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Story | 06/06/2017 11:47:00

Black River Juice: Premium beverage company uses ultra-thin PET VANISH labels to help fuel business growth

Premium beverage company Black River Juice uses ultra-thin PET VANISH labels to help fuel business growth.

Black River Juice, the ultimate "back to the earth" organic beverage company, wanted to expand its reach in Canada and enter the U.S. and Asian markets. However, the juice industry is fiercely competitive. To spur significant sales growth and influence point-of-sales decision making, Black River Juice knew they needed a new packaging strategy.

While the company has grown to comprise 37 products, Black River Juice still maintains its focus on creating exceptional juices and juice blends that are 100 percent pure, without any added sugar or preservatives.

“We use the finest ingredients in the world, and we source locally as much as we can. We have relationships with farmers that date back to when we were first founded”, says Jessica Praskey, Sales and marketing Manager, Black River Juice.

Packaging innovation as a market entrance and growth strategy

While the company has been successful in Ontario, Praskey wanted to expand its reach in Canada and enter the U.S. and Asian markets. However, the juice industry is fiercely competitive. With myriad options available, high-end retailers can be discerning about the products they stock. And in grocery and specialty stores, products complete for brand-conscious and price-sensitive consumers’ attention on crowded retail shelves. To spur significant sales growth and influence point-of-sales decision making, Praskey knew she needed a new packaging strategy.

“Our packaging did not convey the value of what was in our bottles”, she explains. “We were using standard glass bottles out of necessity, because we were a small company and had to purchase the stock bottles our co-packer offered. So, you couldn’t tell our brand from any other.” Additionally, the company used glue-applied paper labels, which hid products from consumers’ gaze and had a dated look. To support premium pricing, Black River Juice needed a new high-end brand

Praskey decided to invest in new bottle forms in three sizes – 300 millilitres, 500 millilitres and one litre – that resembled the milk glass bottles customers used to have delivered to their doorstep 60 years ago. “Our new bottles convey the concept of being fresh from the farm without actually saying it,” says Praskey.

Finding a winning label strategy at PACK EXPO

Praskey’s next step was to find a new label that would enhance branding and product presentation. She decided to visit the PACK EXPO International trade show in Chicago in November 2015 to scout new options. “I don’t have significant expertise in manufacturing and packaging, so my intention in attending PACK EXPO was really just to see what the possibilities were and preview all the innovations in packaging,” says Praskey. “I had walked by rows upon rows of label suppliers, when I saw a bottle with VANISHTM sitting on the shelf at the UPM Raflatac booth. It really caught my eye and made me stop and look and start thinking about how it would look on our products,” says Praskey.

“Everyone at the show had plastic sleeves, but I didn’t want to put a shrink wrap over my bottle,” Praskey states. “To have such a beautiful bottle and brandind, and then cover the whole thing with plastic really made no sense.”

“So when I saw the VANISHTM label, it was kind of a no brainer. That actually became a key driver for our design going forward: What could we do with a clear lable that looked like it wasn’t there? How could we push the design?”

Pushing the brand to new limits

Praskey used VANISHTM’s clear canvas to design a new brand that was “classic, but really warm and conveyed the premium value of our products. We’we created a unique look for our Black River juices by using illustrations rather than pictures. We worked with an artist to conceive old woodcut-style fruit drawings that look like screen prints. They look incredible on the VANISHTM substrate.”

“With some of our products, we had the challenge of showing dark fruit images on a dark juice. So we printed a hwhite layer underneath only the fruit woodcuts and lettering, and the image just pops right off the bottle. The label just disappeards,” says Praskey. “The bottles are absolutely gorgeous.”

Supporting brand values of sustainability

Sustainability was also a big concern. “It’s nice to know that our environmental impact will be lower with ultra-thin PET labels than paper labels,” says Praskey. Not only are VANISHTM labels recyclable, but they use less material and energy and produce less waste. “That’s a great story for us, and we’ll be sharing it on our website to show how we have built our packaging to be environmentally responsible,” she says.

Praskey worked with Glenn Shaw, General manager/Business Development, Forte Labels and Shrink Sleeves to implement the new labeling strategy, moving from glue-applied paper labels to VANISHTM 0.92 mil PET pressure sensitive labels. Based in Toronto, Canada, Forte serves clients in the personal care, nutraceuticals and beverage industries

The industry forecast for film labels is totally clear

“Clear-on-clear labels are more efficient, cleaner and environmentally better than glue-applied lables,” says Shaw. “You can get more labels on a roll with clear-on-clear than clear-onn-white or paper, and ou can run more bottles per minute than cut-and-stack. There’s less downtime, and the products are much better.

At the end of the day, it comes down to output. If you can get more bottles labelled and out the door on a daily basis with pressure sensitive than another decoration technology, than that is what it is really all about.”

Praskey says she values the operational flexibility using VANISHTM enables. “Currently, we are a smaller company, but we have 47 SKUs. So it’s been great to print 50,000 or 100,000 of each label, although that will certainly grow. We would not have been able to use VANISHTM if the minimum runs were too big for us.” The company has run trials and is going into full production in late September 2015.

“UPM Raflatac has been instrumental in helping us make the switch, providing us with product information and offering on-site support as we make the transition. The service has been incredible,” says Praskey.