H.B. Fuller's Crjstians Porcheddu, end-of-line packaging and labelling business manager, and Judith Liddle, marketing manager, converting solutions, EIMEA, discuss the company's leading adhesive technology and the benefits of forming partnerships in the beverage industry.
Since 1887, H.B. Fuller has been a leading global adhesives provider that focuses on perfecting adhesives, sealants and other speciality chemical products. With a pro forma net revenue of more than $2.8 billion, the company's commitment to innovation is evident through its reliable and responsive service, which creates lasting and rewarding connections with customers in electronics, disposable hygiene, medicine, transportation, aerospace, clean energy, packaging, construction, woodworking and other consumer businesses.
The company began by asking itself what the main drivers of change are, and why businesses should be turning to H.B. Fuller for help. "Our discussions with people in bottling, beverage and other sectors have shown that changes are rapid and diverse," says Crjstians Porcheddu, H.B. Fuller's end-of-line packaging and labelling business manager. Packaging and labelling needs are complex, with the risk of costly adhesive failures underpinning the importance of working with a market-leading adhesive manufacturer - an expert partner who can give clients guranteed access to the full spectrum of solutions."
He adds, "Think of the economic pressure to increase line speed and efficiency. There is the challenge of intensifying competition, which is forcing beverage companies to seek new and different bottle shapes, substrates and card multipack container designs to get their products seen. Then we must consider the increasingly stringent food and drink safety regulations, as well as the consumer's growing appreciation of sustainability issues. Each of these varying factors requires a clever adhesive solution and application expertise."
Porcheddu expands on this, saying that H.B. Fuller has responded to diverse needs with a range of labelling adhesives, based on its 'limitless labelling' vision. In other words, the company believes that the creativity of bottle and label designers, and the efficiency ambitions of production managers, should not be constrained by adhesive technology.
H.B. Fuller has developed wet-labelling adhesive to enhance the performance of high-speed and high-volume bottling lines. "Labelling machines can now reach speeds of up to 80,000 bottles an hour. For this, clients need particularly clean -running adhesive - one that is suited to placing labels accurately at speed. Otherwise, businesses may suffer from high-adhesive consumption and unacceptable labelling quality, as well as downtime and wastage," explains Porcheddu.
"Of course, machine speed is only one of many variables that affect the optimum choice of adhesive. Any change to the labelling material, or the shape and composition of the bottle, can influence adhesive performance. The temperature and moisture levels of bottles during labelling can also have an effect. In Africa - where we have been responding to fast growth for beer and other beverages - labels sometimes face prolonged exposure to ice water, along with variations in temperature and condensation levels, on their journey from the bottling plant to consumers. In addition, there is a strong economic incentive to simplify label removal for bottle reuse.
"We recommend seeking advice from an adhesive partner who can ensure that companies meet their challenges - and to do so before making even the smallest of changes. For example, beware of the temptation to simply use more adhesive for a new and heavier label; it may not work and could adversely affect the wash-off process. Similarly, if adhesive starts to become less reliable, then talk to us. We advise on-site and also provide offsite facilities to test solutions, without interrupting production, so they can be introduced with total confidence," he adds.
Porcheddu stresses that a partnership approach applies to all adhesive requirements, including the surprisingly tricky issues posed by cardboard multipack wrap-arounds for beverages.
He says, "This part of the packaging can add greatly to the shelf appeal of a product but there can be some practical problems. We need to look at what is demanded of the adhesive on the production line and the product's journey. A package that opens or tears when carried, for example, will give the consumer a negative experience of the brand."
Porcheddu emphasises the benefits of partnership, and says, "As a specialist adhesive partner, H.B. Fuller can ensure that the chosen solution deals with these issues. Other considerations relating to the wrap-around include machine speed and energy efficiency.
"With adhesive specialists ready to support customers on the ground, and regional R&D centres where these experts can collaborate to resolve problems, we leave nothing to chance. Our latest centre of excellence, the Lüneburg Adhesive Academy in Germany, offers unrivalled facilities for testing and improving the performance of adhesives in customer-specific applications."
Judith Liddle, the company's marketing manager, converting solutions, EIMEA, outlines how pressure-sensitive adhesives (PSAs) are rapidly expanding the range of labelling options and capabilities open to beverage and bottling businesses. "PSA labels have boosted the potential for brands to catch the eyes of consumers with superb shelf appeal, while at the same time maintaining pristine looks and meeting sustainability demands. Their adaptability, in terms of materials, shapes and inks, gives packaging designers more freedom to explore different contours, substrates, textures and effects. The current trend for clear-on-clear labelling, which uses filmic PSA labels to give a 'no-label' appearance, is just one example of the added dimensions they have made possible. PSA labelling offers tremendous scope for increasing product differentiation. This can be achieved cost-effectively - even on a small production line - as Europe's flourishing craft beer market has shown." Liddle adds, "The versatility of PSA labels is impressive when it comes to combining durability with easy label removal for bottle reuse. With the right adhesive, labels will remain firmly in place through a journey that might subject them to warm and cold storage, condensation, refrigeration and being served in ice water. The same adhesive can be formulated to enable easy label removal by using a normal, warm and caustic wash-off process, with the adhesive remaining stuck to the label to minimise water contamination.
"Adhesive development has already produced a wide variety of PSA technologies, including water-based, hot melt, solvent-acrylic and rubber-compounded formulations. Each technology and product offers different properties, which can be tailored to meet specific application needs. By using its in-house polymerisation facilities and expertise, H.B. Fuller can create unique compounded adhesives that are fully customised for a specific purpose."
She warns that many businesses are currently missing out on major opportunities for improvement, and says, "As we have emphasised at events over the past few months, not all adhesives and PSA labels are equal." Liddle refers to 2017's drinktec in Germany and Belgium's Labelexpo, which highlighted the importance of tapping into the latest adhesive technology to meet the changing needs of today's consumer. "To gain full advantage from these technologies, we would urge bottlers and beverage manufacturers to ask their converters about adhesives - and ideally for them to ask for H.B. Fuller by name," states Liddle.
She reinforces the benefits of partnerships, which H.B. Fuller sees as the way forward to achieving and maintaining a competitive edge for bottling and beverage companies.
Liddle states, "The competition for shelf appeal is intense, and everyone is racing to gain an advantage. To win, clients need to make their labelling and packaging changes effective and quick. They should be looking for those small adhesive adjustments that make a big difference. A leading adhesive partner like H.B. Fuller, with proven technology in wet labelling, PSA and end-of-line adhesives, will show them how. Companies will also benefit from their partner's global R&D capability, as well as the development of new solutions that will assure them of H.B. Fuller's continuous standout performance in the market."