Tricks of the Food Trade for the Printing Industry
by Ryan Szporer
Printing leaders aren’t just at the top of their industry. In many ways, they also need to be experts of the domains in which they do business. Printers take different approaches to cater to specific clients, like in the food industry, for example.
Food Industry Similarities and Differences
To remain at the top, printers have no choice but to become jacks of all trades… and masters too. After all, if you’re not a master, you’re just missing out. That’s missing out on potentially lucrative jobs and opportunities to build up your reputation and business. The food industry is no different. It obviously has its particularities relative to others, and that extends to the printing sub-sector within it.
For example, short runs, which allow for greater flexibility and different packaging designs, are becoming increasingly common overall. In the food industry specifically though, it’s in large part because of needs for different packaging varieties due to promotional and seasonal events. Meanwhile, short lead times provided to print suppliers are more and more necessary to cope with increasing demand.
Respecting Food Safety
Food packaging typically accounts for approximately 50% of total packaging sales. However, like in the pharmaceutical industry, food labeling and packaging still has to respect a wide array of regulations (from the Food and Drug Administration). After all, pharmaceutical products in specific doses can be dangerous, food can go bad, presenting similar concerns.
Any packaging components that come into contact with the food are assumed to become part of it, prompting the FDA to compile a list of acceptable materials to use (21 CFR). With migration of printed materials a constant concern, food-safe ink is also increasing in popularity. It’s reportedly growing at 6% in volume (faster than the food packaging market itself), from the 250,000 tons reported as being used in 2016.
Numbers like that further reinforce the logical deduction that packaging of a type of product that is consumed in general terms around three times a day is big business and needs to be right. As a result, when designing food packaging, considerations must be made regarding protection against damage and contamination in general (even with air) and the prevention of the production leaking.
Food Labels and Packaging
This is admittedly addressed more by the different types of food packaging, with goods like almonds and dried-up fruit shifting packaging types from boxes to stand-up pouch bags, because of cost concerns. In addition, much like in the pharmaceutical industry, tamper indication can involve special printing of holograms or text that changes once the product in question has been opened.
Self-adhesive labels are big in the food industry, for numerous reasons, most notably their versatility. Able to conform to different shapes of surfaces—flat, curved, etc.—the labels come in different varieties of actual adhesives. Depending on the material of the packaging and storing temperatures/ conditions, the right, certified adhesives are most certainly available to printers, as long as there is a need.
The name of the game continues to be demand. There will always be demand for food and, thus, food packaging. The trick is keeping ahead of that demand… and always meeting it.