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Growth in Beverage and Canning, FMCG manufacturers stress the need for Laser

Growth in Beverage and Canning, FMCG manufacturers stress the need for Laser

20 March 2015

Growth in Beverage and Canning, FMCG manufacturers stress the need for Laser

By Sascha Benke, Laser Business Unit Manager, Videojet Technologies.

As Laser Business Unit Manager at Videojet, Sascha’s main responsibility is the global commercial leadership of Videojet’s laser product line. In his previous roles, Sascha was Marketing Director for Videojet EMEA, Global Vertical Marketing Director for food and key account project leader.

The global beverage packaging market is expected to grow from an estimated $97.2 billion in 2012 to $125.7 billion by 2018 {1} , as a direct result of increasing consumer demand for Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), such as beverages. This means that manufacturers are under increased pressure to improve their production line speeds and labeling systems capabilities. With several coding and marking systems available in the manufacturing industry, knowing which one will best address production requirements is essential. Amongst all the options available, laser systems are well-known and trusted by beverage and canning manufacturers to increase production output and uptime, meeting growing consumer demands. To gain a better understanding of the industry and how laser solutions can support it, Sascha Benke, Business Unit Manager for Laser at Videojet Technologies shared his knowledge on the topic, looking at the challenges, advances and requirements of the beverage packaging industry.

What are the main trends in coding and marking in the beverage and canning industry?

Looking at the long term, I can see a couple of trends. The first one is product proliferation. Large and small companies alike are starting to expand their portfolio to incorporate additional brands and creating diversity in their product offerings to target new consumers in their market of choice. Coca-Cola is a typical example of one of the many companies growing their portfolio with brand variants such as Cherry Coke or Vanilla Coke, designed to adapt to the changing consumer demands for additional flavors and composition. We also see a growing number of larger companies acquiring smaller brands to add to their portfolios. Product proliferation thus leads to production line speed increases to cope with the added demand, and a greater need for labeling and coding systems which have the capability of keeping up with faster production lines, but still perform effectively with the best delivery of quality possible.

The second trend is what we refer to in the industry as ‘late stage customization’ which is the production and supply of products for multiple markets where the variable information is not printed onto the product or the packaging until the later stage of the production. This enables the goods to be customized for each market and in the quantity required, maximizing efficiency. Typically, companies using this production method are either large or mid-size and serve multiple markets. For example if a food manufacturer based in the US wanted to export their products to the EU, the information on the packaging would have to appear in multiple languages for each of the different markets. In addition, regulatory guidelines and requirements vary from market to market. For example, the list of ingredients may have to be disclosed in some markets but not in others. Manufacturers may also need to add specific data such as duty information or insert a geographical tracking code for product traceability. The ability to include data at the last minute therefore helps manufacturers be more flexible in their production. The added advantage of late stage customization is that it requires less packaging changeover time and less packaging material to use.


How has the industry changed over the past 3-5 years?

In order to grow market share, retain and gain new customers, companies need to satisfy customer demands for diversity. Therefore, there is increased pressure on the industry to offer new variants. In the past, the same type of product would be produced 24/7, but because of the diversification of the product range this has changed into the need for efficient and more speedy product changeovers. The production of one type of product may take place in a morning slot, with a different product – which may also differ in size – entering the production line later in the day. Demands for more rapid changeovers will continue to increase parallel to the need for labeling and coding systems to meet time requirements.

More and more coding is being used by manufacturers and retailers alike for marketing and brand promotions. QR codes, for example, are two-dimensional barcodes which can be used to record information about a product: consumers scan the code with their smartphone and get instant access to the relevant website where they can find out about current or forthcoming competitions, brand events and special offers. This is a great method for brand owners to capture information about the consumer and their preferential buying habits.

As code content increases, it is essential to optimize time and this adds pressure to daily operations. Manufacturing facilities now have to take into account the ability for coders to adapt to product changes, which include the selection of different codes and different code positioning on the product and processing line. Although this is an existing need, it is a challenge which was not there in the past. Thankfully, new technology such as coding hardware and software set-up tools which make changeovers simpler are now available.

How are industry demands influencing manufacturers buying trends?

Manufacturers need to increase lines speeds (or even add more lines) to meet the growing production demand for FMCG products and maximize their outputs. High end manufacturers do not increase the capacity of their lines significantly as too many things can go wrong with the numerous changes that may be required. Therefore, they increase line speed and may add a second line if necessary. Cost as always, is a big factor and it is important to consider what type of coding technology is being used. Inkjet printers and Thermal Transfer Overprinters (TTO), for example, require consumables such as fluids and ribbons. Laser is the only coding technology which doesn’t consume anything – apart from power of course. As more products go through the lines, laser coding is an option that cost conscious manufacturers might consider.


What are the major coding and marking concerns of consumers, manufacturers and retailers at the moment?

Manufacturers are concerned with legal issues around product quality, brand management and other reputational issues which may arise and lead to the recall and destruction of products – a potentially costly outcome. From a coding perspective, traceability is crucial and so is having the correct information on the products.

Retailers however, are more concerned with their logistic chain, wanting it to be as simple as possible with products being fully traceable but still in line with their own stock labeling system. Manufacturers and retailers have their own systems to define what constitutes as a variable code. Therefore, it is important for manufacturers of coding and labeling systems to fulfil requirements by understanding what customers want, whether they need high-quality QR code printers or an efficient system which will facilitate traceability. Consumers are primarily concerned about product quality and integrity, therefore the legibility of information on the product must provide information such as best by, or use by date.

An increase in more coding content, means that the laser coder has to have enough capacity, in terms of head room, to cope with the demand. Time optimization is therefore prioritized over other requirements as more characters have to be marked. Higher throughput and more content are areas of focus which Videojet is currently looking at. We are working on the integration of additional technology facilitating physical adjustments for changing product diameters (such as bottles) ensuring code quality as well as reduction in wrong data entries.

What are the latest packaging trends for beverages or cans? Are there any constraints due to certain applications? How do they influence laser marking systems?

A couple of years ago, there was a marked decrease in the use of cans in the beverage industry but it now seems that this packaging type has regained its popularity. Marking on aluminum is therefore becoming more common again. Aluminum cans are very easy to transport due to their light weight, and coding onto them is much easier than coding on other types of packaging. The fact that the best before date lasts longer on this type of material in comparison to glass is a likely factor of its regained popularity.
The introduction of the ultra-thin polyethylene terephthalate (PET) by bottled water and soft drinks producers has caused problems for laser coding systems. There is a risk that traditional lasers could burn a hole or creating weak points in the PET that may result in bottles bursting or leaking. Nevertheless, at Videojet we have modified our laser coders accordingly to reduce the depth of the laser marking, thus preserving the structural integrity of the PET.

What other advantages do laser marking systems have over other marking solutions?

A laser code is always permanent which is perfect for traceability as well as the prevention of counterfeiting. This printing method is a better option for beverage packaging compared to other coding solutions which may prove less efficient with applications such as stickers that can be easily removed and ink printed labels that get easily smudged and therefore become unreadable. Laser marking is of the highest quality, for example, the outcome being a nice solid line. Although the purchase price of laser marking systems is higher than the initial cost of an inkjet system, minimal operating costs lead to a lower total cost of ownership over time.


1) – Beverage Packaging Market by Beverage Types – Global Trends & Forecast to 2018