Protecting Brand Reputation in the Dairy Industry
The dairy sector is seeing plenty of new product development and line extensions as consumers demand both to eat more healthily and to be able to snack on-the-move, while still enjoying the occasional treat.
Notable recent examples include beet yoghurt, protein ice cream, curd cottage cheese with fruit, and Kefir, all contributing to a projected global growth in demand for dairy of 2.5% pa to 2020.
At the same time, today’s consumers are more educated about the food they buy and more concerned about food quality and safety. And in today’s social media world, where problems and complaints are widely shared, a hard-won brand reputation can be easily lost.
Brand owners and retailers therefore go to great lengths to protect their reputations, supplementing the already comprehensive legal requirements with their own stringent standards. The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) is also driving continuous improvement in food safety management systems around the world. There are now numerous GFSI-recognised accreditation and audit schemes, such as FSSC, IFS and SQF, all of which ensure companies manage and meet their food safety responsibilities
The Role of the Printed Code
The production of printed variable codes plays a small but significant role in helping to deliver this brand reputation.
Most importantly, it enables producers to meet the requirements of these various international standards as well as to comply with any regulatory or legal requirements. Lot numbers and batch codes provide valuable traceability information; use-by dates are an essential part of ensuring consumers are able to enjoy products at their best. 2D barcodes can include ingredient and supplier information which consumers can access by scanning the barcode with their smartphone.
It is vital therefore that this information is both correct and legible to ensure that manufacturers are consistently meeting all the necessary standards. Printing equipment with simple, intuitive controls and picture-based message creation will help to simplify and speed set-up procedures while reducing the risk of errors. Different users can be assigned different levels of permission to create, select or change messages, and set-up can be carried out remotely, further minimising the possibility of inadvertent tampering or errors.
Packaging as a Brand Ambassador
Packaging is an important element of establishing and maintaining brand reputation. Indeed, in the USA, one third of adults believe that high quality packaging is an indicator of food quality. Any code therefore has to complement and not detract from the overall look and design of the packaging, while still being easy to find and read. Smudged or illegible codes will lead to product rework or wastage, especially if highly perishable goods are involved. Goods rejected once they leave the factory will result in additional costs such as product returns and retailer fines.
Ink jet printers with a quick drying ink will ensure the quality of each code. Specialist inks can print through a light layer of condensation and will not rub off even when moisture remains on the packaging. Laser marking systems leave a permanent code.
The Increase in Pack Formats
The proliferation of new products inevitably leads to the need for many different pack formats and packaging materials. Printer selection should therefore focus on a model with the capability to print onto a variety of different substrates, from cardboard, plastic, metal and glass, to waxed paper and cartons, plastic film and pouches, and metal foils.
With pack sizes getting smaller, there could be limited space available to print the necessary information, particularly as the code may have to be of a minimum size to meet legal requirements. Look for printers that can deliver the code accurately and with quality into a small space. The ability to print at any angle and on all parts of the pack – top, side or bottom – will be advantageous. And if the production line handles a range of products, a printer with a traversing printhead that can print codes across multiple lines may be the answer.
The Customer Experience
Retailing is all about delivering a positive customer experience. An attractive and well-presented pack is an important part of this, so it is essential that your printed code supports this through both its functionality and appearance. This will give you the dual reassurance of effective compliance and brand protection.