The glue that keeps it together
Effective adhesive is very much the swan of the packaging world, frantically kicking its legs under the surface to look graceful and purposeful above. Emma-Jane Batey speaks to industry players and brand owners to appreciate how the right adhesive can literally keep a product together.
Adhesive is one of those things that, when it does its job properly, no one really notices. But if it fails, you're sure to know about it. So it pays to make sure that the right adhesive for the application is chosen upfront, because if it doesn't perform as required, it can be an expensive mistake. With increasing awareness of the environmental performance of adhesives working alongside this seen-but-not-heard high performance expectation, manufactures appreciate that this is definitely not a corner worth cutting.
Chris Jenkin from Penzance's Headland Printers Ltd is as passionate about getting the packaging right for his customers as he is about choosing the right materials in the first place. Jenkin tells Converting Today, “We've been in this business for many years and I still chose the materials I buy because of the expertise of the sales rep. I expect quality products and I love it when the rep actually knows their stuff; we mainly buy our adhesives from Intuprint and Print Graphics because I can talk to the reps and get their experience to really add value to what we're working on.”
This added value presents itself in the information regarding how the various adhesives perform on different substrates, with Jenkin explaining that changes in the quality of materials available means that each project has to be assessed on its own merits. He says, “We assess how the packaging is going to be used, how far it's going to travel, how it's going to be sold…and we really test the adhesive on different substrates to see what is the most appropriate. For example, we're often finding that we're feeding looser surfaces through the machine as the paper available is changing and really needs to be manipulated with care and it's here that picking the right glue really comes into play. We're tending to use tape at the moment as some hot and cold adhesive applications can crack and distort the substrate, which of course would be very expensive if you have to redo the job.”
Make it stick
Respected leading UK adhesives manufacturer Power Adhesives is both the voice of reason and expertise when it comes to hot glue, cold glue, tapes and everything else that sticks stuff together. Basildon-based Power Adhesives was established in 1974 and manufactures a range of hot melt adhesives and application equipment for industry. For the converting industry, Power Adhesives' products are widely appreciated thanks to their fast setting speeds and easy automation, with the company also the market leader in industrial hand-held glue guns that can apply adhesive in dot, bead and spray patterns.
Director Dave Sweeney tells Converting Today how Power Adhesives prides itself on offering a total solution from its unique perspective. “Unusually in this sector, Power Adhesives is a manufacturer of both adhesives and equipment. This means we can look at a user's application with a total solution. This enables us to get an optimum balance between the application equipment and the adhesive, and allows us to develop adhesives that offer the right balance of performance and value.”
Not content to just deliver performance-driven complete solutions, Power Adhesives is also keen to stay one step ahead of industry trends, adding even more value to its customers' packaging. Sweeney adds, “Basic packaging hot melts have been available for many years and it is fair to say the market has matured and, with it, the competition between manufacturers has created pressure for ever lower prices. This encouraged some manufacturers to use lower cost raw materials which gradually reduced the performance of the hot melts. These would be less versatile, had strong odours and would degrade in bulk tanks causing filter and nozzle blockages, leading to down time and product failures.”
Mr Sweeney explains how a focus on quality adhesives through utilising the most modern polymers allows for reliable high performance. “These new polymers means that more versatile hot melts have been developed and, although more expensive, the reduction in downtime and maintenance costs has seen many users convert, improving quality and efficiency. We've also seen a major change in the various very high quality finishes and films that are being used on many stock materials. These can be challenging to bond reliably, even more so if microwave or deep freeze applications are involved. Fortunately, the new polymers have allowed us to formulate hot melt adhesives that are suitable for these very difficult applications.”
Attached to brand values
Brand owners reflect the fact that the right adhesive for their packaging is an expectation, with no tolerance for under-performing materials, particularly when it is essentially the unseen aspect of their product. But performance is only one part of it – environmentally responsibility is also ever-important when it comes to sourcing and choosing adhesives. While the packaging material itself has been in focus for some time with regards to sustainability, increasingly brands are aware that the under-the-radar elements are also influential.
For up-and-coming holistic personal care brand Urban Veda, each aspect of the packaging is a marker of its brand intention. The London-based brand manufactures all its products in the UK and favours working with suppliers across the value chain that work to the same high standards it expects of itself. Founder Sheilesh Shah tells Converting Today, “I had a clear vision of the final product, from the philosophy to the packaging, everything about Urban Veda reflects our holistic approach. Founded on the ancient principles of Ayurveda, all our products are naturally formulated to provide for all skin types while factoring in the effects of environment, stress and dehydration play on our skin.”
With this completely natural and effective philosophy underpinning the whole Urban Veda brand, Shah explains how every element of the product ingredients has to fit in with its values. “All our packaging is recyclable, and our bottles are made out of post-consumer recycled plastic. Recycling is like Karma, what goes around comes around. We're proud of our sourcing provenance and all of our cartons are Forest Sustainability Certified. It makes perfect sense that everything we use in our products is strictly controlled as it's the very ethos of Urban Veda. So something as seemingly invisible as the adhesive used in our packaging has its role to play, its place in the creation of our product and our brand.”
Sheilesh Shah clearly understands how paying close attention to details supports an overall feeling of brand identity and quality, with his careful decisions evident in each aspect of the product. “While we use block colour on our packaging, we are fond of smaller touches and the finer details too. We use a range of processing while manufacturing our packaging, including matt varnish and gloss varnish for a contrasting look. We also use metallic pantones with a raised ink process to create an embossed effect. These choices obviously then impact on the adhesives required, with our demand for performance as strong as our demand for responsible and sustainable packaging. A key challenge for us is ensuring quality and consistency across our product range when working with different suppliers. It is vital to always be precise and vigilant with any design briefs, and we always ensure we perform a test run before producing large batches.”
Although talking in great detail about adhesives may not be the best idea at parties, it is certainly a vote winner when it comes to ensuring product packaging impresses customers and keeps brands loyal to packaging suppliers.