Mercian delivers a natural solution for eco brewer

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Hobsons Brewery’s very own wind turbine, Windy Wendy, powers around a third of its requirements while solar panels and other technologies, plus the use of locally sourced ingredients and suppliers wherever they can, enable the brewery to perform as sustainably as possible.

It’s no surprise, then, that having standard polypropylene plastic labels on its bottles did not sit well with either the company’s founder and owner Nick Davis, or its customers.

What was produced?

Hobsons first started to investigate paper labels in August 2019 and Burntwood, Staffordshire-based Mercian Labels was tasked with finding a sustainable, renewable, self-adhesive label substrate.

The initial bottling tests with paper were unsuccessful, as the environment that bottling lines are housed in, which includes air moisture, bottle bloom and humidity, meant that all of the paper substrates Mercian trialled were becoming very damp once applied to the bottles.

Furthermore, the star wheel system that drives the bottles through the line would occasionally touch the label and either scuff or lift the damp label edges, resulting in relabelling issues.

Working with Scandinavian mills, Mercian ultimately sourced a newly formulated substrate with natural oils that are extracted from wood pulp as a waste by-product from the papermaking process. These oils are converted into a chemical structure which forms the basis of a white and clear polyolefin wood film self-adhesive material.

Finally, Mercian suggested that adding a sandpaper varnish finish to the face of the wood film label would offer both additional protection to the print and a tactile and aesthetic quality feel to the label.

What did the job entail?

Mercian produced the first order of 100,000 labels for Hobsons, comprising 20,000 each of five designs, in May 2020.

Five front and back designs were printed in four colours, with eight plate changes and eight colour changes on an eight-colour Edale FL3 UV flexo press. Die-cutting was completed on the same press using a full rotary magnetic cylinder and a flexible die from Kocher + Beck, and the sandpaper flood varnish was then applied.

What was the feedback?

Hobsons’ Davis said the label has received positive feedback from both trade and private customers.

“Mercian Labels supported us continuously throughout [this] process, providing all the samples we needed and suggesting the best route for us to go down, and their expertise paid off.

“Now, we have a sustainable wood-based label and the overall aesthetic is more natural.

“The texture of the sandpaper varnish adds another element to the label and enhances the natural feel.”

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