Should you print your supplement labels digital or flexo? What about rotogravure label printing? It’s difficult to answer that question. That’s because choosing the best printing method for your custom nutraceutical labels and packaging depends on many factors, including run size, lead time, desired embellishments, sustainability goals, scale-up plans, and more.
In this post, we’ll look at the different printing methods available to nutraceutical brands and the limitations of each, so you can decide which is the best fit:
The top three print methods for nutraceuticals
Digital printing is the fastest growing printing platform for nutraceutical labels and packaging. Suitable for pressure sensitive labels, shrink sleeves, and flexible packaging, today’s digital presses deliver vibrant color, crisp detail, and photo-quality graphics. This print method is also compatible with our sustainable pressure-sensitive wash-off materials and recyclable flexible packaging.
How it works
Unlike traditional print, digital print doesn’t require statically imaged printing plates or cylinders. Instead, digital uses rapidly transferred electronic signatures to temporarily engrave the image onto an imaging plate. Then, the press deposits the appropriate ink colors (C, M, Y, K, O, V, G, and white) onto a blanket and transfers this ink layer onto the label material to produce the desired design.
Benefits of digital printing for nutraceuticals labels and packaging
Cost and time – Traditional printing requires the extra step of producing printing plates, which usually means longer lead times. Digital printing, on the other hand, utilizes plate-less technology, bypassing the cost and time associated with traditional printing. Traditional printing can be cost-prohibitive for the small- to medium-sized runs we typically see in the nutraceutical market. That’s because there are fewer labels to spread the setup costs to, making the cost-per-label much higher. In contrast, digital print is a cost-effective choice for brands requiring smaller runs and faster production time.
Effective print management – Digital label and packaging printing gives nutraceuticals brands the flexibility to print what they need, when they need it. On a digital press, you can print many versions of the same size label in a single run, often called “ganging”. As long as the labels are the same size and material, you can print different quantities per version. An example is printing 5,000 Vitamin C labels, 1,000 Omega 3 labels, and 2,000 Vitamin E labels, all in the same run. In this example, you’ll print what you need and get a unit price based on the combined quantity of 8,000 labels – a win-win. Digital printing is ideal for nutraceutical brands with many SKUs – helping them avoid obsolete label inventory and unnecessary waste. Better print management also allows brands to market-test new products and keep up with changing regulations.
Variable content – Lastly, digital print is the only print technology that can use variable content. Also known as variable data, this includes text, images, QR codes, sequential numbers, or barcode serialization that change from label to label. In the last few years, we’ve seen an uptick in variable data for products such as custom protein powder and daily vitamin packs. Print personalization like this has helped supplement brands to increase customer engagement and create a memorable brand experience.
Flexographic printing, also known as flexo printing, is the most common printing platform for supplement labels and packaging. Flexo is highly versatile and ideal for printing large areas of color and fine details.
How it works
Flexo label printing starts with imaging your design onto flexible printing plates, one for each color. These plates are mounted to rollers on the press, creating “stations”. As the material moves through the press, ink is carried to the printing plate and then transferred onto the label material. This process repeats for each color or embellishment.
Benefits of flexo printing for supplement labels and packaging
Economic for medium- and high-volume runs – Despite significant advances in digital printing, flexography is still the clear winner for medium to high-volume print orders. Although digital requires little setup, the printing itself is still comparatively expensive and slow. In contrast, flexo presses run at high speeds after the initial setup, getting you your labels sooner. While printing plates are an upfront cost, brands can use them indefinitely with no additional charge. So, for every print run, your cost per unit drops.
In-line converting – Laminating, embossing, and other embellishment processes add time and cost. But, flexo printing can integrate these processes along the press, cutting overall finishing time. We can add hot foils, cold foils, screens, lamination, coatings, varnishes, and rotary die cutting, all in line. This capability allows us to complete most jobs in a single pass, saving you time and money.
High-impact color – Flexo is known for delivering vibrant, eye-catching solid colors. Unlike other print methods, flexo presses give an impressively rich color after just one pass and support up to 14 colors on press. Whether you need a CMYK process, spot colors, or a Pantone-matched color, a dedicated printing plate for every color offers high color accuracy.
Rotogravure printing is well suited for extreme long-run and repeatability. It delivers a high-opacity print and is excellent at achieving half-tone and vignette reproduction.
How it works
Instead of printing plates, a rotogravure press uses laser-etched cylinders. Like flexo printing, a printing cylinder for each color is needed. As material runs through the press, the printing cylinder carries ink from the ink pan and applies it on the web. At the same time, a doctor blade removes ink from non-printing areas to ensure a clear impression. This process will repeat based on the number of colors in the design.
Benefits of rotogravure printing for nutraceutical labels
Long runs and flagship lines – Rotogravure is ideal for flagship lines that run without significant changes. The cylinders last for millions of impressions, ensuring consistency for high-volume runs. Smaller brands don’t typically opt for rotogravure printing. Still, brands with a national presence or fewer SKUs could benefit from this method.
Sustainability – Today, our recyclable shrink sleeve portfolio must print on our rotogravure platform. These solutions utilize our GreenLabel™ ink technology, which completely wash off the ground shrink flakes. This solvent-based ink technology allows the label and bottle to be recycled.
Still trying to figure it out?
As we began, there is no hard-and-fast rule to choosing the right print platform for your next nutraceutical project. Generally, flexo or rotogravure printing are sensible choices for large label orders, especially if that product will be on shelves across the country. Digital print is typically the method of choice for smaller brands, where the cost-per-label and order sizes may be prohibitive. But, digital is also great for larger brands that want to market-test a new product, offer a seasonal flavor, or would like to try variable or personalized graphics.