Labels matter: Choosing the right packaging and labeling system
Packaging and labeling go hand in hand. You can invest in the most advanced cartoner, tray packer, case packer or palletizer, but if you overlook the importance of proper labeling, you might end up with a problem. A good label must not only be informative and attractive, it also has to be compliant with the new regulatory guidelines. This is especially important in the food and pharmaceutical industries. Inappropriately labeled food or pharma products present a serious hazard for customer’s health. So, before you make an investment in a new packaging system, be sure that you are very familiar not only with package standards and guidelines, but also with labeling standards in your industry. There are five conditions a label must fulfill before the product is placed on the shelves:
- Describe the Product and Specify its Contents:
A good label must provide complete information on the product. It mainly includes ingredients of the product, explanation on how the product is used, all important warnings, date of manufacturing, batch number, etc…
- Identify the Product or Brand:
A good label allows customers to identify a particular product among many other products. If a consumer wants to buy one particular brand of soap, the label should help him find the desired soap in a group of variously branded soaps.
- Grading of Product:
Certain products have different qualities, and labeling is used to help a customer find out which pack contains what type of quality. For example, if a tea manufacturer manufactures three types of tea he can use different colored labels so that a customer can tell the difference between these products.
- Help in Promotion of Products:
The fourth function of labeling is to drive sales. Consumers are often encouraged to buy a product simply because of the attractive label. Today, labeling is used as an effective sales promoting tool.
- Providing information required by Law:
Last, but not least: labeling must provide statutory information/warnings required by law. To put ‘smoking is injurious to health’ on the package of cigarette, or ‘choking hazard’ on packages of toys with small parts is the example of statutory warning.
Guidelines and rules for labeling are provided by various institutions. For example, the Food and Drug Administration has very detailed guidelines regarding food labeling and all the information that needs to be placed on the primary packaging or secondary packaging if the primary packaging isn’t suitable for labeling. For example, if the primary packaging is a blister pack or cellophane bag, all the important information has to be placed on the secondary packaging: the blister carton, or the box that holds the cellophane bag. Even the type size is precisely defined by FDA: “Letters must be at least one-sixteenth (1/16) inch in height based on the lower case letter “o”. The letters must not be more than three times as high as they are wide, and the lettering must contrast sufficiently with the background so as to be easy to read. Do not crowd required labeling with artwork or non-required labeling.”
In order to track products through the supply chain, each level of packaging must have a code that identifies the product, its origins, and authenticity. This is usually a linear barcode, but it could also be a 2D data matrix or QR code.
When considering a new packaging line, or a modular coding add-on, bear in mind that different coding technology is suited to different types of substrates and packaging environment. Laser printers are fast, but they may not be able to make a high contrast mark on certain packaging materials.
Inkjet printers are more versatile, but on the other hand, the quality of code produced by thermal inkjet printers depends on the way your products pass the printer head on the production line. If the packaging you are coding is moving or isn’t totally stable, inkjet printer might not work for you.
Don’t forget that primary packaging has different coding requirements for tertiary packaging. Coding on primary packaging needs to be scratch-resistant and indelible. Coding on a tertiary packaging must be consistent and readable, and this might be accomplished with a print and apply system – where an adhesive label is printed and applied like a sticker to the outside of a case, tray or the shrink-wrap that surrounds products or even a pallet.
There are many questions you must answer before making a decision and buying a packaging machine with integrated coding or labeling system. Do you always work with the same packaging materials, or do you need the flexibility to print onto multiple substrates? Are there specific health and safety legislation or ink types that might migrate to food? Do you require software that automatically generates unique codes at the item-level?
Once you fully understand your packaging and labeling needs you can start researching and asking for quotations from various packaging machine manufacturers. Or you can start here, and get a quote from us. Our horizontal and vertical cartoners are available with different modular add-ons for coding, printing, and labeling and our team of experts is ready to answer all of your questions.