Online Exclusives

Tips to Maximize Your Digital Label Printing Experience

By James Lowry and Mark Lusky, Lightning Labels | July 16, 2012

Digital label printing can deliver affordability, versatility to nutraceutical companies. Following are some practical tips to help streamline label prep and printing.

The agility and affordability of digital label printing make this technology a game-changer in the nutraceuticals labeling world. Digital label printing features cost-effective short runs, fast turnaround times, and the option to print high-quality, full-color graphics at the same price as one-color labels of comparable quality.
This technology is perfectly suited to an industry that often conducts market research and analysis on the fly—and therefore needs solutions that can scale from startup to “supersize me” in a very short period of time. That period of time can be a matter of days (e.g., a trade show where consumer demand vastly outstrips supply on hand). Digital’s high-end results at low cost also accommodate such test-market situations as private labeling for healthcare practices and the introduction of new products on a limited budget.
Evolving FDA regulations impacting the type and amount of information required on nutraceutical labeling strengthens the case further for digital label printing. Its crisp and clear printing quality enhances readability and therefore enables smaller type sizes. And, because labels can be changed and reprinted virtually on a dime, nutraceuticals companies can more readily and rapidly comply with new government mandates.
For example, if ingredient disclosures need greater detail, new labels can typically be printed within two to three days of submitting artwork with revised label format, size and/or design. All this choice and flexibility can be very attractive to nutraceutical product labelers.
Because of the array of options that nutraceutical labelers have when using digital label printing, a “how-to” decision-making map can simplify the process. Following are tips to help streamline nutraceutical label preparation and printing:
1. Consider label stock from a form, function, and messaging/branding perspective. From highly resilient and element-resistant stocks to eco-friendly options such as BioStone—literally made out of stone—the type of label material can say volumes about the attitude, philosophy and core values of a company. For example, an eco-friendly label can make a strong branding statement about the company’s commitment to preserve the environment—an important criterion in many of today’s buying decisions.
However, make sure you’re considering all angles and requirements before selecting a stock. BioStone is a very eco-friendly label made literally of stone. It offers excellent ink adhesion and is recyclable and fully compostable. BioStone is resistant to water, tearing, oil and mold and is acid-free, anti-fungal and FDA approved for food contact. However, it cannot be laminated. Depending on the product and its application, this may or may not be a good fit.
Besides the potential issue of eco-friendliness, think about the message you want your label stock to convey regarding the core values and culture of the company. If you want to make a dramatic “entrance,” select a stock that will make graphics and colors pop. High-end products targeting niche audiences generally need a label stock that promotes a crisp, clear look while also being extremely resistant to the elements. As the nutraceuticals market grows, so is a trend toward emulating big pharma with buttoned-down businesslike label stocks and printing.
Also think about the demographics and psychographics of your primary audience. Using a stock that will provide the best printing clarity can be very important to the visually impaired.
2. Create highest quality at the most cost-effective price. Strategize ways to optimize label look and feel and save money at the same time. Among the ways to help accomplish this dual objective are:
a) Consult with the graphic design/label printer team to optimize print efficiency. For example, standardizing packaging enables label standardization, which can drive the most cost-effective printing formats. Also, if a company wants to print five different labels, see what can be done to put all five on one template and print them at the same time—a big cost-saver.
Don’t stop there. Keep asking questions about the best ways to maximize bang for the buck. Conduct online research on the topic. Confirm information given to you with multiple sources. If, for example, a graphic designer provides a set of cost-saving recommendations, recheck with the label printer to make sure the suggestions align with their thinking, and see if they have additional ideas. Or, start with a printer and confirm suggestions with the graphic design team to make sure they will show the product in its best light.
b) Plan ahead as much as possible, working closely with the label printer to both communicate and understand what’s needed for the best outcome. While many digital label printers can turn around jobs in 2-3 days, upfront planning minimizes mistakes that can prove costly, both in terms of time and money.
c) Request free label material samples and press proofs that can be tested on the container before printing. These steps will show exactly how the label will look, print and fit on the container before starting the presses. As labels become more expansive to accommodate trends and new requirements toward expanded ingredient disclosure and detail, this approach also promotes testing of different label configurations—e.g., two labels or a wraparound label on a container.
3. Vet verbiage well before getting ready to print.  Today’s increasingly complicated nutraceuticals disclosure requirements should be handled by people very familiar with do’s and don’ts—legal advisors and the like. While label printers can refer customers to helpful resources in this area, final recommendations should be made by those tasked with these responsibilities—not the label printer. If a company wants to add the word “organic” prominently on the label, that company needs to make sure their product meets the requirements—again, not the printer’s responsibility. What a label printer can do is direct the company to helpful resources.
A critical element in the development of suitable, compliant label information is grammatically correct, typo-free content. It’s a growing challenge, due in part to the casual communication styles typified in emails and text messages. And while many people are oblivious to language gaffes and misspellings on labels, those who do notice typically wind up feeling uneasy about the product itself.
Many ask the logical question, “If they’re this sloppy with their label language, how sloppy are they with product ingredients and integrity?” While the pat answer is that the two areas are handled by two different departments, it nonetheless plants a seed of doubt. And that doubt can be the difference between buying or foregoing a product.
A recent personal outing illustrates this issue all too clearly. In the span of five minutes, two major typos were discovered on the front of the packaging for two major electronics manufacturers at a big box store. Given the mass merchandising of these products, it can be assumed that many thousands—even millions—of the packages are currently on display nationwide. A simple proofreading would have eliminated these errors.
Compounding the reputational problem for nutraceuticals manufacturers are the periodic media reports about unregulated supplements doing harm. While not a labeling error per se, a recent Dateline expose found people losing their hair and suffering other frightening health issues as a result of a formulary typo that dictated infusion of selenium in milligrams instead of micrograms—a thousand-fold dosage increase. Yes, typos can be life-threatening as well as upsetting.
4. Decide packaging specs early on. Again, label printers can provide suggestions and directions about what might work best based on company needs. However, a label printer isn’t the ultimate advisor. That’s best left to designers, packaging consultants and logisticians who can make recommendations about container size, shape and color, label size and placement, the best way to affix the label, such add-ons as a QR code, and so forth.
Despite the obvious wisdom of making labeling decisions early in the process, the ability to execute quickly on digital printing orders sometimes lulls companies into complacency. Because changes can be made on short notice, some companies wait until the last minute to finalize labeling decisions. Worse, sometimes it’s only after the labels are printed that the company discovers a legibility or placement problem.
The best advice is also the simplest - only mass print labels that have passed three container tests: appearance, fit and application methodology. A press proof should provide an exact copy of how the final label will appear. Making sure it fits properly on the container is a given. Finally, make sure the test process for affixing the label emulates what will occur in a production setting. Don’t hand apply a label meant to be machine applied. If both techniques will be used, try both out to ensure suitability before okaying the press run.
5. Address mid-term business development strategies during near-term planning. For example, increasingly, nutraceuticals companies are getting into private labeling for doctors, chiropractors and other healthcare practitioners. And, there are new developments with beauty enhancement in such areas as essential oils, and bath and body where private labeling continues to expand. This may warrant use of a removable label, so that the “standard” label can be easily removed and the container re-labeled with other information.  
Also, as the industry matures, some nutraceuticals manufacturers (especially larger ones) are adopting labels that more closely emulate “business-like” pharmaceutical products—heavy on information, lighter on dramatic graphics. Other segments of the industry, such as bodybuilding and enhancement supplements, continue to be flashier in their label designs.
As digital tools and regulations evolve, labeling will change. For example, as QR codes become more commonplace, there will be increasing demand to put these on labels. When that occurs, is there information that’s now being included on the label than can be “offloaded” to the site linked to the QR code—thereby freeing up space?
Likely, the FDA, Federal Trade Commission and other involved agencies will dictate that all necessary ingredient and certification information be placed on the physical label. Near term, at least, this will be justified on the basis that not everyone has access to the technology or know-how to find this important information anywhere but the actual label.
However, the QR code and other cyber-technologies will permit manufacturers to expand the scope of disclosure and to provide other information that helps substantiate claims and efficacy of a particular product. It also can be employed to link to relevant website and other online resources.
Besides ways to present product information in more depth, there are other strategic issues meriting consideration. For example:
·         Conduct some comparative test marketing by creating multiple label designs and deploying a variety of label stocks. Digital printing of one design or many costs the same, so this can be a very economical way to test out some ideas and hunches. See what resonates most with targeted audiences. This may reveal a whole host of likes and dislikes, ranging from age-centric preferences to the appeal of various looks—possibly spanning the continuum from conservative to flashy, businesslike to creatively explosive;
·         Create an additional market for the product—the label itself. Digital technology enables economical development of everything from “limited edition” numbered labels—which could feature a work of art or other “collectible,” to personalized labeling. Personalization could work like this: The manufacturer collects a specified number of orders, then creates personalized product labels targeted to buyers. So, instead of trumpeting just the product, it also heralds the customer—heightening perceived value, loyalty and goodwill.
6. Stay nimble. One of digital label printing’s strongest attractions is the ability to effect changes quickly—including scaling up/down production to meet immediate demands, and fast compliance with new regulations. There is built-in flexibility to create small batches of labels affordably in just a matter of two or three days. When a competitor rolls out a new line of high-profile eco-friendly labels, inks and adhesives, a nutraceuticals company may want to counter with its own eco-friendly offering. Digital label printing, incorporating increasingly eco-friendly choices, allows for development more or less “on the fly.”
This can expand as far as the imagination permits. For example, in an effort to attract a variety of private labeling candidates, a nutraceuticals company can offer a package deal that includes development of customized labeling and quantity product discounts. Because of digital printing’s flexibility, quantity breaks can be easily tiered based on manufacturer preferences. In contrast, traditional printing processes typically become cost-effective only in batches of thousands.
Private labelers can order on a just-in-time model in just about any quantity, and get an affordable, top quality product. This reflects well on the manufacturer, and assures the private labeler that their needs, large and small, will be met reliably.
Digital label printing offers a level of functionality and flexibility never before seen in the printing realm. In some ways, it’s like the Internet—promoting rapid development, convenient changes, and a very economical way to do business.
James Lowry is a subject matter expert in nutraceutical labelsand custom label printing. He is the General Manager of Lightning Labels, a premier provider of labels celebrating its ten year anniversary. He is a quarter-century veteran of the printing industry with experience in digital, flexo, offset and commercial printing.
Mark Lusky is a marketing communications professional who has worked with Lightning Labels since 2008. The company works with customers as business partners to provide labels that will help them be successful. Overallvalue to customers is a strong balance of high quality print, dependability, service, fast delivery, and fair pricing. Contact them at, 1-888-907-3004; or visit their website,

Related Market Segments:

  • Skeleton Crew: Solutions for Bone Health

    Skeleton Crew: Solutions for Bone Health

    Lisa Schofield, Contributing Writer||March 1, 2017
    Products that can help aging populations stay active and independent will be in a strong market position.

  • Packaging Equipment  Technology Trends

    Packaging Equipment Technology Trends

    Kristin Brooks, Associate Editor, Contract Pharma||March 1, 2017
    Biopharma trends drive advanced equipment capabilities.

  • Enzymes: Essential to Wellness

    Enzymes: Essential to Wellness

    Sean Moloughney, Editor||March 1, 2017
    Aiding digestion and helping the body absorb nutrients, enzymes play critical roles in nutrition.