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4 Tips for Strengthening Your Packaging Graphics Production Process

Posted By: SGK February 21, 2018

This blog has been contributed by Suzanne Mason, business development director at SGK.

Having held a number of associated roles working with clients from agency side and supply partners from client side, here are some observations that I have made on how to optimise the packaging graphics production process.

1. Select the right supplier(s)

An important first step is to take time to define your needs, the drivers for change and what a successful relationship looks like to your business. Identify and rate the criteria for this and use these criteria to drive the selection process of course, but also beyond this as you continue to develop the partnership. Look for a partner who can use expertise, best practise learnings, technology and innovation to help drive you into optimisation.

Throughout the process, be open to redefining the means of delivering against your needs – a great supplier will bring well-considered insights from their experience with other clients from within or outside of your industry sector.

2. Consider the timing

I have found that it is often the case that a specific initiative drives a required change in process. Whether it be internally driven or externally driven by regulatory obligation for example; careful planning and communication are key.

WATCH: In Today's Content Environment: "Hidden Factories" Undermine Success 

Consider all of the areas of the business that will be impacted and that will contribute to the full picture of change and create a working group with subject matter experts from each. This not only aids engagement but also, as a cross-functional team, bringing together years of combined experience and a plethora of new ideas, you will deliver the optimum solution. In a global business, work hard on achieving up front local buy in to the global process or standards.

Communication at the early stage will help to eliminate lengthy discussions and challenges once the process is embedded and will keep you on track. Making sure that the business as a whole understands what is required, and that the organisation is ready to commit the time and the resource to make it work, is critical to success.

3. Focus on the inputs

The quality of the outputs and the ability to achieve right-first-time and avoid costly and time-consuming amendment loops relies heavily on the quality of the inputs. Take time to define what good looks like in the briefing process and strive for a smooth one-hit collection and transfer of all relevant data, ideally routed through a robust system. By maximising discipline and control at the beginning of the process, you will reap the rewards at the end.

4. Link packaging artwork creation to your digital agenda

The artwork step is the perfect opportunity to build your E-commerce requirements. By extending the artwork process to include the creation of renders, you will minimise the touch points, reduce costs and ensure the final and correct assets are used for your online presence. Define and brief the appropriate rules and specifications to ensure a smooth workflow every time.

READ: Why High-Quality Content is Paramount to Winning at the Digital Shelf 

The packaging graphics production process requires collaboration from many sides of the business. To ensure smooth transition with any organizational change, be clear with expectations, and maintain accountability when working toward goals. Communication, experience, and intuitiveness will go far when strengthening your process.

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How Connected Packaging Can Boost Your Marketing Strategy

Posted By: SGK October 25, 2017

Product packaging has long lived outside of the traditional 4P’s of the marketing mix. As a refresher, those P’s consist of: product, price, promotion, and place. It’s about time we as marketers make room in the mix for the materials that keep goods safe, fresh, and protected: packaging.

WATCH: How to Successfully Implement SmartLabel

Connected package applications apply to when consumers scan a code on a package from their smartphone while in-store, and are directed to a webpage to learn more about the product. This opens up a vast opportunity for brands to differentiate with the types of experience and information they offer to consumers.

The demand for this technology may be attributed to the below factors:

Mobile access. It’s about time we start looking at packaging from a mobile-first point of view. Consumers are leveraging their smartphones as a touch point to get more information about what they are purchasing.

While PC purchases still represent the majority of online shopping transactions, technology continues to advance in the food and beverage industry; and the expectation of the consumer follows suit.

In fact, 82% of smartphone users are consulting their phones on purchases while in-store. This is driving a cultural shift in how we shop and what we expect when we’re shopping.

Cultural change. There’s no doubt, we live in a world of high connectivity. As shoppers, our baseline for what is available and the expectation of where to get that information has changed.

It is natural that the need for transparency and information moves into the world of consumer products. By catering to this need, brands can instill trust in their consumers — enabling much more flexible and dynamic delivery of content than the printed pack alone.

READ: Sustaining Print in the World of Internet Store Shelves 

C-Suite demand. C-Suite is energized by the new connectivity and changes in the industry. By moving labeling off pack and onto smartphones, brand owners could experience significant supply chain agility and savings.

To adopt a connected package strategy, an entirely new supply chain must be built to provide labeling information in a new way. Detailed product information must be collected and organized for each product — creating an accurate data record of what was printed on pack.

Skepticism of big food and big business. Consumers are skeptical whether large companies share their health and nutritional values. In fact, according to a recent Label Insights Shopper Trends survey, 98% of consumers believe it is important to consider the ingredients in the products they buy.

One initiative looking to provide those insights is the GMA SmartLabel™ — a website for brands to provide information to consumers about their products. The brand pages must be hosted for public use, and any labeling change on the pack will require a new SmartLabel™ page to be created to reflect those changes. Brand owners will need to accommodate having multiple packs with different labeling in the market at the same time.

READ: The Next Generation in Brand Efficiency, Interaction and Appeal  

By leveraging technology, connected packaging provides added transparency to enhance brand loyalty, increase purchases, and more.

As technology continues to disrupt the packaging industry and the entire marketing landscape, SGK’s Client Solutions Team is ready to help clients navigate these headwinds and optimize their marketing supply chain to allow them to respond with the level of agility required today to succeed.

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New Food Labels Aim to Reduce Waste, Provide Clarity

Posted By: SGK July 12, 2017

As many food shoppers know, there is a lot of confusion around the many label phrases that live on the products you buy. It is often difficult to decipher what to do with products once they have reached the date marked on the packaging.

READ: Variable Marking and Coding: Making the Best of a Necessary Good  

In a recent BrandSquare webinar, Megan Stasz, senior director for sustainability at the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) identified that there are anywhere from 10 upwards of 20 different date label phrases that exist on consumer packaging in the United States.

Variations of date labels may include statements like:

  • Sell by
  • Use by
  • Best by
  • Freshest on
  • Born on

This inconsistency in date labeling contributes to misunderstanding about how dates on labels relate to food quality or safety. From a food waste perspective, the single largest category of food waste sent to landfill is coming from U.S. households.

By bringing a streamlined and standard wording to packages, the GMA plans to help clear up consumer confusion about product date labels and reduce food waste.

Watch the entire webinar with Megan Stasz by clicking the image below: 

Best If Used By: Labeling for Informed Choice, Less Waste

A study conducted by the National Resources Defense Counsel (NRDC) in conjunction with the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic indicated there is in fact consumer confusion regarding these labels, and they are sometimes causing consumers to discard food unnecessarily.

The Institute of Food Technologists found that 25% of consumers discard food based on the sell by date, while 10% believe eating food past its best by date is a serious health risk.

Recognizing the challenge of consumer confusion, the food manufacturing sector represented by the GMA and the retail grocery sector represented by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) teamed up to develop a voluntary national standard to streamline confusing phrases on all food labels to just two dates: “BEST if used by” and “USE by”.

What do the label phrases actually mean?

The “BEST if used by” phrase is to be used to indicate product quality. This includes products like cookies or crackers — things that if you eat them after the date on the package, they might not taste quite like what you’d expect, but the product is still safe to consume. For certain products, this may be combined with and “or freeze by” label.

The “USE by” phrase is to be designated to the very small subset of highly perishable products that do have some safety concerns over time, such as food spoilage or sunscreen SPF.

The voluntary national standard for the United States was developed by a working group of about 25 different companies representing both the food brands as well as the major retail grocery stores in the United States.

The idea is to phase in the two phrases now, with the goal of broad industry adoption nationwide by summer of 2018. While widespread industry adoption is urged, companies have the flexibility to make changes in a way that ensures consistency across their products.

Another way the GMA is providing more information and guidance to consumers is through its web-based tool called SmartLabel™. This is a QR code on package designed for consumers to get more information and understand in-depth details regarding the products they buy.

REGISTER for our upcoming BrandSquare webinar with Jim Flannery of the GMA as he presents: SmartLabel™ Technology for Shopper Empowerment and Trust 

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4 Ways to Make the Most of Your Variable Marking and Coding

Posted By: SGK March 21, 2016

Packaging codes benefit consumers, producers, retailers, and brands in several ways. As a form of data and verification upon purchase, variable markings should not be thought of as a “necessary evil”. In the first 2016 issue of Patterns, Liz Churchill and Lyndsey Farrow of Matthews Marking Systems, offer insights on how to make the best of your variable marking and coding to make a greater impact in the decisions consumers make in aisle.

Documentation of freshness. Think of this. Every smart shopper reads the “best buy” or “use by” code to ensure the product is fresh. Also looked at frequently is the country of origin labeling (COOL), which consumers may use to make buying decisions. Albeit controversial, shoppers will typically get their way in the marketplace by demanding to know where their food came from.

Authenticity and safety. Bar codes and serialized markings are used to identify individual lots, shipments, packages of drugs, cosmetics, and other products for purpose of authentication and traceability. This is extremely important for supply-chain management and assurance.

This added safety helps aid tracking from source to consumer, and to recalled products in the event of a problem. Bar codes and markings may also support compliance and local regulations, like tax codes or disclosure requirements. This ensures the supply chain is efficient and accountable, which gives consumers confidence that the products are genuine and safe.

All types of identification codes are about brand trust. The information printed on the package isn’t just data. It’s a story about where the item has been and how fresh it is,” says Lyndsey Farrow.

Better consumer experience. Variable codes and personalized graphics can also be used to engage shoppers, and encourage them to take particular actions. Serialized codes can be printed on many things, including loyalty cards, coupons, promotional flyers, inside bottle caps (think: Snapple), and more. This data is importation to gain more insights into each shopper’s behavior, and helps determine where they are buying products, whether online or in-store, and even which promotion the consumer has acted on.

Strengthen and protect the brand. It’s important to note that most importantly, these codes create brand trust. If the code isn’t present, consumers may not trust the product is fresh, or authentic – and could lead to consumers actually abandoning the purchase altogether. This is why markings need to be legible and provide helpful information.

With print quality, data management, and cost control being the three main concerns of brand owners, packaging engineers, and production line managers, it’s important to turn these potential issues into a necessary good to create opportunities to improve production processes and help the brand standout in the marketplace with its variable marking and coding efforts.

Variable marking and coding isn’t a necessary evil – it’s a positive good that benefits the consumer and the brand,” says Liz Churchill.

Read the entire article in the first 2016 issue of Patterns: