Bent but unbroken
Bent but unbroken
Flexography is holding its own against digital printing thanks to its ability to be used on almost any type of substrate, making it a great choice for packaging products in cardboard, cellophane, plastic, fabric and metallic film. Manufacturers and brand-owners tell Emma-Jane Batey how flexible flexo really is.
A modern version of letterpress printing that is highly flexible and can be used on almost any substrate, flexographic printing is a welcome friend in the converting industry. While digital printing may be the glamorous new kid on the block, flexography maintains its status by using quick-drying, semi-liquid inks and working at high speeds on absorbent and non-absorbent materials.
With one of flexo's advantages being the relatively low cost of equipment and most consumables, it is well-suited to start-up brands with initial short runs. That said, it also works to extremely high press speeds, making it just as well matched to large orders. No wonder everyone loves flexo.
Perfect for a relaunch
For rapidly expanding global meat-substitute brand Quorn, its use of flexo for its recent rebrand has enabled lighter, brighter packaging to reflect its increased market relevance. Launched in 1985 by Marlow Foods, Quorn Foods is now owned by Monde Nissin Corporation. A meat substitute for cooking and in branded ready meals, Quorn is seeing rapid growth thanks to increased awareness from 'Meat Free Monday' and other healthier-eating campaigns.
The new look of Quorn packaging – created by Bulletproof and launched in March 2017 – features a modern two-tone slate and orange design with key taste notes on the front, and sits across all Quorn SKUs. Quorn Foods' marketing director Peter Harrison says, “We're confident that this modern look and feel from Quorn will appeal to our existing and new consumers, and Quorn will continue to grow in the UK. Quorn needed a brand refresh to ensure a broader appeal. Bulletproof has delivered a fresh and contemporary design, full of appetite appeal that perfectly reflects our vision for the brand.”
The new packaging design and brand identity is part of the £10-million Quorn relaunch aimed at 'healthy discoverers' – people looking for alternative healthy foods – while also appealing to its core customer base. Harrison continues, “With our ambition to grow beyond being the leading meat-free brand in the UK and Ireland, and in addition to our recent expansion into France and Italy, we briefed Bulletproof to create a contemporary new brand identity and packaging system that would attract a new consumer base seeking delicious meat-free products as part of a healthy lifestyle without alienating core consumers.”
Harrison notes, “There will always be a commercial balance, but we've found that flexo printing produces high-quality, cost-effective packaging with tremendous visual impact at point of sale.”
Design agency Bulletproof comments, “Quorn has long been the market leader within the category, but to achieve its global ambition, it needed to step-change penetration and shift perceptions to an accessible, aspirational food brand.” The flexographic printed packaging resulting from the Bulletproof project sees coloured backgrounds with a “rustic, imperfect feel for added authenticity and naturalness”.
With its increasing presence on the smartest high streets in the UK, popular Japanese fast food chain itsu is also expanding its grocery offer. Co-founded by Pret A Manger founder Julian Metcalfe, itsu already serves over nine million customers a year with its range of sushi, sashimi and noodles. To build on its consecutive yearly sales increases of 30%, itsu has boosted its grocery business with gyoza, a highly popular choice in store that is now available in the freezer section of supermarkets.
Flexographic printing was chosen for the packaging of the itsu gyoza range – available in vegetable fusion, king prawn and sesame tuna varieties – with flexible pouches that can be easily resealed in a ziplock style. Metcalfe says, “Following on from the huge success of the launch of dumplings in itsu shops, I am thrilled to be bringing them to the frozen aisle. Supermarket shoppers are already able to eat beautiful at home with our range of miso soups, noodle pots and seaweed thins, so our gyoza range gives customers yet another great way to enjoy tip-top quality products at home.”
Holly Hunt, itsu's PR representative, adds, “itsu has revealed that the UK dumpling market jumped by 43% from 2009 to 2015 as the blossoming gyoza food trend continues to flourish. With the delicious new resealable packs from itsu, preparing authentic gyoza at home or work has never been easier, as they can be boiled, pan-cooked or microwaved in just 3–6 minutes and can be added to broths, stir fries, noodles or rice.”
“Flexographic printing was chosen for its high-quality results and, as a standard form of printing, the fact that it is reliable and proved for image quality on long runs,” she concludes.
Good-looking across substrates
For dapper new men's grooming brand Hawkins & Brimble, flexo has proved a valuable tool in creating shelf appeal that quickly turns into brand loyalty. Offering ‘vintage rituals for the modern man’, Hawkins & Brimble is a grooming range that harnesses ‘the natural qualities of barber tonics of old, yet is tailored to complement the modern man's busy lifestyle’.
So how is this goal achieved through its packaging? Launched in 2016, and already sold at Holland & Barrett, NotOnTheHighStreet and FeelUnique, as well as its own stylish online store, Hawkins & Brimble used flexographic printing to capture the spirit of its vision, and enable it to print its beautiful branding consistently across substrates for its product range. With leather, glass, metal and plastic all featured in the range, flexographic printing serves as the perfect partner.
The Hawkins & Brimble brand identity and packaging portfolio was created by independent branding and packaging design agency Design Happy, whose brief from the company included the request to ‘create a more modern beard-defining brand that was cut from a different cloth’. Design Happy founder Stephen Shortt says, “Design Happy has been fundamental to the success of Hawkins & Brimble, creating an eye-catching and iconic brand from scratch that has helped secure a raft of listings and celebrity endorsements.” In addition to its 15 different online retail suppliers, the brand will also be rolled out across 550 European department stores throughout 2017.
Shortt notes, “We wanted to avoid typical cliches so we opted for a different angle. Our approach was to appeal to a more premium market with a focus on modern, effortless grooming, using inspiration from simpler days to formulate the basis for the naming, ingredients and brand. For the branding itself, we developed a bespoke typography style based on beautiful vintage barber signage, and branded stamps to give the brand a sense of heritage and efficacy. To offset this, we injected a vibrant flash of red cutting through the pack indicative of traditional barber poles, yet angular and tightly cropped to create a classic and fresh look. In order to breathe heart and soul into the brand, we continued to develop a flowing illustrative style. This extended the brand's reach into merchandise, perfectly complemented the gift sets and provided flex for upcoming brand support.”
While it is clear that digital remains the shiny new kid on the block, it is not yet able to provide the myriad advantages of flexo, such as colour spectrum, high volume/low cost and broad print range. Companies like Quorn, itsu and Hawkins & Brimble will continue to use flexo while it offers a flexible alternative to the currently prohibitive costs of high-volume digital. It is even able to form new hybrid flexo digital products that are beginning to see rapid growth.