Specialist Column

Useful Labels for Society

Takashi Ono

Takashi Ono
Label Shimbun Corporation, Editor

The first issue of Label Shimbun was published in 1969 as the only newspaper specializing in the label industry in Japan. Today, it covers self-adhesive labels such as stickers and decals, non-adhesive labels such as shrink, in-mold, and wrap-around, and smart labels utilizing RFID*1 and NFC*2 technologies, and delivers useful news, including technologies, materials, processing materials and equipment, products, peripherals, systems, and markets to all those involved in the label business.
The author Ono focuses on the digital printing field. He is active in the field of digital printing, and also visits overseas exhibitions.

From the standpoint of a newspaper specializing in the label industry, we will be reporting on label applications, trends, and future predictions over several issues. In this first issue, we will focus on how labels are useful in the world, from the familiar to the less familiar areas, and explain the significance of labels that play a small but significant role.

When you hear the word "label," what is the first thing that comes to mind? Typical examples include product labels that serve as the face of food products that we see in supermarkets and convenience stores every day, ingredient labels that list items such as allergies, calories, and ingredients, and promotional labels that say "special offer" or "limited time only" to motivate people to buy. In the home, small printers can be used to label the contents of seasoning containers and storage boxes, or to attach name stickers to children's belongings. In the pharmaceutical and industrial fields, labels are also used for efficient management and individual identification. Most recently, sheet labels were used for vaccination tickets to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in order to improve management efficiency and workability.

What they all have in common is that they deliver "information." Labels are highly convenient tools that can be used to add information to products simply by applying them, for example, to convey a brand image that conveys the idea behind the product, to clearly indicate contents that are sometimes life-threatening, or to display individual ID numbers for smooth management.

In addition, stationery such as labels and masking tapes are also popular products that use self-adhesive paper. The market for masking tape in particular has been expanding, as the value of the design of the tape itself, in addition to its original industrial use of masking, has been recognized and demand for decoration and collection has been uncovered. In addition to the tape form, masking sheets with a variety of designs on a single sheet have also been seen.

The performance of labels, which are used in a variety of situations, is constantly improving. They do not peel off even when used in sub-zero temperatures, such as in freezer shelves; they do not leave self-adhesive residue when removed for administrative purposes, such as those directly attached to products purchased through mail order; they incorporate universal design to make them easier to read; they store product information in printed two-dimensional codes for traceability and security purposes; and they can be colored by changes in temperature to indicate safety and eating time. Recently, labels made of recycled PET resin and biomass materials have been introduced to the market as environmentally friendly products (see Lintec's column for a detailed explanation of the environmental roles of labels).

Prior to the advent of the digital age, the use of printed matter and paper has been on the decline for some time due to the trend toward digitization and paperlessness, but the labels that accompany goods are a growing market that is steadily increasing. Although the recent pandemic resulted in a slight decrease in shipment volume compared to the previous year, the label market is quickly recovering in Europe, the U.S., China and other countries as economic activity resumes, maintaining a strong demand. In a world where products are increasingly being made in small lots of a wide variety of products in order to meet diversifying consumer needs, the market for labels that can be attached to provide information and support nimble product development is expected to expand further.

Self-Adhesive Labels Sales History

In addition to developing new demand for stickers that promote social distance and antibacterial and antiviral sheets, the COVID-19 pandemic has also fostered the development of new products and solutions that are highly promising, such as on-demand support and loss reduction through digital printing, which has seen remarkable growth in recent years, and tag labels that utilize RFID, a technology that uses radio waves to read and write data in a non-contact manner.

There is a vast potential for labels to be used in a wide range of industries, including food, beverage, logistics, medical, pharmaceutical, and industrial fields, to transmit information.

*1 ^Abbreviation for Radio-Frequency Identification: a type of automatic identification technology that uses radio waves to identify and manage various objects using small chips called tags. (Reference: weblio dictionary)
*2 ^Abbreviation for Near Field Communication: a technology for wireless communication over a short distance of up to a few centimeters. (Reference: IT Dictionary)

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