As orders increase, your labeling has to get faster and stay consistent.
When food is prepared fresh, even if it’s going into a plastic clamshell for easy transport, it feels like a more personal experience. The customer knows, even if it’s never said aloud, that food was made by a real person, not just churned out of a factory. Personalization sells, and brands that can make the purchase experience feel relational rather than transactional will get more sales and loyalty. The challenge is maintaining that personal feeling as more and more orders come down the pipeline.
Fresh food producers may feel this tension between production volume and personalization more than anyone. Consumers expect that when they buy fresh food, it not only looks safe to eat but the entire package is attractive. One of the biggest challenges to fresh food producers in this area is food labeling. Food labels are often applied by hand when order volume is small, but what happens when those orders exceed the capacity of the hand labelers?
Automating Without Losing Touch
The simplest answer is to abandon hand labeling entirely and transition to a labeling machine. Before we discuss how labeling machines improve productivity, let’s address one of the main concerns about automation: the feeling of impersonalization. The fear of automation is the loss of the human touch. When customers feel like the products they buy are just widgets that support a mega-corporation’s bottom line, they can become detached and look to other similar products that retain the relational feeling they want. How can you, a fresh food producer, automate while not seeming cold to your consumers and workers?
Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign will continue to be taught in marketing classes until the end of time. For those unfamiliar, Coca-Cola put first names on its beverages and encouraged customers to share one with a friend or family member with that name. You might get a “Susan” labeled Coke or a “Jeff.” No one cared that the labels had been applied by a machine in a factory, yet the label still felt “alive.”
This is an important lesson for fresh food producers, that content does not equal production techniques. When automating, you’re just changing how labels are applied, not what’s on the label. Labels can feature blank areas that allow for handwritten notes, for example. If the food you produce is meant for delivery, it can feature notes like, “thanks for ordering, we hope you enjoy it, Steve!”
Printing For Individuals
If handwritten notes aren’t an option, you can have personalized messages printed directly to your labels. This would require a label printer, but it would allow your packaging line to make food labels with individual messages and even instructions. Food labeling comes under scrutiny constantly, with the personalization of content being a way to help consumers make better choices with what they eat.
Using printed yet personal labels does something else important: reducing errors. When you’re relying on hand labeling or writing messages on the labels, mistakes can be made regarding ingredients or prep instructions. With printed labels, these mistakes are reduced or even eliminated. Whether the mistakes made are due to a preparer forgetting to write certain information, writing the wrong information, or even writing illegibly, those mistakes have the result of the food label feeling less personal, not more. That’s why it’s important to leave a space for handwritten messages, not relying on handwriting for the entire label.
People want to trust the food they buy. When a container looks sloppy thanks to poor labeling, consumers will assume the food is of similarly low quality. Candy makers know that fun, attractive labels lead to sales, and it’s no different for fresh food! Your labels need to be well designed and appealing, especially if they’re meant for store shelves.
Your food labels must be:
- Consistent with your branding.
- Accurate and truthful.
- Unique from the products from other producers.
- Representative of the food inside (don’t put pictures of cows on non-dairy milk substitute, for example).
Your food labels must also be:
- Applied straight and in the same place every time.
- Well adhered so they don’t fall off.
- Applied quickly to meet demand.
- Undamaged when they reach the end of the production process.
As much as customers want the purchasing experience to have the human touch, they want consistent, straight, well-adhered labels, too.
Labels For Safety
Fresh food labels can also increase food safety, too. Whatever type of container you use for your food, the labels can also offer signs of tamper evidence. Clamshell packaging can use c-wrap labels to prevent opening without destroying the label, and beverages can use perforated shrink sleeves to show if someone has tried to open the bottle. During the height of Covid, such labels were essential to show that no one has touched or come into contact with the food after it left the kitchen.
The Right Labeling Machine
When you’re ready to leave hand-labeling behind and graduate to a labeling machine, not just any labeling machine will do. A top and bottom labeler like the Pack Leader USA PL-221 or a labeler that can handle top, bottom, and clamshell labels like the PL-221D will be versatile, fast, and accurate. You’ll go from perhaps 5 to 10 labels a minute by hand to 40 labels per minute with a labeler, and they’ll be far more precise and adhered securely.
As for using your labeler, Pack Leader USA machines are easy to learn, programmable for runs of different products, durable, and reliable. And for the fresh food industry, it’s important to note that they’re easy to clean, too! Your label designs can take care of the personalization, let the labeler handle the application.
Download the Pack Leader USA Fresh Food Labeling Guide
Pack Leader USA is more than just a labeling machine company, we’re a labeling partner. And like a good partner, we’re here with advice and years of expertise at your disposal. We get that choosing a new labeling machine can be tough, so we put together The Fresh Foods Industry Guide to Labeling Equipment for you to download and use to make an informed decision. We look forward to partnering with you to personalize and protect your food while helping grow your brand!
- Food Labeling 101 - FDA Regulations Guide 
- Earn Consumer Trust With a Tamper-evident Label on Fresh Foods Packaging
- Food Labeling & Nutrition
- 4 Reasons Why Clamshell Packaging is Ideal for Fresh Food Products
- Ideal Labeling Equipment for Grocery Store Meal Kits
- Four Reasons Why You Need to Pay More Attention to the Quality and Accuracy of Your Labels