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Long label of the law

Long label of the law

With new legislation enacted in the labelling industry, companies are learning how best to adapt to the changes. Dave Howell goes in search of answers to vital questions, such as whether the regulation is necessary and how it will affect brand-partners.

Changes to label regulations pose issues for brands, their supply chain partners and label converters. Mark Tibbetts, president at TLMI, says: "As with the other printed packaging sectors, regulations and compliance pressures are having the most impact in the food, beverage, pharmaceutical and nutraceutical categories."

Tibbetts adds: "Some of the regulatory issues we predict will impact label design include the GMO labelling compliance, ePedigree and track-and-trace, and heightening nutritional labelling standards for certain food and beverage packaging categories. The label has to carry increased amounts of information, as it is often the sole informational medium on the container."

Labelling like this puts pressure on converters. For instance, increased information required on labels to curb obesity in the UK has meant brands and the government are in disagreement with converters. Despite the conflict at times, converters will continue to be engaged in the debates on legislative changes.

Little impact

Label regulation has been going on for several years. Regulations such as BRC Global Standards and EU Directive 1169/2011 are major pieces of legislation that impact the food-labelling sector.

The severity of the changes on the labelling converting industry brought about by existing or future legislation is debatable, according to John Bambery, chairman of BPIF Labels: "Besides label converters in the food production sector that have had to consider legislation such as low-migration inks, which have now been taken on-board by suppliers to the label-printing sector, regulations have had little impact on businesses in the rest of the industry. Many feel that we have enough legislation to deliver high levels of consumer protection, but this doesn’t seem to stop the steady creep of new regulations."

Bambery says that BPIF Labels, as a trade body, gives information to its members so they can make suitable decisions when looking for service providers and suppliers. Supermarkets, for instance, will demand sustainability and they expect labelling partners to adhere to current legislation, such as being BRC accredited, and having the ISO 14001 and PS 9000 quality assurance standard.

The European Commission recently published the revised circular economy regulations, which if adopted by the UK in its current form will completely transform the UK’s packaging waste directive, Bambery says. "This will add significant cost to companies. BPIF labels will be lobbying strongly on behalf of the label industry."

Service providers are investing in technology that enables labelling converters to adhere to regulations. Codex, prepared itself by buying a Xeikon CX3 digital press. Company chairman Károly Orbán says: "The incredibly fast production speeds and high quality have helped us increase productivity and profitability. Thanks to its Cheetah toner, we can supply the food, cosmetics and pharma industries with labels that conform to the latest EU regulations. In fact, we have already produced several different labels for Nestlé Hungary since we installed the system a short time ago."

Future of regulations

The food sector will always have the most complex labelling regulations, which means that companies need to think creatively and practically about staying relevant and within the law. Innovia Films, for example, produced its first top-coated BOPP label films, UltraFoil CFA (clear) and WFA (white), which meet FDA and EU regulations.

Alasdair McEwen, product manager of labels at Innovia Films says: "The pressure-sensitive label value chain is under the spotlight with retailers, brand-owners and consumers who are expecting labels to meet the same regulations as traditional food packaging. Until recently, top-coated filmic labelstock materials did not have to meet global regulations for food-contact compliance. Innovia Films is proud to say that its UltraFoil CFA and WFA top-coated label films are now food-contact compliant."

Intelligently designed labels, like those from Innovia Films, will become more popular as technology reduces in price. Digitisation will also motivate labellers to get connective, making labels compatible with mobile devices. Having a smart label can provide information about ingredients and calories.

The SmartLabel initiative, supported by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, manufacturers and retailers, uses technology that allows consumers to scan a barcode, which takes them online to a page with detailed information about the product.

Pamela G Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, says: "People want information about products they buy, use and consume. SmartLabel puts it at their fingertips. SmartLabel will change how people shop."

Labelling converters need to include more information to keep brand-partners and consumers happy, but legislation should be applied with their consultation.