The aroma and smoothness of Colombian coffee are world renowned and represent a source of national pride. The National Federation of Colombian Coffee Growers, which brings together coffee producers from different regions in the country, guarantees not only that the flavor of the exported coffee meets traditional standards, but also that its company customers in the many countries to which Colombian grain is sent satisfy high demands also regarding packaging and its printing.
For Saudi Goody Products Marketing Co., one of the largest companies in Saudi Arabia's food and packaged goods industry, the Federation developed Cofique coffee, grown in Colombian coffee plantations and processed in the Buencafé facilities in the municipality of Chinchiná, located 315 kilometers west of Bogotá. At Buencafé, Cofique coffee is packaged in glass containers with shrinkable sleeves printed in Cali by Suprapak, a converting company with more than 50 years’ experience producing personalized and highly complex packaging.
A Meeting of Large Capabilities
The coffee packaging that Saudi buyers find on the shelves of their country's supermarkets and stores brings together the work and tradition of growers and processors, the packaging production capacity and experience of Suprapak workers and managers, and the Colombian Federation’s coordination and management that enables the full process from planting to export of the finished product. Within this chain, Suprapak's role has been decisive in producing a label that entails various technical complexities.
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For the packaging of Cofique coffee in glass packages, the brand owner required a label that would showcase the product’s high quality through specific and exclusive graphic elements and effects such as textures, applications, special colors and metallized inks. "This Federation client wanted a premium label, and we worked with them from the inception of the project until the first test," Juan Fernando Herrera, Suprapak's Project Manager, told Mundo PMMI.
Some years ago, Buencafé, the Cofique coffee producer, acquired a shrink sleeves applicator for its plant in Chinchiná, with the necessary specifications to guarantee high levels of quality and productivity. The solution for the product destined for Arabia was a shrinkable label that met the customer’s requirements. Suprapak responded to this challenge with its corporate capacity to produce highly complex products, using first-rate materials, quality, and personalized support in the design, production and application of its labels.
Long Tradition in Shrinkable Materials
Suprapak's ample experience has supported many of the Federation's projects. “We have had a relationship with them for more than 15 years where we develop shrink labels solutions for their end customers. This relationship has become very solid thanks to all the support we provide in technical matters and applications,” says Fernando Herrera. The construction of this capacity in labels materials dates back to the company’s beginnings. In the 1970s, Suprapak began to produce tubular solutions for safety straps, with technologies and equipment developed and built in the company's workshops, perfected with knowledge acquired through attending trade fairs such as PACK EXPO in Chicago. “We went from making security straps to producing promotional packaging materials”, says Samuel Harf, founder, owner and CEO of Suprapak.
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The application of shrink sleeves on glass containers has always posed a significant technical challenge in the packaging processes, which Suprapak tackles by working closely with the CPG to ensure optimal results are always achieved. "In each new development we work with the customers’ lines, establishing ideal temperature and time conditions in the contraction furnaces, along with other factors that guarantee application of the sleeves in the best possible way," says Diego Fernando Fernández, Suprapak’s Commercial Manager. With Saudi Goody Products Marketing, this approach resulted in full compliance and acceptance of the product and packaging. “Today, we are filling the second production order, with a slightly larger run, and with minimal adjustments to the sleeve formation. The project has also been very positive for the Federation, not only in the degree of customer acceptance, but also in acceptance in a new market such as Arabia,” says Diego Fernández.
Suprapak's experience in shrink sleeve production was a differentiating factor in obtaining the results achieved with Cofique coffee, and has been a key element in expanding the presence of its packaging materials to more than twenty countries around the world. “To our specialization in this type of product, and especially in shrink sleeves as narrow as 14 millimeters (which very few companies in the world can offer), we add our ability to produce short runs, comply with flexible delivery times, and provide personalized attention. All these factors have allowed us to grow and consolidate clients in countries such as Spain, the United States and England, among many others,” says Samuel Harf.
This shrink label for Cofique coffee comprises a set of properties that put Suprapak's technical capacity to the test. Diego Fernández explained the technical complexities faced during the production process to Mundo PMMI: “We managed to integrate all the finishing possibilities into a single job. It is a completely enveloping label, with an embossed brand name that allows consumer to feel the texture in the word of the coffee; with a matte registered lacquer in the dark printed areas; with cold foil over the silver brand and over it a different color to differentiate the 3 coffee varieties, in addition to transparent areas to show the coffee beans clearly”, Diego Fernández explained to Mundo when referring to the technical complexities faced during the production process.
This profusion of elements implied a very precise control of the register, to avoid any interfere of effects. "This label contains almost everything we can do on a machine, and it implied the challenge and pressure to respond to a customer entering a new market," says Juan Fernando Herrera. Suprapak responded with all his technological weaponry, including a recently acquired Mark Andy P5 flexographic press; top quality raw materials for the films from its vendors, Klöckner Pentaplast and Bonset American Corporation; inks from Nazdar, Zeller+Gmelin and Sun Chemical; and foil from Mastertech. The choice of different lineatures and the use of analog prepress were also key, all backed by the experience and professionalism of its of technicians and printers.
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Suprapak vendors are part of a quality chain in which the company acts as an ally when evaluating and updating of many of its developments. "Suprapak has become a pilot plant for many of our suppliers, which has been very beneficial for us and has allowed us to go one step further in offering our customers new possibilities for improvement and finishes in their products," highlights Diego Fernández.
Flexographic UV printing guaranteed an optimal anchoring on the material, a high level of gloss, and the possibility of integrating finishes during the process, including the application of cold foil. “On the Mark Andy P5 press in particular, we can say that its characteristics and technology assured us an excellent register. This is indispensable in a job like this, where one side is printed first and then the matte and varnish finishes that provide the brand setoff are applied in the second pass,” explains Diego Fernández. Thanks to the quality achieved in the printing process, the client, Saudi Goody, granted authorization for the label to be entered this year in the annual national print quality competition organized by the Colombian Association of Graphical Industry Communications -Andigraf-, where Suprapak has been a winner in previous years.
Crossing the Tunnel
The print consistency of a shrink label is tested as it is applied to the packaging by passing through a heat or steam shrink tunnel. High temperatures can adversely affect the performance of the inks, films, varnishes or foils used. “It is necessary to guarantee good anchoring of the inks when printing, and sometimes we use varnishes to prevent them from adhering to the packaging. It is also essential that the materials offer a good level of shrinkage for the label to adhere perfectly to the packaging. If the materials show very high caliber variations, they can jam the machine. If the caliber is too low, the labels tend to break," says Juan Fernando Herrera, referring to the application process onto glass containers.
But this is not the only difficulty. Since the containers are cold when entering the tunnel, they absorb part of the radiated heat, which prevents the labels from contracting properly and causes wrinkles and other imperfections. “Therefore, it is essential to find a balance between temperatures and speeds, and the recommendation we give some of our clients is that they pre-heat the containers to ensure better performance of the labels,” explains Juan Fernando.
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The matte finish is another aspect that proves difficult during application of the label. “The challenge is inside the tunnel because, depending on the area where it receives the heat, that matte finish can become milky or opaque, or detach," says Juan Herrera. The strategy against this obstacle consisted of establishing in advance the best conditions for the sleeves applicator machine and the resistance tunnel with three chambers, in such a way that the matte finish on the outside of the label did not suffer as much from the heat conditions. “We also address this challenge in the design itself, defining the places where the label bends and forms, thus eliminating the need for a person to turn the packaging manually to receive the heat in a certain way and guarantee that the matte varnish will work properly,” notes Juan Fernando Herrera.
In developing the high technical complexity label for Cofique coffee, the dedication and professionalism of Suprapak's human team was essential. They interacted permanently with the customer’s packaging design engineers. Suprapak received the container and its mechanical drawings to determine the label’s dimensions, which the design team translated into art. Suprapak designers then worked with the client to agree on some details and anticipate the distortions the label could suffer in the application process. Later, before starting the prepress, assembly and press stages, PDF sketches of the blue prints were made and client approvals obtained, followed by a Sherpa sample with a very close approximation to the printing result. Reviewing the process stages, Diego Fernández states that, "In the Cofique coffee label case, all the credit goes to our team, who fully offered their support and experience."
Samuel Harf, addressing the company's origins, remembers how that professionalism was built: “Little by little we adapted our technologies to those that were appearing on the market to build converting and printing equipment. We started to build our own presses. Then we imported a small machine from Italy, later an eight-color machine from Brazil, until we finally settled on the Mark Andy machines, which have given us excellent results. Parallel to these technological developments, we train the people who work with us and who know all this technology very thoroughly. It has now been two generations from the moment we started to manufacture shrink labels, and all that knowledge and experience, which have been transmitted through time, are probably the greatest asset we have as a company.”