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Printing, ink and packaging suppliers discuss ways to make packs more appealing

Brandy Brinson

Everyone in the industry is looking for the next latest and greatest innovations as the bar is raised higher and higher for cigarette packs. All the focus on advertising and marketing is now turned to the pack, as restrictions abound and the pack remains the one avenue of communication with the consumer. Today’s packs are certainly turning heads with glitz and glamour—flashy foils, fancy paperboard featuring unique curves, and etching and embossing that you just have to touch. And all the while, these eye-catching designs serve another purpose—thwarting counterfeiters.

Tobacco Reporter caught up with a few leading suppliers to discuss packaging trends.


“Packaging has evolved greatly over the past 40 years, moving from simple printed cartons to lacquered finished boxes to plastic shrink sleeves with foil imprints. In the 1960s, the trend was multicolor printing with lacquering and/or lamination,” says Jacquie Wells, spokesperson for foil supplier Kurz.

Hot stamping dates back to the late 1800s with the use of authentic gold foil “leaf,” and it wasn’t until the past 40 years or so that the commercial use of foil as a decorative enhancement became widespread. “Hot stamping didn’t get its legs until the mid 1980s. At that time, an advance in application equipment allowed for higher speeds, making hot foils more flexible. Hot foil also gave products more appeal and allowed designs to become very diverse.”

Hot foils are transferred using a combination of heat and pressure, providing a very unique advantage—gloss level. “Structural and relief stamping are not only eye-catching, they also possess tactile characteristics offering even further potential for product positioning,” says Wells.

One of the most noticeable changes in packaging today is the use of hot and cold foil to give products more “pop” and shelf appeal, she says. “Many brands not only use hot or cold foil on the exterior package, but also on the product itself to make the brand and product more memorable. Foil increases the product’s overall appeal and brand imagery, and it can create more purchase interest.” Growth of foil use is due in part to the effectiveness of true product differentiation, luxury presentation and brand security features through foil stamping and embossing techniques, she adds.

Cold foils are gaining popularity in the market because they are cost effective and can be applied more quickly than hot foils, as today’s machinery allows faster application speeds. These foils are applied with adhesive, are highly versatile and have excellent design qualities.

“Today, cold foil is coming of age, bringing packaging houses a quick, efficient, cost-effective means of decorating with foil. Over the coming year, it is anticipated that cold foil will gain more ground in the marketplace and we will continue to see a trend towards more ‘green’ packaging.”

As for product security, Kurz offers a proprietary technology called Trustseal, which combines a variety of security features for brand owners and consumers. Wells says, “Tamper-evident seals and beautifully designed, custom-tailored solutions minimize brand erosion and maximize product visibility.”

Embossing cylinders

Engraved embossing cylinders are used to decorate cigarette packaging by running in line with printing presses in a single pass. Thus, no additional processes or raw materials such as special inks or foils are required to enhance the package, explains Peter Spector, vice president of sales for Eastern Engraving.

“This is especially advantageous for point-of-purchase selling where no other form of advertising is permissible. Embossing cylinders can be housed in existing press rotary die stations or in stand-alone units. Embossing can be registered to print with tight tolerance, overall patterns and textures, or blind (non-registered). Ribs that produce the round corner effect to create elliptical-shaped packages can also be engraved on the embossing cylinders either alone or in conjunction with registered embossing.”

Embossing cylinders can be engraved by chemical etching (photo engraving) or CNC milling. Overall patterns or textures may be engraved by machine engraving using die and mill tooling. Eastern Engraving uses a wax jet digital imaging system as a means of more accurately “printing” the cylinder prior to etching. The cylinders themselves can be solid steel, segmented inserts or copper-covered bases.

Etched embossing cylinders.

Gerrit van der Veen, division manager for tobacco and member of the board of ATG-Systems, discussed embossing and mock-up service in the tobacco industry at a presentation at TABEXPO Interactive. ATG manufactures engraved and etched embossing cylinders.

He discussed a new service from ATG regarding the initial design of new packs. “The usual way of starting a redesign, a limited edition or a new brand is using the design agency. The mock-ups they create are made in offset. Sometimes even with flatbed embossing. After approval from the brand manager, the printers, together with the cylinder manufacturers and the ink companies, try to reproduce this mock-up. Often they find out that the first mock-up cannot be reproduced, because of various reasons. A lot of time is lost and the brand manager doesn‘t understand why it all starts over again,” says Van der Veen.

ATG is offering a new kind of service—producing a “realistic” mock-up, which can be reproduced later on the gravure printing machine. ATG can make “barrel proofing“ cylinders. “With this, we can make on the original material and with the original inks, a realistic sample. Because this has been made with gravure cylinders, this can be reproduced later for the production cylinders in the same way. We start with several options, and the brand manager chooses the best option,” says Van der Veen.

If the brand manager has approved one of the versions, ATG can do the embossing on the same samples. After the printing and the embossing, ATG makes the mock-up and the brand manager has a “realistic“ pack in his hands. This is a sample that can be reproduced later in production.

“We can also use this service to find out how an old design looks with new (“all-over”) embossings,” says Van der Veen. “In this way, we save a lot of time—and money—because marketing will get a sample made with the right tools—in gravure and with rotary embossing, instead of an offset proof with flatbed embossing.”

Gravure printing

Gravure printing has come a long way in recent years. “Looking back in time, only pure engraved or conventional etched cylinders were in place. About 20 years ago, with the invention of laser technique to harden the light-sensitive cover, a much better definition of the text element became possible. The latest steps in direct laser engraving widen the technical possibilities as well. But also the classical engraving became better by innovations like the extreme gravure,” says Ruediger Brinkmann of Gundlach Verpackung GmbH, a supplier of printing solutions for the tobacco industry.

“Nowadays we make use of all applicable cylinder manufacturing techniques—depending on the special nature of the print jobs, it can be a combination of different techniques. This offers the tobacco industry a wide range of high-quality text elements, four-color pictures and, especially in gravure, very good effects with metal inks and varnishes.”

Precision has increased over the years due to sophisticated data workflow. This is vital to meeting the tight print and converting tolerances of customers, says Brinkmann.

“Last but not least the price for gravure cylinders became more competitive—a very important development for gravure versus flexo.”

In the future, he says, “We expect a further technical development with direct laser cylinders in view of cost and quality in order to keep the gap to alternative printing methods.”

New Packaging

Oscar Bos, sales director for Gestel Printing Co. says today’s trends in packaging and printing are to “create and use more space for communication with the consumer to compensate for the loss of advertising possibilities for tobacco products; and to introduce limited-edition packs (LEPs), often using nonconventional materials to draw the consumer’s attention and to make the product more attractive.”

In line with these goals, Gestel Printing Company B.V. recently introduced a brand-new packaging concept—the Zmart Box. The company launched the pack at TABEXPO.

Interestingly, the pack finds its origin in the roots of the company. In the late 19th century, Gestel started as a supplier for the cigar industry, which was located mainly in the area around Eindhoven in the south of the Netherlands. The products that Gestel supplied started from cigar bands and cigar box labels but were later followed by the well-known shoulderboxes—the main type of cigar packaging nowadays. Over the years, Gestel broadened its market by adding some of the world’s largest cigarette manufacturers to its customer list, besides various other “luxury” markets such as the chocolate, liquor and cosmetics industries.

“Having produced shoulderboxes for such a long time already, we wanted to find a type of packaging that had the manufacturing features of a modern cigarette hinged lid but the looks of the more luxurious shoulderbox,” says Bos.

Although the shoulderbox looks great, it is more expensive than a hinged lid due to several reasons. For one, it is made up of four separate parts (bottom, lid, label and shoulder) instead of one; also, after printing it has to be assembled into a shoulderbox; and furthermore, it has higher freight costs due to the transport of boxes instead of flat-packs.

The Zmart Box is unique because it is a one-piece flat-pack, based on the same wrap-around concept as a hinged lid. However, once made up, it looks like a shoulderbox. This offers a unique opportunity to cigarette manufacturers as they can now produce high volumes of shoulderbox-like packs at ta speed and cost almost comparable to that of normal hinge-lid packs.

Compared with a conventional shoulderbox, the manufacturing costs are about 40 percent lower, and the assembling/filling speed is up to five times quicker. “For Gestel, this means we can expand our market for this type of packaging to not only cigar but also cigarette manufacturers, which obviously means larger volumes. This is not entirely unwelcome considering these volumes have been decreasing substantially over the last years due to more rigid government legislations,” says Bos.

To be able to offer a complete solution, Gestel has established a partnership with a machine manufacturer to develop a brand-new machine. Some of the features of the machine include an assembling/filling speed up to 300 boxes per minute and the possibility to vary shapes and sizes using Flex Units. Depending on the customer’s requirements, the machine can be installed in a production plant within seven or eight months.

Bos says, “Adding everything up, we are convinced that we have developed a unique concept for tobacco manufacturers and look forward to making it a success together with our valued customers.”

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