Experts Dissect Effective Wine Labels

Digital conference explores design, planning, materials and the current market

by Jane Firstenfeld
Click the slide above to listen to presentations from Wines & Vines editor Jim Gordon and other experts on the subjects of wine and wine labels.
Brookfield, Wis.—Labels & Labeling magazine assembled a diverse professional panel to address a webinar focused on the North American wine industry June 18. The agenda, moderated by Labels & Labeling North America editor Danielle Jerschefske, included the industry’s continued strong growth, buying patterns of Baby Boomer vs. Millennial consumers, the intricacies of planning and producing effective labels and improving technology and materials.

Take away messages
• The proliferation of wine brands means competition is fierce—both for shelf space and buyers.
• Millennials buy lots of wine, but they shop differently than Baby Boomers. A clear idea of your market is essential.
• New materials and printing techniques offer limitless opportunities for standout label design.
• Don’t rush into rebranding or relabeling your product. Take the time to collaborate with all concerned to maximize impact and minimize costs.

Wines & Vines editor Jim Gordon set the stage, presenting detailed proprietary data demonstrating the recession-defying steady growth of the U.S./Canadian wine industries during the past decade.
    Webinar recap

    Click here to watch the Digital Wine Label webinar from Labels and Labeling magazine.

Driven by increased sales and consumption, and fueled by the proliferation of wineries and brands across the continent, growth of the market means that packaging wines for instant shelf-appeal is vital.

“The U.S. is now the No. 1 market in the world, and it is a target for imports,” Gordon said. “This sets the stage for great packaging and labels. More impressive than the market growth is the growth of U.S. wineries, which took off after the Millennium, even faster than sales. Our data shows more than 7,558 wineries (including brick and mortar and virtual wineries) in the U.S., and 529 total wineries in Canada.” Many of these wineries have more than one wine brand, amounting to an additional 3,150 extra brands, in all.

“It’s a lot of competition. There has never been as exciting a creative explosion of unusual names and labels,” Gordon said, citing IRI’s Top 10 New Brands of 2012: Skinny Girl, Be, Bella Bolle, Acronym, Maron, Fancy Pants, Thorny Rose, Wine Sisterhood, Flirt and Ooh La La.

“Wineries typically used to be named for trees, ridges, mountains and chateaux,” Gordon said. Newer brands, though, succeed with quirky, humorous names designed to capture the eyes, interest and abundant dollars of younger buyers.

Reeling them in
Toni Hamilton, director of marketing for ASL PrintFX, said that with all the competition, wine labels must be striking. “The label is your billboard. Consumers shop with their eyes first.”

Label printers and designers must partner with wineries to optimize sales. Consumers, she stated, will buy their first bottle because of the label. “What’s inside will sell the second bottle. On a store shelf, you have just three seconds to grab a buyer’s attention.”

The package must reflect the wine and its selling points; it must reflect the personality of your winery and be something you’re proud of. Appealing to buyers across generations, Hamilton said, “is a fine line to walk.”

Millennials, she pointed out, shop differently from Baby Boomers. “Boomers need legible typography with larger fonts. Light colors printed on dark bottles can be difficult to read.

“Go to the store as a consumer,” Hamilton suggested. “Forget about the juice inside: What makes the label pop on the shelf?”

While Boomers with fading eyesight are drawn to large type, “Millennials put more value on fun: quirky humor, interesting names, bold bright colors, unique shapes. Make it memorable and fun,” Hamilton stressed. “They prefer more modern design: large, bold type, unique pictures. They won’t pick up chateaux. Add personality.”

The emergence, speed and convenience of digital printing make that process great for low-volume labels, she said. “There is no one best type of printing; each has its benefits. Collaborate with your printers to get the right process, or combination of processes.”

Hamilton described current options for standout labels: Embossing or debossing to create 3D effects with a premium look. “Remember to leave enough space between the letters for embossed printing,” she said.

Die cutting produces unusual shapes for labels, or transparent windows where the wine peeks through. Foils provide metallic highlights; holographic patterns are alluring to the eye and still rare. Varnish can provide protection or draw attention with spot varnish, matte or gloss. “We now can do all the technology in one pass” rather than multiple printing passes, Hamilton said. “You don’t need to use all of them, though.”

Label-on-label peel-away label add-ons can suggest action, food pairing or offer promotion codes. Forty-nine percent of Millennials will scan a QR code if they see one. Hamilton cautioned, however, “If you decide to use QR coding on your labels, make sure you have the resources to support it. It provides an immediate payoff.…Make sure to mobilize your landing page; make it valuable.” Most commonly seen on back labels, QR codes can be used as an integral part of the package design.
wine label webinar
Typically relegated to the back label, QR codes are front and center for these wine label designs.

PS: Stuck on your bottle
Label stocks aren’t just paper anymore. Matt Rampala, wine and spirits business development manager for Avery Dennison Label & Packaging Materials, North America, described recent advances in pressure-sensitive (PS) labels offering easy of application and countless design opportunities for wineries. PS labels, he explained, are “material sandwiches assembled of the face stock, a self-contained glue adhesive and a liner to protect the individual labels on their rolls.”

Their advantages: shelf appeal and impact, serving as a canvas for visual effects; textured papers to provide distinct visual, tactile and sensory effects; subsurface printing for striking “no label” designs and varied label shapes.

Label manufacturers continue to upgrade wet-strength face stocks suited for white wines and sparkling bottles; adhesives for removable labels and special PS materials providing the security of tamper evidence. Avery Dennison’s Aquastick range is especially adapted for application on chilled bottles of sparkling wines.

PS labels are, Rampala said, “easy to set up and maintain on the bottling line; more user friendly to bottling line operators.”

Some PS labels are now mounted on PET liner rolls, arguably more sustainable than traditional paper rolls because of reduced greenhouse gas emissions, water use, waste footprint and use of trees in their production, Rampala said.

On the other hand, one of the freshest ideas from Avery Dennison is a label faced with genuine wood veneers instead of paper. Thin layers of birch and cherry wood, uniquely grained, add a novel look and texture. The labels can be stained or charred, and can be top-coated for compatibility with flexo- or digital printing processes. 
wine label webinar
In lieu of paper, thin layers of birch and cherry wood can be stained or charred for use as wine labels.

Word from a winery
Catherine Didulka, director of creative services for Constellation Brands Canada, stated, “Labels play a critical role in the success of a wine product. How does your label break through? Knowing the process can help to give your label confidence.

“Color, texture, brand and shape are significant elements to make the connection harmonious and deliver the right information.”

For Constellation, and wineries of any size, collaboration and planning are essential. “Design is not a mysterious ritual,” Didulka said. “It means the structure and organization of visual information to aid in communication and orientation, using words, symbols and images.

“The role of design in business is to address the needs of consumers and visually express the values and beliefs of the business.”

Didulka recommended starting the process with a brief defining the project’s parameters and scope and the story behind the label. This collaborative effort between the brand owner and the design team will build a solid foundation. This should include, among other things, a category review of comparably priced brands, definition of the audience, reflection of the company’s portfolio, philosophy, values and business objectives.

After the brief is finalized and approved, she said, the design process continues in four key stages:
Concept presentation: Make sure the concept answers the brief. Make sure it delivers. This can be costly, requiring clarity and buy in from all parties.
Preproduction meeting: A must, involving the printer, design team and owners. Review the file, make sure the design aligns with the printer’s capabilities. “Test it, or it will cost more.”
Design requirements: Check them all. Test the drawdowns; test the labels before running the labels. “Foil and varnishes will not be replicated” in this step.
Press approval of the final label: Your last chance to make slight adjustments.

“Invest in time,” Dudulka recommended. “A clearly defined process is integral to success.”

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