Levelling up: investing to become a labelling leader

Monday, August 2, 2021

Discover how a West Country SME’s investment strategy delivered sustainable growth and opened up new verticals.

The Bristol Labels team
The Bristol Labels team

Bristol Labels is one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of bespoke self-adhesive labels. Located in the heart of Bristol, the company has remained a family-led business throughout its seventeen-year history, despite huge growth and the acquisition of a competitor business.

Owned and run by the son of its founder since late 2018, the company offers both flexo and digital printing to a large customer base across a wide range of markets.

Like many businesses, the past 18 months have been tough for Bristol Labels, but despite the challenges it has continued to thrive and is celebrating growing turnover and profits driven by several strategic technology investments, all designed to maximise its growth potential and keep its offering competitive despite a crowded market.

Bristol Labels factfile

  • Industry Commercial printing
  • Sector Labels and packaging
  • Objective grow market share and maximise profitability
  • Approach invest in technology that enables growth
  • Technology Solution HP Indigo 6900

The Challenge
Since the company was formed in 2004, Bristol Labels has consistently set itself a series of goals designed to maximise its growth. The company identified that in order to rise above the crowded label market and have the confidence to compete against peers, there was a fundamental need to strengthen its own brand and distinguish itself from other label-makers in the South West.

Identifying the multitude of breweries and food producers located in the surrounding region, Bristol Labels saw an opportunity to tap into the premium self-adhesive label space and soon became the go-to business for local craft beers, among many other markets including chemicals, medicines, cosmetics, e-liquids, CBD and even pet care.

But being a leader in the space wasn't enough: Bristol Labels also needed to iron out issues within the business from a production and financial perspective. The previous technology it had relied on was no longer fit to support its growth aspirations: turnaround times were too slow to make significant profits, and the machine did not allow the company to meet customers' sustainability goals. Furthermore, the company does not have a dedicated sales or business development team, meaning staff efforts were not focused on generating new business, and its technology limited its offerings. In order to continue to grow, the company knew it had to invest in technology that would allow it to reach its full potential.

The Solution
As the company evolved, so did its technological needs. No longer capable of being driven by an entry-level labels press, the company chose to invest in a HP Indigo 6900 digital press in order to increase its capacity for growth, improve its offerings and have the confidence to compete against peers by enhancing every aspect of the overall brand.

The HP Indigo 6900 digital press has helped Bristol Labels sustain growth

Although Bristol Labels produces labels for a variety of different industries, the food and beverage industry is by far its largest market. The company experiences an ever-increasing demand for film, metallic and high-end textured paper labels from the multitude of craft breweries and food producers in the South West of England. The investment in the HP Indigo 6900 digital press allowed Bristol Labels to take on exciting new applications and finishes within the craft food and drink industry, including inline foiling, spot varnish and even new verticals such as sustainable packaging.

Looking back at his decision to invest in the new press, Bristol Labels managing director Ben Stokes noted that the upgrade allowed the company to iron out its financial and production issues within a short timeframe and allowed it to focus on generating growth. Since introducing the HP Indigo just over two years ago, turnover has increased by 15%.

While the company's previous digital press ran at 4 metres per minute, the new HP Indigo 6900 digital press worked at a minimum of 28 metres per minute which meant Bristol Labels could not only transfer all work from the old press, but also take on new jobs, reduce lead times and become more profitable, all while maintaining the same workforce. In fact, since investing in HP Indigo’s digital printing technology, Bristol Labels’ net profits have increased by 24%.

The profit generated by investing in HP Indigo technology has provided Bristol Labels with a solid platform upon which to build. For example, the company has made further investments, such as a new GM mini flex finishing line, which includes foiling and spot varnish. Bristol Labels is optimistic that these new investments will prepare it for a busy year ahead, focusing its efforts on new opportunities and business growth within its already flourishing craft drinks market. It is also hopeful to be in a position to strengthen its business operations by 2023, expanding both its production and sales teams.

Some of the product types the firm produces on its HP Indigo 6900 digital press

As well as improved production processes and profitability, the new HP Indigo digital press has allowed Bristol Labels to take on the challenge of sustainability with greater confidence. Newer verticals such as sustainable packaging have always been of importance to the business and, as more sustainable materials become available, is something that the company will look to focus on in the near future.

HP UK&I managing director Dave Prezzano said: “It’s impressive to witness how Bristol Labels has evolved through digitising their workflow to become a leader within the craft drinks labelling market. It is great to see the HP Indigo 6900 digital press facilitating Bristol Labels’ expansion into the vertical of sustainable packaging.

“All HP Indigo digital presses are designed with the environment in mind, not only are they manufactured carbon neutral, they also offer reduced production waste and energy efficiency, and support eco-certified materials including sustainable primers, varnishes and adhesives.”

Overall, the digital press has given Bristol Labels a newfound confidence to elevate its brand awareness and stand-out against competing print service providers. To support this, Bristol Labels hopes to expand upon its marketing activities with continued social media campaigns and monthly marketing emails, as well as attend two global trade shows for the first time: Packaging Innovations and Label Expo.

​For more information on Bristol Labels, please click here.

For more information on the HP Indigo 6900 Digital Press, please click here.

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