Creative Labels Grows in Traceability Labeling

GILROY, Calif. - In the heart of produce country and the garlic capital of the world, Creative Labels of Gilroy, Calif. is experiencing significant growth, thanks to new label requirements initiated by the growers. Once a regional company, Creative Labels now has national clients, as well as international clients in Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico, and Ecuador. To support this growth, the company has added several thousand square feet to its facility.

"We had been seeing growth for variable information on labels, and for one large client we did runs with several hundred SKU's of header tags for each order," recalls Chris Martin, Vice President of Operations. "We had been changing plates out for each copy, but with so many SKUs, the job would require up to three weeks to complete. Also, the waste factor on those runs was probably well over 50 percent. For this variable application, we initially purchased a digital solution, but found that it still had some limitations. So when MCS introduced the Eagle UV inkjet, we were pretty excited. We found that the Eagle with dual print heads could increase our capacity, improve our quality, and allow us to achieve higher press speeds. It was also capable of printing much higher resolution."

"At about the same time, MCS introduced us to HarvestMark, the genesis of our new offering, PTI labeling," says Sandy Franzen, President. "We realized though that this market was going to require a wider range of materials and higher press speeds in order to be competitive. The Eagle UV Inkjet was the answer, and it made a huge impact on our business."

The Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) is an industry-led effort to enhance traceability throughout the entire produce supply chain. Having become a HarvestMark-certified company, Creative Labels is equipped to handle the most technical and advanced label applications required, and can produce a wide variety of custom-printed products with variable data.

Food traceability labeling

There are various types of food traceability labeling. All consist of an alphanumeric code that can be printed on labels for individual items, cases, or even pallets. According to HarvestMark, more than 2.3 billion produce packages have been enabled with its codes to speed response to suspected recall events and deliver on-demand product information throughout the supply chain. HarvestMark's Web site ( ) is set up to let consumers type in the numbers from a bar code or one they've scanned with a smartphone to research where their food originated.

"It might take you to a Web page that shows the product is from the Jones family farm and was picked on Tuesday. The farm can also have messages on its page, giving the consumers a more personalized experience," Martin explains.

On the horizon

"We're seeing labels go wider in general," Martin explains. "For instance, the HarvestMark code has been steadily moving to the wider top label. We need the MCS Eagle with dual print heads to run this larger top label. As you know, in the label industry substrates are important; the label materials are coated. With the MCS Eagle, we can run the glossy labels at higher speeds. We're getting output of 250 feet-per-minute."

Martin talks about the future of the business: "While we can attribute most of our growth to the HarvestMark business, we believe this application will be transferable to nutraceutical companies, including herbal supplements. This opens up a whole new market for us. These labels typically require a small font size. The Eagle's good control over ink helps us use the smaller fonts. This is so important, because for these customers, the label is their brand."

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