Spotted at Labelexpo: Barefoot, Gallo wine labels use all new flexo printing technique

G3 Enterprises, the company behind Gallo wines and the Barefoot brand, is now using a new flexo printing technique that achieves the precision of solvent-processed plates while using a water-based process.

Barefoot brand wines now use a new flexo label printing method.
Barefoot brand wines now use a new flexo label printing method.

California’s versatile G3 Enterprises is an ag hauler, converter, bottler, capper, labeler, contract packager, and winemaker extraordinaire. The company is the processing, packaging, and logistics force behind the ubiquitous Gallo portfolio of wines, including the popular Barefoot brand. Its busy wine label operation produces over 8000 production jobs a year, and the company boasts a range of printing capabilities including pressure-sensitive flexographic and cut-and-stack offset printing. Its Barefoot brand in particular had long used flexo-printed pressure sensitive labels.

But a commonly cited downside to making plates for flexo has been its reliance on processing plates with solvents, which means working with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and greenhouse gasses that are unpleasant for operators to handle. Water-based (aqueous) and thermal processes have been available for plate-making as well, but such methods rarely matched the performance that the solvent process could produce.

“What printers would really like is not to have to deal with solvents,” says Emma Schlotthauer, Director, Marketing and Communications, Flexographic Packaging Division, Kodak. “Beyond the complaint about VOCs, solvent-processed plates take a much longer time to dry than water-based processing.”

Prepress operators at G3 Enterprises had avoided solvent-based flexo processing for their labels by using a thermal processing technique for Gallo wines, willing to sacrifice some label printing precision for a safe and pleasant work environment. That was until the company was introduced to Kodak’s new FLEXCEL NX Ultra Solution, which was revealed to the public yesterday.

Kodak officials say the new system enables the outstanding and proven print performance of the solvent-based FLEXCEL NX Plates, with solvent-free, VOC-free, water-based processing that can deliver a press-ready plate in less than an hour and sustain clean, consistent plates in a high-volume production environment. Enabled by new, innovative and patent-pending KODAK Ultra Clean technology, the FLEXCEL NX Ultra Solution is the first aqueous solution that provides consistent, high-performing flexo plates in a high volume, low maintenance environment.

As a beta-tester of the system, Matt Gauthier, Prepress and Customer Service Manager for the Label Division of G3 Enterprises, made the decision to switch from thermal plates to KODAK FLEXCEL NX plates to increase quality.

“We can do essentially anything we want print-wise with the Kodak plates but it’s also important to be able to quickly produce an individual plate, especially when we have customers in-house for a press check,” he says. “It’s been great to have NX Ultra in place, providing the same quality level but requiring much less time to produce a plate. We can make changes and quickly send new plates to press, assuring that customer timelines are satisfied. We have been very happy with results from NX Ultra.”

How it works
The KODAK FLEXCEL NX Ultra Solution includes the company’s FLEXCEL NX System for world-class imaging paired with the new FLEXEL NX Ultra Processing System and new FLEXCEL NX Ultra Plate, delivering a complete end-to-end plate making solution from Kodak. The all-in-one processing system combines exposure, washout, drying, and finishing in an easy-to-use, robust system with automated cleaning cycles, the company says.

FLEXCEL NX Ultra Plates use the Kodak flat top dot structure and are fully compatible with Kodak’s NX Advantage technology and patented Advanced Edge Definition for an unprecedented level of ink transfer control during printing that delivers superb quality and production efficiency benefits. The plates will be available in thicknesses of 1.14 mm and 1.70 mm and are ideal for label, paperboard and flexible packaging applications.

The first product to be made available will be the KODAK FLEXCEL NX Ultra 35 Solution, which can produce plates up to 35 in x 48 in (889 x 1219.2 mm) in size. Product is due to ship in the first quarter of 2019, initially for the North American market.

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