translate computer data into light pulses that would expose a light-sensitive, photo-conducting drum or belt. The coloring agents used in electrophotographic systems are called toners. They come in two forms – dry and liquid. Dry toners are used in all desktop and office printer/copier systems. Both dry and liquid toner systems are used in electrophotographic digital presses.  Dry toners consist of pigments or dyes embedded inside polymer beads. The fusing process melts the polymer beads to the surface of the paper. In addition to the colorants within the polymer beads are “charge agents” that allow the toner to be charged opposite to that of the photo conducting drum. EP technology provides a unique capability-  EP allows you to print with White ink (toner) along with traditional CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow & Black), so these printers can offer a 5-color format – CMYK + White. With water-based inkjet (WBIJ) printers, you’re largely limited to printing on white substrates using just CMYK coloring. However,  the availability of using white toner with EP printers opens a huge world of possibilities in label printing, especially on colored and clear substrates.  The black matte Castle Vineyards label shown here displays the branding possibilities using white toner provides.

Water-Based Inkjet (WBIJ):

While this technology has been powering our small home and office printers for a long time now, it has matured and become robust enough for the desktop label printing segment in just the last decade. It revolutionized this segment by allowing people to rethink how to best fulfill their needs for short-run prime labels without the constraints of hiring a third party, where long lead times, high minimum order quantity, and outrageous label costs are typically the norm. As this technology continues to improve and advance, its appeal continues to attract new customers in different segments. An inkjet printer creates an image by firing tiny droplets of ink onto the paper. The complete image is built up from many small dots and it’s important to note the quality of an image is determined by the number of dots per inch (DPI) and the range of colors possible. A few different colors of ink can be combined to produce virtually any color (except for white). Cyan (C), Magenta(M), Yellow(Y) & Black(K) are commonly used colors, referred to in the industry as CMYK. The liquid portion of the inks used in these printers is predominantly water, hence “water-based inkjet”.

These water-based inks have color components that can be either dye-based or pigment-based, the ink chemistry and properties differ accordingly. In dye-based inkjet inks, the colored dyes are chemically bonded to the liquid portion of the ink, forming a “solution.” In contrast, pigmented inks are “suspensions.” That is, particles of coloration are suspended within a liquid and held between water molecules. Dyes seep into the paper substrate more easily than pigments, which primarily sit up on the surface of the paper. Ultimately, dye-based inks are brighter and have a wider color range than pigmented inks. Also, they can typically print on a wider variety of label substrates.  printing technology

Pigment-Based Inkjet:

Pigmented inks have a longer life span and are more color-fast than dyes. If prolonged exposure to sunlight or other elements of nature is expected, dye-based inks will need some protection like lamination or varnish to prevent color fading over time while pigmented inks can withstand the elements for longer without fading. There are important niches like chemicals or even other consumer labels or packaging applications for which printed labels must withstand exposure to sunlight or moisture for extended periods of time. However, protection may still be required for pigment inks if continuous outdoor exposure over several weeks or months without any color shift is expected.

Thermal Transfer:

Thermal Transfer Printing is the oldest print technology around, the printers based on this technology are ubiquitous in space of monochrome or one-color printing. These printers are fast, economical, easy to maintain, and generally do a good job when the objective is to put on simple information like product manufacturing/expiry dates or bar-codes near the point of sale. At resolutions of 300 or 600 dpi, the labels out of thermal transfer printers are generally not suitable for most prime label applications. However, there are a few niche labeling applications that still favor thermal transfer technology over competing technologies, which is why you’ll still find some manufacturers making 4-color thermal transfer printing systems. There are niche labeling applications that still favor thermal transfer technology, which is why AstroNova still manufactures its QLS 4100Xe printerprinting technologyprinting technologyA few advantages of Thermal Transfer Printing technology include:

  1. Availability of CMYK process AND spot color ribbons such as metallic gold, silver, white, signal red or blue, and many more
  2. Ability to print on low-cost substrates of varying thicknesses with a very high level of durability and resistance to solvents, moisture, and UV exposure
  3. Low maintenance requirements & can easily handle dusty, dirty, manufacturing environments

There are several unique applications calling for thermal transfer technology. For example, many electronic applications require that the labels applied are UL recognized, which means they have been tested and proven to withstand a battery of tests as detailed in the UL 969 standard (for example). Or perhaps you’re looking to produce multi-layer flexible electronic circuits in short runs on high-temperature PET substrates.  Thermal Transfer is the technology of choice for such demanding applications.

Next Steps:

Now that you’re aware of the three key technologies available in a desktop format for printing color labels, you can start identifying the right printer and label materials that fit your needs. When buying a label printer for the first time, it’s advised to consider professional installation and a training package. This is not only to ensure the label printer is installed and works properly but to also ensure that you or any employees who will be using the printer are trained to use it properly and perform essential maintenance on a periodic or as-needed basis.

Have any questions on which label printer, inks, or materials will best suit your business and printing needs?  Contact us today, we’re here to help! 

Top 10 Benefits of Printing Labels In-House

It’s no secret that printing labels in-house offers businesses a breadth of benefits and has become an integral part of a company’s packaging production process.  Today, thousands of manufacturers, processors, and retailers around the world are increasing their sales revenue and profit margins by producing their own color labels in their factories and offices.

Printing labels on-demand provides benefits, like:

Benefit #1: Private Labeling

Private labeling has exploded over the last decade, especially in the food, beverage, cosmetic, chemical, medical, CBD, and dietary supplement industries.  Studies have shown most consumers prefer to buy private label or store-brand labeled goods because of the higher perceived quality or value that the product provides.  Manufacturers who use in-house color label printers are able to command a competitive edge in the marketplace and a greater market share serving more customers with privately labeled products that are quickly customized in affordable, short-run label quantities.

printing labels in-house

Benefit #2: Produce Labels Instantly

Having the ability to print the exact number of labels you want, anytime you need them, affects more than product marketing, it’s also a tool to increase productivity by making labels on-demand. Even the best forecasting and purchasing practices can leave the packaging department hunting for labels at the last minute. For manufacturers with a family of multiple products, having the right label in inventory at the right time for the right product is often a challenge – easily fixed with in-house printing. With an in-house color label printer, manufacturers have the flexibility to print labels instantly, changeover packaging lines in minutes, and immediately start labeling new products.

Benefit #3: Cut Costs & Reduce Inventory

In-house label printing cuts costs for short-run, small quantity labels and simultaneously allows businesses to replace inventories with lean, just-in-time production practices.
Even with the best inventory management practices, it is difficult to predict how many labels will actually be used before products or label designs change. Additionally, the economics of traditional label printing requires print houses to ask to purchase large quantities of labels, usually more than you need at the current time. As a result, rolls of purchased labels perpetually remain in inventory. After a long period of storage, labels may become dirty, damaged, or yellowed and can lose adhesive properties. The labels, or even the products to which the labels
will be applied, may also become obsolete before they are used.

Benefit #4: Gain Production Flexibility – Label Any Product, Any Time

Traditionally, full-color primary display labels were printed off-site by a commercial label print house, while “back panel” labels with product-specific text and barcodes were printed in-house on a simple barcode label printer.  Today, QuickLabel printers have changed the label printing workflow by bringing it entirely in-house. For example, with QuickLabel, both the primary display “front panel” full-color label and the product-specific text and barcode “back panel” label can be printed simultaneously, in a single print pass.

The traditional labeling process:
  1. Design labels
  2. Order labels
  3. Wait for label proofs
  4. Makes changes
  5. Wait for second label proof
  6. Accept and return proof
  7. Wait to receive printed labels
  8. Receive and inventory labels
  9. Apply labels
The QuickLabel labeling process:
  1. Design labels
  2. Print your own proof
  3. Make changes on the fly
  4. Print labels
  5. Apply labels
Benefit #5: Maintain In-House Quality Control

For companies in highly regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals, medical devices, hazardous chemicals, and increasingly, dietary supplements and foods, it’s critical for the packaging process to meet quality standards established by third-party auditors and maintained by in-house quality management systems.  With a QuickLabel printer, it costs nothing to add or remove label content, a benefit to companies in regulated industries where required label changes are a costly fact of life. Country of Origin labeling legislation, more stringent labeling disclosures, and new GHS chemical hazard labeling requirements are recent examples of governmental labeling standards that have caused companies to completely revamp their labels. Creating color labels on-demand with an in-house QuickLabel printer allows your company to ensure that it maintains strict control over labels so that your production operation is always able to label the right product, for the right customer, at the right time.

Benefit #6: One Pass Label Printing – including dates, barcodes, and serialization

Quality Control managers are relieved of many of the stringent regulatory burdens that apply to labels because all information can be printed on the fly, including serializing
barcodes, lot codes, batch codes, and expiration dates. Labels can be printed physically close to the product receiving the label, reducing the possibility of human error in the labeling process and eliminating the need to stock printed labels in inventory, and quarantine and discard obsolete labels.

Benefit #7: Reduce Delivery Time to Market

Now more than ever, customer convenience and keeping up with demand are high priorities for most companies.  Consumers not only expect things faster, but product demands have never been higher, especially for industries like medical, pharmaceutical, sanitation, and food and beverage.  With an in-house label printer, print labels on-demand and get shipments out the door to retailers and customers faster, easier, and more efficiently, reducing lengthy and unnecessary downtimes.

Benefit #8: Be Ready to Ship Labeled Products at Any Time

At one time or another, production managers have been in the predicament of not being able to ship products to a waiting customer. The result is often missed deadlines, costly expedited shipments, backorders, reduced profitability, and lost revenue. In these cases, awaiting customers may decide to choose an alternate vendor rather than wait to receive a late shipment.
Owning an in-house label printer takes the unpredictability out of label availability. As long as managers maintain a stock of printing supplies, they are always ready to print the labels they need.

Benefit #9: Produce Short-Runs

There are a variety of perks attributed to producing short-runs.  Some include providing consumers with limited-time offerings like seasonal flavorings for holidays, producing customized products for customers, eliminating unnecessary waste by not printing more than you need, or simply the flexibility of running a small, limited batch of labels for any variety of reasons.  One instance we’ve seen of this is companies switching their production process to meet the needs of their community by producing sanitation or protection supplies in difficult times like COVID-19.

Benefit #10: Offer Contract Labeling

Contract packagers provide custom labeling services to businesses that want to outsource packaging services, both to control quality and costs. If you are a professional contract packager, you already understand the revenue-producing value of flexible, in-house label printing. If you’re a company considering the purchase of a color label printer for your own use, you may also be able to benefit by providing labeling services to other companies in your geographic area or industry. The flexibility of owning a color label printer allows owners to act as contract packagers, making labels in any size, shape, or design, satisfying the branding requirements and technical requirements of customers. Printing labels as a service will allow you to increase revenue and profit while also absorbing excess production capacity.

Have you any questions on how QuickLabel can help or more specifically how owning an in-house label printer can breathe new life into your business? Contact us for more information or a free consultation today!