Archives for posts with tag: labelling

The history of barcode printing goes back in 1948 and features Bernard Silver, a graduate student and his friend Norman Woodland. The demand for a system that would automatically read product information during checkout came from the president of Food Fair, the local food chain in Philadelphia.

Using Morse code as inspiration, Woodland and Silver proceeded with their ideas, and in 1949 filed a patent application for a new system of printing patterns and reading system. Two years later, Woodland moved to IBM and tried to interest the company in developing the system.

Despite the interest, the conclusion was that it would take patience for more adequate technology to be developed in the future.

The next person to work on what we nowadays know as barcode was David Collins. As he was working at Pennsylvania Railroad, he became aware of the need to automatically identify railroad cars. He developed an interesting method using blue and yellow reflective stripes attached to the side of the cars, encoding a six digit company identifier and a four-digit car number. Light reflected off the stripes was fed into one of two photomultipliers, filtered for blue or yellow. This system had its faults, but was another step that contributed to the universal adoption of the barcodes.

In 1971 IBM remembered they still employed Woodland, so a new facility in North Carolina was established. Gradually, after failures and improvements, the barcode started to be adopted by more and more commercial chains, especially after exact data regarding the return on investment for a barcode scanner became available.

As expected, extremists and supports of the conspiracy theory did not greet the barcodes very friendly. But their advantages eventually neutralized extreme opinions.

Resource: Wikipedia

Barcode labels are extremely useful. They can be used to keep track of patients (medical history, allergies), rental cars, airline luggage and you name it. Recent advanced technology makes it possible for barcodes to be printed and labelled, respecting a very high level of accuracy.

Labelling is a very important process that has come a long way from a mere piece of paper stating the product name, to a precise label that must contain detailed and real information. Knowing that there is advanced technology you can rely on is very important. ALS, Advanced Labelling Systems offers a range of fast, reliable and economic label printers that answer today’s needs of being informed.

ALS Fast Labeller


From the seed that is planted by some blistered hands to the product that is displayed on a shop shelf, there is a long way of hard work, profits and losses. Fairtrade is an alternative approach to conventional trade and is aimed at improving farmers’ lives. It targets small communities, gives shoppers the opportunity to reduce poverty through a simple purchase. Although the initiative was more than laudable, something else was needed to make the small community shops more connected and responding to the demands of the supermarket chains that owned the majority of consumers.

The solution was found in 1988, when the first Fairtrade label, Max Havelaar, was launched under the initiative of Nico Roozen, Frans van der Hoff and Dutch ecumenical development agency Solidaridad. The independent certification allowed the goods to reach the supermarkets. Fairtrade labelling allowed consumers and distributors alike to track the origin of the goods and make sure they benefited the farmers at the end of the chain. Label printers make it possible for other business to use the label, but its use on packaging requires prior license agreement.

In 1997, the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) was created, with the goal of inspecting that the standards were met across all countries that had adopted the system.

In 2002 FLO launched a new International Fairtrade Certification Mark aiming at increased shelf visibility and easier cross border processes.

At present, there are Fairtrade Certification Marks on many products, the most popular being coffee, tea, bananas, mangoes, cotton, etc.  There are an estimated 14 million people in the developing world that depend on cocoa production. 90% of cocoa is grown and harvested on small family farms of 5 hectares or less, while only 5% comes from larger plantations. Coffee, so much in demand, and so much a product we are used to, requires a lot of hard work. It takes four years for a coffee plant to yield fruit.

The reputation of fair trade has soured over the past few years and more and more young people and children are educated in this direction.

Fairtrade is an example to understand the value of a label. It can enrich a life, financially speaking, it can save one, in the case of food labels, it can help shape the prestige of a brand.

Maybe not that poetic, it is industrial labelling that helps a message – information or brand, get conveyed.

The food industry and the labelling industry, one could argue are a match made in heaven. As consumers we rarely, if ever, think about the labels on our food when shopping because we are so used to seeing a clear label with the right information on it.

Food manufacturers must by law clearly convey the following:-

  • the name of the food
  • a list of ingredients (including food allergens)
  • the amount of an ingredient which is named or associated with the food
  • an appropriate durability indication (e.g. ‘best before’ or ‘use by’)
  • any special storage conditions or instructions for use
  • the name and address of the manufacturer, packer or retailer
  • the place of origin (where failure to do so might mislead)

Without this kind of information not only would doing the shopping be a lot more problematic, it would also be a serious risk to your health. If for example you are extremely allergic to nuts or dairy produce, doing the food shopping without labels could be life threatening.

In the UK and the US we are lucky that food labelling is an issue that has been addressed for quite some time now. However with the planet’s population estimated to swell to 9 billion by 2050 there will be significant increase in demand for food.

The farming, food, and drink sector is an important part of the UK, being responsible for over 3.5 million jobs. It has a key role in driving strong and sustainable growth, particularly through exporting to overseas markets.

Exports in the agri-food sector have been growing steadily, with 2010 seeing the sixth consecutive year of growth in value to £16 billion.

Key facts and figures:

  • The USA, France, Germany, Spain and Ireland together account for over half of all UK agri-food and drink exports. These are markets which are geographically close, have a large number of ex-pats, and with historic cultural links to the UK.
  • As high-growth consumer powers emerge exports need to be re-orientated to take advantage of new opportunities. The combined value of UK agri-food and drink exports to Brazil, Russia, India, China and Mexico, which together account for 44% of the world’s population, is less than the UK exports to Belgium.
  • China, USA, India, Russia and Brazil are expected to be the top five retail grocery markets by 2015.
  • Research across sectors shows that exporting is good for businesses, with organisations that export demonstrating higher productivity levels, stronger financial performance and greater longevity.

There are many aspects we encounter on our daily life that we pay very little towards or no attention at all, accumulated aspects that helps us create the sophisticated life style that many of us live today. Thermal transfer is one of those aspects that are encountered on a daily basis in various situations from the beginning of a day to the end of the night.

So what is this thermal transfer? Thermal transfer is a printing technology used by the printing industry. It involves printing on paper and other materials by melting a coating of ribbon so it stays glued onto the surface where it is applied. The quality of labels varies depending on the nature of the labels usage. This varies from day to day commercial use such as postage and packaging to industrial hazardous chemical use.

In the morning when checking the post, the labelling used on the letters are encounters of thermal transfer printing. Some labels have different durability purposes, whereby the post stamp itself is designed to be able to survive weather with minimal exposure to rain and water before the item is distorts. The material of the printing is determined by the type of thermal ribbon and the surface material used.

The stamp can be used with wax-resin ribbons where it is designed to last a long time, but should not be in direct contact with liquids such as water, oil or chemicals which would dissolve its image. Thermal transfer printing uses three different types of ribbons which are wax ribbon, wax-resin ribbon and resin ribbon.

During the rest of the day, encounters of thermal transfers will continue as the vast majority of packaged products today have used complex printing methods. Other products such as magazines will also use thermal transfer printing for various samples. Packaging is a vital part of a successful product in today’s competitive market where consumers are short on time and laden with choice.

On September 15th 2011, the Food Standards Agency and Defra (the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs) published new guidance on food packaging and labelling. Specifically it relates to the use of ‘use by’, ‘best before’, ‘sell by’ and ‘display until’ date markings on food.

It is suggested that confusion over these different dates is one of the leading factors in the UK’s £12bn food wastage.

Here’s a breakdown of what they mean:

  • ‘Use by’ – this relates to food safety.  Consuming the food after this date may be unsafe and it is illegal for retailers to sell produce after it has gone past its use by date
  • ‘Best before’ – this relates to the quality of the produce. Eating the food after its best before date may mean that it doesn’t taste as nice or it might not look as appetising.  However, there is no an immediate health risk from eating this food
  • ‘Display until’ – this is the date the retailer wishes to remove this product from display and is used for stock control
  • ‘Sell by’ – this is very similar to ‘display until’

It’s easy to see why shoppers get confused.  With the many different dates, some consumers misinterpret the dates and throw away food earlier than needed.

Throwing away food on its ‘display until’ or ‘sell by’ date would mean safe food without any drop in quality would be wasted.  Likewise, throwing away food on its ‘best before’ date often means food that is perfectly safe to eat is wasted.

The exception to this rule is eggs.  Eggs should not be eaten after their ‘best before’ date as there is a risk of salmonella food poisoning.

Under the new guidelines, it is suggested that the use of ‘display until’ and ‘sell by’ dates be removed and that retailers utilise other stock control methods.  Likewise, that there is a clearer distinction between which products should have a ‘use by’ date and which would use a ‘best before’ date.

For example, fish, ready meals and many dairy products would have a ‘use by’ date.  Whilst tinned food, cakes and biscuits would only require a ‘best before’ date.

What does this mean for current food retailers and producers? It might mean a huge waste in stock if they cannot re-label it.  However, they can also utilise a contract-based over labelling service which would use industrial labelling machines to print over the current labels with any new or updated information the packaging requires.

Do you think this will have an impact on your food waste?