Consumers armed with smartphones, as well as mounting consumer sentiments against the environmental impact of plastic small goods, are changing the way greenhouse growers think about plant tags (and labels) both in the present and future.
Here’s some of the latest news Greenhouse Grower is hearing on trends and developments in the plant tag and labels genre, straight from the manufacturers:
Steve Kuperus, Account Manager at Advantage Packaging, says his company is seeing an industry-wide shift away from plant stakes and tags toward using more adhesive labels.
“It is very exciting to see the progression,” he says. “The trend is supported by the attractive look of the full-color adhesive labels on the containers, and the label allows more flexibility with variable information that was not able to be added using stakes.”
Kuperus is also seeing the shift to labels enabling growers to more strategically stage labor around the operation.
“We have growers that have eliminated multiple people from their planting lines by using our printed labels through our Line Boss Label Applicator System,” he says. “The labels can be applied to the containers at the time of planting, which eliminates the need for additional employees performing the task of tagging.”
On the sustainability angle, it appears a day of reckoning could be ahead for plastics-based tags and stakes if the industry does not adjust quickly.
“It’s time to change how we do things,” Kuperus says. “Tradition has always been that we include a plant stake with every plant, so the consumer can keep it from year to year. With the focus on sustainability and the amount of information we have at our fingertips, people will do a quick web search for any additional information and keep more waste out of the garden and landfills at the same time.”
Innovation-wise, Kuperus says the company’s Color Print On Demand Labels have been a real breakthrough.
“We have a Top 100 Grower who prints millions of color labels on its own every season and is loving it. It has gone from dumping thousands of dollars in obsolete tag inventory every year to zero waste,” he says.
Great Lakes Label
Tony Cook, Owner and CEO of Great Lakes Label, says he believes that going forward, the amount of plant tags being produced is going to be reduced and, in some cases, eliminated entirely.
“The amount of labor needed to install and the cost per tag, plus obsolete tag waste in landfills, are the most significant reasons why,” he says.
Cook adds that the introduction of the locking tag and the associated higher costs have “pushed the total costs of tagging over the edge of reasonability.”
And for those who say “automation” in response to his concerns, Cook’s growers have yet to find a scalable solution to automate the tag placing procedures.
“For the grower, this means they have to inventory every SKU of a tag to meet their production and shipping demands, and every SKU needs its own inventory of preprinted locking tags,” Cook says. “At Great Lakes Label, we solve this inventory problem with the Variable Print Pictured Label Program and the Label Gator Lagit Program to create the most cost-effective label-to-tag transition and greatly reduce the grower’s inventory and purchase requirements.”
Additionally, Cook says, a transition away from plant tags to adhesive labels could be “an enormous environmental impact gain, as well as an huge cost savings for the grower.”
“If it’s done right,” Cook says. “With a reduction in the amount of SKU numbers pre-printed at the printer in favor of more items having secondary printing at the growers, by the growers buying a limited number of pre-printed master blank labels and variable printing at the farms all of the variable SKU number
Bob Lovejoy, President of Hip Labels, says his company is seeing the following trends currently:
- Smaller orders/shorter press runs
- Faster delivery times and shortening of the proofing approval process as growers shift to modifying tag content in real time via online portals
- Branded tag orders are being placed online and the introduction of new technologies will empower consumer access to valuable educational content.
“One hundred percent of our tags are printed using recycled and recyclable plastics,” Lovejoy said in response to the inevitable sustainability in tags question. “Our substrates have been well received. We introduced biodegradable plastics several years ago — the reception was not as favorable due to the increased costs. Now, Europe is considering elimination of plastics altogether, and we’re investigating non-plastic alternatives right now.”
Innovations-wise, Hip recently launched its HIP Engager Augmented Reality product, which purports to turn any tag into a portal allowing access to virtually any content available on the internet, according to Lovejoy.
“We’re excited about offering consumers free access to a world of entertainment and education via interactive packaging (tags and labels) intended to enhance the consumer’s plant-buying experience,” he says. “Brand promotion and enhancement opportunities are endless. Anyone with a smartphone can easily access relevant, worthwhile information customized for a specific purchasing need.”
Peter Sluiter, General Manager at Koen Pack, says that while most fresh-cut flower growers are in charge of label printing and adhesion, on the other hand you have plant growers who have these tags and labels printed in the U.S. and shipped in, with some information being printed directly on the plant sleeve in rare cases.
“These are also decorative tags that include a message or a place for the consumer to write a message,” He says. “Some of these tags have a space to place a UPC code label and retail price, and sometimes the UPC code is printed directly on the tag. The trend of decorative tags in the floral industry is growing, with many companies replacing floral picks for decorative tags.”
Sluiter says he feels there are too many items that carry more than one label or tag, and it would be ideal for one label to include all the pertinent plant information for the consumer.
“This could include the UPC code, item name, grower code, care and handling instructions, and retail price,” He says. “This would save costs on tags and labels, and the consumer can find all information needed in one place.”
When asked whether the new tariffs on hard and soft goods imported from China are causing headaches for tag and label producers, Sluiter says tariffs on hard goods from China have slightly impacted the manufacture of tags and labels.
“This only applies for tags and labels produced in China, and many companies produce tags and labels locally,” he says.
Multi Packing Solutions/West Rock
Mark Osgerby, Marketing Manager at Horticulture, Multi Packaging Solutions (MPS), says the current trend in his area is consolidating all information — price, bar coding, care information — into one vehicle or, in this case, a locking tag or adhesive label.
“Another trend we’re seeing more is true packaging, carton, and wraps specifically,” he says. “They both make products more enticing and provide a lot more real estate to show plant features, care, planting options, and what the plant will look like season to season. It can also work to transform a plant into a gift when packaged in such a way, like one of our clients who package their venus flytrap in a unique carton.”
Osgerby says he agrees that a shift away from tags to labels does offer some environmental footprint reduction.
“However, on the plastic tagging side, there are options as well, such as reducing the mill, or weight, of the plastic or using alternative substrates that have paper-like qualities but perform like plastic,” he says.