Final product appearance is critical in all industries, but perhaps none more so than the beverage and food industry. Brands compete for discerning customers’ attention in an increasingly competitive market where even the smallest imperfection can be enough to sway the purchasing decision. This is especially true for the major retailers and supermarkets that expect exacting standards in product presentation. Any distortion of labels or sleeves can be the difference between securing that key customer.
The bottling process is an inherently wet one. Moisture arises from over-filling, pasteurising, cleaning and condensation – but this all needs to be removed prior to final packing. Any liquid present on the bottle before final packing can cause degeneration of packing, labelling, caps and crowns. Failure to present bottles and their surrounding packaging in perfect condition will result in delivery rejection and affect relationships with major retailers and the end customer.
Any liquid present on the can before final packing can cause packaging degeneration, corrosion, discolouration and blemishes, including corrosion of the tab on the ring pull or hygienic labelling that requires specialist attention. Failure to present cans and their surrounding packaging may mean losing your market position.
Labels are the most common form of branding applied to bottles; they are the first point of communication to the end customers in the supermarket. But it’s not just what they say that influences a customer’s decision – it’s how they look on the shelf. They represent the brand image, and aspirations, the quality of the product and reputation of the organisation. It is no wonder that poor label appearance is a primary reason why customers don’t pick up a product off the shelf.
Understanding the cause is the first step towards developing a solution. Slipped, peeling, or misaligned labels on the bottle neck and body are most commonly caused by liquid on the bottle surface prior to label application. Surface moisture creates 4 primary issues:
Surface water is frequently transferred to the glue pot, resulting in foaming or dilution of the glue. This creates unsightly streaking of the glue beneath the label.
The glue may also be diluted during application, reducing the adhesive strength and increasing the time it takes the label to adhere to the bottle. This causes the label to slip out of alignment, especially in mass flow areas and on bottles without a label protection panel.
Residual moisture leads to misalignment or complete failure of the head on pre-glued label applicators.
Liquid trapped underneath the label causes bubbling and distortion and can be seen through clear substrate materials.
The primary cause of poor quality marking is condensation and surface moisture from upstream processes. The water can dilute the inkjet, causing the ink to spread on contact with the surface and resulting in faded, smeared and illegible markings. Rather than pay a premium for expensive ink, it is often more cost-effective and significantly lower risk to thoroughly dry the bottle prior to coding.
Shrink sleeves are a popular form of packaging due to their attractive nature and flexible application. However, loose fitting or deformed sleeves will seriously affect customer perceptions of a product at the point-of-sale.
The formation of a sleeve brings plastic substrate into contact with the bottle surface. If liquid is present on the surface the sleeve can prematurely bond to the bottle and cause loose fitting or wrinkled sleeves. The use of steam tunnels also creates residual moisture on the surface of the bottle which must be removed to avoid being transferred into downstream processes.
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