Today’s brand owners operate against a background of unprecedented complexity. Product packaging is just one aspect of contemporary brand management, but the reality is that it reaches into many areas of business-critical concern.
For example, some of the practical concerns brand owners have to consider that involve product packaging include: product identification, presentation and storage, conservation against environmental factors, protection against contaminants and anti-counterfeiting.
Packaging now needs to be informative with product information, traceability, storage and usage instructions, ingredient labeling, health information, allergens and recycling details.
There are also promotional concerns to think about, such as point of sale impact (in-store and online), product comparison, promotions and offers, competitions, and integration with online/social media.
That doesn’t include other commercial issues, including brand recognition, competitive differentiation, brand preference, consumer loyalty, repeat purchase and consumption.
Brand owners strive to consider these diverse factors against a backdrop of consumer pressure regarding product integrity and environmental performance. What is more, products must compete for consumer attention and spend in an increasingly multi-channel environment for both promotion and purchase.
There are many ink, coating and other solutions that can help brand owners optimize packaging now from the concept stage to the shelves for consumers, and address many of these challenges they currently face.
Estimates show the counterfeit goods market to be worth upwards of $1.8 trillion. Not only that, counterfeit packaging has become more sophisticated. In turn, manufacturers and their packaging suppliers are developing even greater ranges of anti-counterfeiting and authentication solutions to make counterfeiting more difficult, and to enable brand owners and governments to check if products are genuine or fake.
Different products require different levels of security, but a flexible and multi-layered approach allows packaging manufacturers to add and remove security features as required. This allows them to stay one step ahead of the counterfeiters, without compromising on levels of protection.
Sun Chemical has a range of both overt and covert security features that can be supplied as printing inks or be incorporated covertly into the packaging. Covert solutions offer increased security compared to overt solutions and are viewed as the second line of defense.
Overt technologies are added for consumer verification purposes and can include color shifting inks that change color with view angle, metachromic inks that change color based on the light source and thermochromic inks, which change color based on temperature. These are visible features and do not require detection.
First-level covert solutions include invisible fluorescent inks, which are virtually invisible in daylight but exhibit distinct fluorescent shades on exposure to UV light. Colored fluorescent inks are visible in normal light but have a strong fluorescence under UV light
High-level covert solutions will contain some form of taggant that is only visible or detectible through more sophisticated devices, which range from laser pens to dedicated readers with controlled distribution.
Sun Chemical’s taggant solution for packaging includes Verigard technology, which offers a lock-and-key approach to securing and authenticating brand packaging and documents of value. Using machine-readable taggants and readers available only from Sun Chemical, this is a highly effective system of covert marking and verification for both visible and hidden ink applications.
No brand owner can afford not to make efforts to improve the environmental performance of their packaging. Consumers today demand that the brands they buy demonstrate a commitment to reducing their environmental impact, and retail packaging is very much in the front line.
The drive towards improved sustainability requires a holistic review of production and printing processes; careful selection of packaging materials and consumables; consideration of packaging formats and structures to reduce materials; minimizing waste at every stage in the supply chain; and careful vetting of suppliers’ environmental performance and improvement.
With downward pressure on margins for most brand owners, the greatest challenge is to minimize environmental footprint by means of cost-neutral changes to working practices, materials and consumables.
A partner such as Sun Chemical, with competences right along the packaging supply chain from concept to consumer, can offer brand owners a range of practical solutions that impact positively on the environmental footprint of their product packaging.
Sun Chemical’s philosophy is one of eco-efficiency – meaning that, by approaching all aspects of primary and secondary packaging with a view to improving efficiency and functionality, brand owners can benefit from measurable improvements to environmental performance.
Sun Chemical inks and coatings are constantly developed to optimize the balance between functionality and environmental performance, and to comply with – or exceed – regulatory requirements.
Across its range of inks and coatings, Sun Chemical strives to reduce or eliminate volatile organic compounds (VOCs), to bring solvent-free solutions to market where possible, and to introduce inks for compostable packaging where appropriate.
Innovations in ink formulations have enabled Sun Chemical to introduce the SunUno ink series which provides high bond strengths with solvent-based and solvent-free lamination technologies to optimize pressroom operations. Some inks in the series are designed to specifically reduce ink inventory, with a positive impact on process efficiency and waste.
Sun Chemical can also help brand owners remove film layers from flexible packaging by introducing SunBar Oxygen Barrier Coatings, reducing material usage and, potentially, weight, with positive consequences for transportation costs and environmental footprint.
SunLase laser marking solutions, also offered by Sun Chemical, involves printing a patch of a specially developed transparent or tinted coating onto the generic packaging stock at artwork printing stage. This coating is reactive to a low power CO2 or fiber laser, producing a black image under a laser.
This enables the converter to add high-contrast coding information after filling and closure, without complicating the packaging process and with no risks to the packaged product. By adding variable data at the latest possible stage in the supply chain, brand owners can reduce volumes of pre-printed packaging waste upstream, and allow packaging to be adapted more flexibly to dynamic market conditions.
Sun Chemical can demonstrate environmental best practice throughout its own operations through its sustainability report at www.sunchemical.com/sustainability.
In a globalized environment for retail products, many brands will find their way onto shelves in multiple geographies, meaning that brand owners need to reproduce their brand colors faithfully anywhere worldwide.
These brands, along with their supply chain, are under constant commercial pressure to streamline processes, introduce efficiencies, manage cost by eliminating waste, and accelerate time to market. The multi-stage proofing process to secure color consistency, with its loops of approval and re-approval, is a significant source of bottlenecks, delays, cost and waste. The universe of players with input to the approval of color is vast and geographically spread. Effective communication is made harder by the challenge of defining “correct color.”
While steps have been taken around color standards, there are still many variables that make true color consistency elusive. Spot colors, often favored by brand owners, present a particular challenge. In practice, color management is often a mix of gut feelings, operator experience and the inconsistent use of measurement tools and samples. The consequences for the brand owners are errors, inefficiencies, material waste and excess cost.
Color is not subjective; every color that can be reproduced can also be measured, and its color “DNA” stored to serve as an exact specification.
Sun Chemical, with its deep expertise in the development of high-quality inks and coatings for all packaging types, is the preferred partner for PantoneLIVE. This is an open ecosystem supported by licensed hardware and software that enables each area of a packaging supply chain to access the same PantoneLIVE colors, in addition to brand-specific palettes.
Printers and converters have sought access to the PantoneLIVE system because the cloud-based repository of spectral data allows them to reliably produce Pantone spot colors across various packaging substrates, which reduces time in pre-media, saves money in production, and creates a better customer experience with less rework and customer rejections.
It has been said that the retail shelf is the moment of truth when the majority of purchasing decisions are made. Whatever the statistics, with shoppers confronted by an increasing range of products in store, buying behavior is heavily influenced at the point of sale. Brand recognition is vital, and individual products need to stand out in their category to help customers differentiate between them and competitor offerings.
Sun Chemical has a catalog of creative solutions aimed at helping brand owners give their packaging the wow factor. SunInspire specialty inks and coatings can add visual magic, from metallic inks to fluorescents and phosphorescents, to glitter effects, pearlescents, and frosted effects. Coatings can give a pack a matte or gloss appearance, while special varnishes can be used to create a relief effect to produce a snakeskin feel, for example. Iridescent coatings can produce the effect of the pack color changing depending on the viewing angle.
Specialist tactile inks and coatings can be used creatively to evoke certain sensory responses when the consumer touches the package; giving a natural, paper-like quality to a film pack, for example, or replicating the feel of rubber, suede or sand. Research indicates that 70 percent of packages that are picked up are purchased, so by inviting the consumer to experience the brand through look and feel, sales can receive a measurable boost.
Inks and coatings can even engage the most evocative and personal of senses – smell – by adding scent that is released when the pack is touched, producing a deep, emotional reaction to the product, or letting the consumer experience the aroma of the contents without opening the pack.
Similar tricks can be used to create eye-catching point-of-sale display materials, deepening interest and engagement with the brand, while ground-breaking solutions coming from Sun Chemical are allowing retailers to create dynamic displays with printed images bringing motion in replacement of fixed images or digitally printed 3D effects with inkjet technology.
To further expand the tonal range and color gamut to produce sharper and more vibrant images and colors on packages, Sun Chemical can also offer SunGraphics high-definition flexographic plate technology with Esko HD software and CDI high-resolution imaging. Converters that utilize the HD printing plates can print with an image quality of up to 4,000 PPI.
SunGraphics HD plate technology also comes with flat-top dot technology that prints with 30-60 percent less impression sensitivity compared to standard digital plates, allowing for longer, cleaner, more consistent runs from beginning to end.
Certified by esko through a rigorous process, Sun Chemical’s HD plates help achieve higher ink densities, reduce or eliminate pin-holing, improve print quality in the shadow areas and create a smoother more uniform ink lay down for solid coverage.
Packaging has moved beyond function and protection, to become pivotal to the omni-channel retail environment – from consumer engagement at the point of purchase, to sustaining brand interaction post-purchase. Today’s brands must seek to engage seamlessly with the connected consumer, communicating practical and promotional information consistently at all touch points – in-store, mobile and online.
Innovation in packaging design offers the brand owner untold opportunities to engage with consumers. While in the past, brand owners have focused on in-store shelf impact, today’s packaging has become a platform for sustained communication with the consumer, driving them to online assets and content, whether through mobile apps, interactive on-pack competitions, or full-blown augmented reality experiences.
Through the expertise of Sun Branding Solutions, Sun Chemical can work with brand owners and retailers to optimize packaging at the design stage, evaluating alternative formats and structures, reducing surplus packaging, or supporting a transition to lower-gauge materials.
Sun Branding Solutions can work hand in hand with brand owners to devise ways of enhancing packaging to engage consumers fully and helping to make packaging a pivot point for integrated multichannel promotional campaigns.
T+Sun, a partnership between Sun Chemical and T+Ink, can utilize electronic materials solutions that can help make packages and objects communicate, engage consumers, manage inventory systems and provide brand authentication solutions. Especially interesting is Touchcode, an imbedded code that when touched to a smart device, activates a range of options, including security and web interaction.
Touchcode is a major first step to engaging an interaction with consumers that goes beyond offering simply conductive inks; it gives brand owners a chance to interact with consumers in a way that has never been done before.