Colour me good

8 July 2019

Quality, price, intensity, toxicity – inks deliver visual impact as well as changing the character of the packaging. With increased appreciation of the complete package, ink has to be as transparent as it is colourful. Emma-Jane Batey speaks to brand owners across the value chain to learn more.

Positive packaging is teamwork. There's no point having the most sustainable material and the best design if consumers can't pick out your product on the shelf because the ink's faded in the sunlight. All the elements of positive packaging have to work together to create a home for the product within; a home that consumers can buy in to.


For Colorlites, the small, specialised coloured glass manufacturer based in Chatham in Kent, UK, its nearly seven decades of expertise in colouring and printing glass means it is both the past and the future for unique coloured-glass applications. Sales director Nicole Walmsley discusses how the company's ‘close to the customer’ approach means it has developed a range of much-loved products for both small and large brands. Walmsley says, “As a long-established British company that works with brands worldwide, we specialise in the coating, colouring and printing of glass, mainly for the cosmetic industry. We also work with food applications, designer brands, aromatherapy brands and beautiful restoration requirements. Coloured glass can take many different effects by the way the various colours are applied; our machinery and process lend themselves to quality spraying of many small components in large and small runs.”


Colorlites has recently been working with luxury skincare brand Rock Rose to create a range of bespoke coloured, printed glass that supports the brand's Art Deco style and helps it to stand out in a crowded market. Rock Rose's co-founder Raquel Le Bron explains, “We knew we wanted to create a range that would be different from the usual natural packaging and that would appeal to both men and women; one of our challenges was to convey the idea of a luxury beauty product along with a strong unisex appeal. We also knew we wanted to use recycled and environmentally friendly packaging, so the next task was to find a company who would work with us on small runs initially. Eventually, we found Colorlites on our doorstep in Kent and it was able to create our bespoke jars and bottles once it received our artwork, which was created by illustrator and designer Mat Wells.”


Visual interpretation


The distinctive black and gold packaging across Rock Rose's range is the perfect visual interpretation of its products, which are packed with natural, powerful ingredients that are especially beneficial to mature skin and those dealing with skin issues including scars, acne and psoriasis. Le Bron continues, “Our glass bottles and jars are made from recycled glass and are sprayed matt black by hand. Our logo and artwork has been made into a life-long screen print for each product to which our gold lettering is applied. The lid for our jars is a Bakelite finish, which links to our Art Deco feel. Our bottles also have a tamper-proof pipette; we deliberately chose seals with great function and feel to avoid the use of excessive outer packaging.”


Walmsley from Colorlites goes on to explain how working together with a brand that is passionate about its packaging allowed the company to create a solution that works across its product range. She adds, “The Rock Rose team – Raquel and co-founders aromatherapist Vanessa McNeilly and entrepreneur Lindsay Wright – had such a definite idea of what they wanted and this actually made it easier for us as we knew we could deliver on their brief. They gave us the artwork and we were really inspired by it, we love their brand. We colour and print all the glass in house, hand-spraying the bottles matt black and then using a machine for the silk screen print in the opaque metallic gold. We use a mesh, the bottles are placed on holders and then printed, then oven-fired at 180°C; it's a very tight quality control across the whole process.”


Colorlites' extensive bespoke capabilities highlight its ability to work with customers of all sizes and create tailor-made packaging that is beautiful and sustainable. Walmsley notes, “We work with all Pantone colours and can match to any sample colour. We've always specialised in glass and we're finding that now, more than ever, people don't want to use plastic anymore. Glass looks better and it has a wonderful second-life potential; we've created gin bottles that people use as vases, skin care jars that people use as candle holders – we are truly bespoke, we can make anything out of glass in any colour.”


Print on anything


It is clear that the role of ink is important across substrates. While glass is increasingly popular, many producers cannot or do not want to choose glass – just because consumers know that glass can be reused or recycled, doesn't mean those creating a product always do. For packaging manufacturer Saxon Packaging, based in Lowestoft, UK, and part of the global Smurfit Kappa Group, the choice of packaging the company offers is at the heart of its success, with its long-term focus on delivering 'an overall quality-driven packaging solution that other manufacturers aspire to'.


Neil Gooch, supervisor at Saxon Packaging, is quick to highlight how the evolving packaging and print sector impacts on its customer-focused decisions. He says, “The print industry is changing, with more and more emphasis on being environmentally friendly – our ink suppliers have recognised the need for an improvement to the inks effect on the environment while ensuring performance of the inks do not reduce. In February 2019, Saxon Packaging changed from a water-based mineral ink to a water-based organic ink on after extensive testing. Before this change we had, on occasion, experienced 'pin holing' – when the ink separates leaving small dots in the ink on the finished surface - and so we used an anti-foam to reduce foaming post mixing and pumping as we believe this may be causing the issue. However, thanks to moving over to organic ink, it will not only be more beneficial for the environment but, we believe, it will also resolve this occasional issue.”


This choice to use water-based organic ink is being seen more often across the industry. Brands are realising that they can't shout about their healthy, natural credentials without being prepared to go a bit deeper and being able to prove their behaviour across their product.


Take, for example, Bellygoodness, a fast-growing range of 'healthy gut' cooking sauces that do not contain any gluten, yeast, dairy, added sugars or ingredients that are known to promote inflammation or cause gut irritation. Bellygoodness founder Gail Enever says, “Our packaging is what represents our identity to our customers; our packaging helps to portray vibrancy, health and has a friendly, fun factor to it. We chose an outer card wrap to give us more space to present the information to our customers; included in that information is key decision-making information, so this additional space is very valuable to us. We use vibrant colours, and the overall look and feel of the products is very inviting. We wanted to guarantee that that responsible, inviting approach was reflected in the materials we use too, so the outer wrapper is made from recyclable card and it is printed with vegetable-based ink.”


 Add value


Brands across categories are appreciating that the decisions they make regarding the packaging reflects very strongly on its brand identity. The award-winning Bullards Gin, based in Norfolk, UK – a heritage brand that has been relaunched using its traditional brand currency locally and nationally – knows that its beautiful glass bottles are a close sibling to the gin itself, with its packaging an eye-catching differentiator in the rapidly expanding sector of artisan gin. Laura Marfell-Williams, PR account director for Bullards, says, “The labels for our London Dry and Old Tom are created by screen-printing in layers. The initial idea came from design agency Stranger & Stranger, who came up with the overall concept for the new packaging design. We then worked with our bottle supplier Bruni Erben on the execution. We particularly love the copper accents in the stopper and the tipsy anchor symbol that's centre stage on the front of the bottle, as they match the copper of our still perfectly. Our packaging gives you all the information you'd normally expect to see on a label but delivered in a way that supports and enhances the premium, handcrafted nature of our product.”


In terms of the specific ink used to create the precise demands of the beautiful Bullards Gin glass bottles, Marfell-Williams explains, “We spent a bit of time trying our different levels of transparency as the initial spray colour to London Dry bottles (aqua) and Old Tom (black) was completely opaque. We wanted consumers to be able to see the liquid inside the bottle, so we eventually settled on 70% opacity. Very few other gin bottles are packaged this way so it's great for differentiation, plus the bottle looks better for longer as it can be wiped clean without damaging the 'label', which is especially important when on the shelf behind a bar or for consumers' second-life applications.”


Ink offers differentiation, information, style and a great way to continue the values of the brand through its packaging, so it's no surprise that ink is increasingly part of the packaging brief.

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