What’s in a food and beverage label? A lot. On the front of the label, if the color is even slightly off, the food looks less appealing. On the back, if the printing is smudged or you forgot to add certain nutritional information, you can end up with a lawsuit. Food and beverage labels are not products for which you want to go it alone. Your choice of food and beverage label partner matters.

“Food and beverage” is a broad category that includes two different types of labels:

  • The colorful customer-facing labels that identify and market the product. These are called “prime labels.
  • The less sexy but equally important product information (PI) labels required by law.

In some cases, labels are a hybrid of both, with a single wraparound label serving both functions. Whether the label is prime or functional, it plays a critical role in your brand.

Learn more about our label solutions here.

Food and beverage labels can be fun to design. Prime labels are essentially marketing pieces and offer wide latitude in creativity. They can be paper or synthetic—film or foil. Opaque or clear. Black-and-white or full brilliant color. Because they can end up being adhered to anything from folding cartons to glass bottles, not “just any” printer can produce them. These are specialty products that require a high level of expertise. Some labels may need to withstand high humidity, for example. Others may need to go from room temperature to freezing, then back again.

With so much variety in form and function, it’s clear why not just anyone can produce your labels — at least, not if you want to ensure that those labels do their jobs.

Design Considerations for Prime Labels

What are some of the considerations when designing prime labels for food and beverage market?

  1. Design your label with the same care as you would a print ad. Having a poorly designed or produced prime label is like having a boring or annoying television spot. Nobody pays attention. Labeling is part of your product marketing, so give it the same love as any other marketing piece.
  2. Protect your brand colors. If you look closely, the Tide Orange on the labels of Tide laundry detergent is the same Tide Orange as on their direct mail. When a shopper looks down the laundry detergent aisle, they can pick out the Tide box right away based on the color alone. Likewise, you want your brand colors to make you readily identifiable, even from a distance.
  3. Get creative. Because food and beverage labels are your face to market, you want them to stand out from the competition around them. Set your designers loose with a full range of design tools: bright, vivid colors; metallics; gloss and matte coatings; foil stamping: die cutting; embossing; and more. Ensure that your label printer has the capabilities of producing the design elements your creative team wants to use.
  4. Ensure accurate color reproduction. Shoppers associate the color of the products on the label with the color of the product inside. If the green beans on your label look slightly off — say, on the yellow or brownish side — shoppers will assume that your beans are less fresh or flavorful than the beans offered by your competitor. Ensure that your print shop is capable of precise color reproduction, not just on the first run, but on every run for months or years to come.
  5. Add interactivity. Prime food and beverage labels can offer interactivity, as well. This might be a QR Code leading to a gluten-free bread recipe on a box of almond flour or a video showing how to slice vegetables for trout julienne. On the augmented reality (AR) side, it might be shopper engagement experiences that allow wine labels to “come to life” with speaking characters, animations, or games.

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During the 2021 Superbowl season, PepsiCo enticed shoppers to scan a QR Code on limited-edition Pepsi cans and unlock exclusive artist and show assets and augmented reality filters.

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Food and Beverage Labels: Safety First!

When food and beverage labels come into contact with food, they have special production requirements, such as food-safe inks, coatings, and adhesives. Many will also need to endure a wide range of environmental conditions, including extreme temperatures and moisture. For example, a paper label on a craft beer bottle is as likely to be at room temperature as it is submerged in a bucket of ice.

Not every label printer can meet the full needs of the food and beverage market, so ask about their capabilities. You don’t want your labels smudging under high humidity or falling off when the products transition from room temperature to freezer. (Yes, that really happens.)

We Ask the Questions, So You Get It Right

To produce high-quality food and beverage labels, your print partner will need to ask you a series of questions, too. These include:

  • What is the application?
  • What substrate will the label be adhered to?
  • How long will it need to stay on?
  • Is it designed to be removable?
  • Do there need to be safety features (such as tamper-evident stickers)?

Food and beverage labels can be complex, but you don’t need to be an expert to design them—your print provider does. You just need to be able to answer the right questions. Your print provider figures out the rest. Here at BrandMark, we have decades of experience in R&D for the food and beverage market. We know how to meet the requirements for any combination of aesthetics, adhesion, and other properties right out of the gate. (Let your competitors learn by trial and error. You don’t have to.)

It’s also important to keep in mind that the more “bells and whistles” added to the design, the higher the cost of your label.  This is the value of a knowledgeable label provider like BrandMark. We can help you navigate the options to capture the look you want — and the functionality you need — within your budget.

When it comes to food and beverage labels, don’t go it alone!