When there’s a real thirst for change, results can be achieved surprisingly quickly. A small Finnish brewery located on the shores of Finland’s biggest lake, lake Saimaa, was facing a problem. Their batches of special brews were not big enough to make it possible to produce direct-printed aluminum cans for the craft beer, the limit for economically viable printing being 100,000 units.
Cans are favoured by consumers in Finland and are also an ecological choice as their recycling rate in the country is 95 percent. All of the aluminum can be used again and it only takes 5 percent of the energy to produce a can from recycled material than it takes to produce a can from scratch. They’re also a bit cheaper for breweries to produce and for consumers to buy than glass bottles.
The problem with available labeling solutions was, that the labeled cans could not be recycled in a simple manner because they contained so much other material besides the recyclable aluminum.
Luckily for Saimaan Juomatehdas, Finland is not only home to a lively and resourceful small brewery community but also to a global leader in developing and producing innovative label stock material.
“We explored different options and discovered UPM Raflatac’s Vanish™ labeling material. Together with Raflatac and Auraprint, a printing house specialising in labeling solutions, we started looking into the possibility of applying Vanish to recyclable cans – and everything started to fall into place,” comments Jussi Laukkanen, CEO, Saimaan Juomatehdas.
Before the new packaging was launched, the label material underwent comprehensive laboratory testing. The results confirmed that the thin 23-micron Vanish label is sufficiently light not to affect the quality of recycled aluminium.
Vanish enables three things previously considered impossible: self-adhesive labeling on beverage cans, recyclability with aluminum cans, and the opportunity for beverage brands to personalise and market small batches cost effectively. The latter certainly a rising trend in the whole packaging industry.
Creative and determined collaboration produces results
Using Vanish for can labeling is an innovation created to answer customer need. The end user had a challenge and UPM Raflatac took it up with an open mind and developed a practical solution in close collaboration with the printing house and the customer. It has been one of UPM Raflatac’s most fast-paced development projects and a brilliant example of the power of collaboration.
“Vanish was developed in order to offer a high quality, cost efficient labeling material that accomplishes a much sought after no-label look. It offers a real option to direct-printed packaging. The can labeling innovation creates versatile and flexible design and marketing possibilities for the whole beverage industry. The active and enthusiastic participation of Saimaan Juomatehdas, Auraprint and the recycling companies made it possible to advance quickly,“ says Tuomo Wall, Director, Films EMEIA, UPM Raflatac (EMEIA = Europe, Middle East, India, Africa).
In addition to the testing carried out at laboratories, the test batch of Saimaan Juomatehdas Marsalkka Vaalea Luomu organic lager had to be tested in a lifelike environment. This was another challenge for the small brewery, one they took seriously.
“Besides production issues, we had to look at the products user friendliness and durability in real-life situations and ensure that the consumers could return the can to the store with the label intact. We took the test batch to sauna, bathed it in both warm and icy cold water, as Finns enjoy ice-hole swimming. It took some time and effort, but we had some fun too,” says Laukkanen from Saimaan Juomatehdas.
The first labeled and recyclable beverage cans of Saimaan Juomatehdas organic lager are now in stores in Finland. But the story of Vanish is just beginning. Look out for the label so thin, it almost vanishes, in breweries, restaurants and stores near you.