Tea Product Labels & Planning: Tricks of the Trade

I had the opportunity to be one of the speakers at the 2021 World Tea Conference & Expo last month. It was my first time attending the show, and I have to say I was very impressed. Obviously, it was great to be back in Las Vegas around a big crowd again, but this conference certainly had a unique spark to it that I have not seen with other industry trade shows in years.

Attendees were hungry for more business-related information, and they were excited to network with one another once again. In fact, the attendee questions that were asked during my presentation were spot-on given the crazy times we’re all experiencing today.

Being from the label printing industry, I presented “best practices” about planning your product labels for tea producers and their co-manufacturers. The name of the presentation was called “Product Label Planning in the New Era,” in which I discussed some of the most common label issues that I see in the field, and how the label industry typically helps resolve those problems.

At the end of the presentation, I shared a few interesting, new marketing trends and ideas that I have been noticing from several of my beverage label customers related to tea, coffee, craft beer and CBD-infused blends. After my presentation, I opened-up the discussion for questions.

Below are just four of the key areas that I covered in the presentation – and discussed in-depth with attendees – that are worth mentioning:

1. Lead Times and Quality Control – I took a poll of the audience to find out some of their most common problems they were experiencing from their current label suppliers. Their answers: Lead-times and quality control issues seemed to be the major concerns about their labels.

The audience also indicated they are starting to see some supply chain disruption related to their bottles, lids, containers and ingredients, which will sometimes delay their own production times.

If your tea business continually notices increasing lead-times from your label supplier, start preparing for (temperature controlled) warehouse space for your product labels, or you can request to have labels produced in advance from your label supplier and have them shipped that day to help avoid further production delays.

2. Design & Development of Product Labels – Another important topic at World Tea 2021 included understanding how to plan the design and development of your product labels. Most brands know their product label is the “face” of their product at the POS, but typically marketing talent and their production teams do not communicate enough together to design “efficient” labels.

Cost of label material used, speed of production line factors, and planning scalability for future retail growth is often overlooked. It’s important to understand your company’s scalability limits. Meaning, know how your entire production team can adapt to increasing demand without taking excessive financial risk. Try to find your own production “efficiencies” with your label supplier.

3. Maximizing Efficiency – Knowing how to maximize efficiency when reordering your product labels and managing your inventory (no matter how small or large of a business you own or operate) is key. Depending on how strict your branding guidelines are, being flexible enough to slightly adjust your label sizes for your initial SKU order can be a huge cost saver on the long-term. Your ongoing reorders would remain that adjusted size, so you will still have ongoing brand consistency at the POS.

What’s more, as you begin to increase label order quantities, it can greatly affect how your products are produced. Maximizing the width of the label supplier’s printing presses is essential. And having the flexibility to adjust your label size to fit the best production width is a key part of developing a strong relationship with your label supplier.

4. Building a Backup Strategy Around Future Supply Chain Disruptions – Being prepared for supply chain disruption is key in today’s economy. Don’t rely on JIT (Just in Time) delivery, but instead try to allocate at least one to two production runs in your inventory. Also, stay proactive by testing a backup label material during slow production times, so that you aren’t rushed at the time when you are faced with a fast-track delivery deadline. Not testing alternative materials on your production equipment in advance always backfires at the worst times.

Another key point during the presentation was about a new innovation that label suppliers have recently started using called online artwork approval systems. This browser-based technology has been around for several years, where you receive an email link to click-to-view and approve your label artwork via a web browser.

And now recent developments are allowing label printing companies to offer a lot more value-added services behind the product labels they produce. For example, the company I represent, Label Solutions Inc., released its new customized ProofPRO artwork approval system to accommodate for either a simple one-person approval process, or to allow the primary approver to easily request additional individuals to be part of the approval process for different areas of the label – such as branding guidelines, regulatory compliance, language translation, etc. This new format can be used for more complex product label designs, rebranding multiple product SKUs at the same time, and/or to expedite M&A (Merger & Acquisition) transition between two company brands.

These online artwork approval systems are also ideal for tea producers when they have the need to quickly expand into new retail territories and/or scale up their private label business as they work with their own customers’ branding guidelines. What’s more, these artwork approval systems can be applied to larger wide-format signage such as retail promotional signage, tradeshow banners, food truck signage, and fleet signage.

Rob Freeman is the vice president of revenue operations at Label Solutions, Inc., where they specialize in producing product labels for various industries, including the food and beverage, health and wellness and nutraceutical markets, among others. Freeman manages Label Solutions’ marketing, business development and customer service departments, as well as their key accounts in North America. With over 20+ years of proven success in consultative sales, channel management, and technical writing for various industries, Freeman offers leadership experience to help guide manufacturers, marketing firms and businesses to develop creative “solution-based” strategies that help accelerate sales and improve brand loyalty. Label Solutions, Inc. is a certified WBE (Women’s Business Enterprise) based in Missouri. To learn more about the company, visit EasyLabeling.com.