Flexible Packaging Printing Methods for Superior Shelf Appeal

November 14, 2023 | By The Fres-co Team

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Whether it’s on the retail shelf or online, your product—and especially its packaging—needs to stand out. In today’s market, it’s not enough for packaging to simply contain and protect the product. It must also extend shelf life, support sustainability efforts, differentiate the product, and create shelf appeal that helps it move off the shelf and into the customer’s cart.

Flexible packaging is designed to meet all of these needs, helping to prevent damage during shipping, increase the efficiency of shipments, contribute to a lighter and more sustainable footprint, and more. Most importantly for building shelf appeal, flexible packaging is printable on nearly 100% of its surface, creating an impactful brand billboard that will grab buyers’ attention. It also allows for a wide range of customization features compared to rigid packaging, including various sizes, shapes, closures and seals, graphics, and colors. 

At Fres-co, all of our printing, no matter which method is used, is done in-house, so you can expect top notch quality, along with the high-quality service and support you’ve come to expect from our team. In this post, we’ll review three different printing methods for flexible packaging in order to help you design a bold and attractive package that meets your needs.

Rotogravure Printing: Superior Graphics Reproduction for Large Quantity Productions

Recognized for its high-quality image reproduction, rotogravure is a traditional, intaglio printing process that uses engraved cylinders. The design graphics are engraved directly into the metal cylinder, which is then used to transfer the print directly onto the printed package. Rotogravure requires start-up costs for the creation of the cylinders which can be expensive at the onset, but it’s unlikely new cylinders will need to be produced again once they’ve been made. In addition, rotogravure is known for its capability to transfer a substantial amount of ink to the printing surface (substrate), creating a result with vivid colors and clarity. It is ideal for high-volume quantities of prints.

Rotogravure printing can be used for a wide variety of packaging bags, including industrial bags, powder bags, barrel pouches, back fin seal bags, CORNERSEAL® bags, stand-up pouches, flat pouches, and rollstock. Due to their size, industrial bags can oftentimes be challenging to use, but we apply an anti-skid coating which allows the bags to grip to one another, minimizing any slipping or movement once the bags are palletized. Finally, rotogravure also offers several printing finishes, from our innovative Matte Finish Select® to high gloss with an easy-open pattern.

Over the years at Fres-co, we’ve been the recipient of multiple Golden Cylinder awards by the Association for Roll-to-Roll Converters (ARC), formerly the Gravure AIMCAL Alliance, for superior rotogravure printing. Our team of packaging experts are continuously looking for ways to innovate, even moving “beyond the barcode” by utilizing a sophisticated digital watermarking technique called Digimarc. Whatever your needs are, we can help.

flexible packaging printing: rotogravure printing feature chart

Flexographic Printing: High-Quality Prints for Large Quantity Productions  

Similar to rotogravure, flexographic printing is another type of traditional printing method, but it uses photopolymer plates with raised surfaces instead of engraved cylinders. While it still requires initial setup fees for the plate creation, the use of the raised surface plates helps to slightly lower costs compared to rotogravure. With that said, flexographic printing is still most ideal for long print runs in high quantities, like rotogravure.

Flexographic printing can be used for industrial bags, powder bags, back fin seal bags, CORNERSEAL® bags, stand-up pouches, flat pouches, and rollstock. It works well for high-speed manufacturing lines with long product runs and is ideal for industrial bags, coffee bags/rollstock, and stick packs. Flexography achieves a high-quality print image that is more affordable and attractive.

flexible packaging printing: flexographic printing features chart

Digital Printing: On-Demand Custom Printing for Small Quantity Productions 

Unlike rotogravure and flexographic printing, digital printing does not require use of cylinders or plates, and instead prints digital images on the packaging using a high-volume laser or inkjet printer. This non-traditional process is being quickly adopted, and provides high-quality graphics and the freedom to personalize products quickly and easily, with little downtime and without setup fees.

Digital printing is ideal for small brands with low quantity print orders who may be transitioning from stock bags with an affixed label to a custom print, as well as large brands and companies with small batch products. With the proliferation of product SKUs, digital printing allows for a competitive step change, providing custom printing on an on-demand basis. Brands and manufacturers can respond swiftly to trends and opportunities with digital printing, including seasonal, limited time, exclusive, and regional variety campaigns.

Digital printing also allows for greater flexibility to test and execute on a wide variety of packaging designs. Brands can test and explore multiple designs before finalizing on one, as well as offer additional SKUs without the setup costs and fees rotogravure and flexographic printing require.  

flexible packaging printing: digital printing features chart

An All-In-One Shop: Packaging Printing Advantages with Fres-co

Achieving shelf appeal for your product begins with your package design. But the printing you receive from your flexible packaging partner is equally as important. As a leader in flexible packaging, we can assess your packaging needs, advise you on printing methods, and more. 

We help guide you through the printing process by offering the following advantages:

Oversee every step of the process from end to end

Our team offers cross-functional knowledge of printing across all aspects from inks, drafting, and designing to purchasing and more. In addition to printing expertise, we provide a complete system approach for flexible packaging, combining materials, equipment, and support, and can help evaluate your operations for areas of improvement in these areas. Plus, all of our materials and services are made and provided in the U.S.A.

A designer mentality to assist with the technical quality of your design

We’re equipped with a design mentality and in-depth knowledge of printing limitations and advantages, which allows us to help identify elements in your design that could undermine it in production. Our team will work closely with you to ensure your design’s integrity is honored in the final result.

Color separation expertise that can help improve your bottom line

Color separation is the process of breaking down an image into its basic color components, which are then printed individually. Our team will help you identify the number of colors in your design, discuss how the printing process can handle those colors, and provide cost-saving alternatives when available. Our in-depth knowledge of color separation allows us to provide recommendations that can help you achieve a superior graphic reproduction that also helps cut back on your bottom line.

A variety of available finishes

Beyond the high-quality, high-definition printing processes available, we also provide a wide variety of finishes. These proprietary custom laminations and coatings, like our Matte Finish Select® which applies a matte lacquer over specific areas of the package surface, can help draw extra attention to your package.

Explore Your Printing Options

With more and more competition on the retail shelf and online, it’s never been more important to ensure that your product stands out. If you’re exploring which printing option may be best for you, or simply want to learn more about flexible packaging solutions, our team of experts can help.

As a flexible packaging innovator, we offer in-house printing, technical service, and operational support that you can leverage to arrive at the best possible packaging solution for your needs. Contact us at contact@fresco.com to learn more about how we help you create a package with superior shelf appeal.

For more than 40 years, Fres-co System USA, Inc. has manufactured high-performance flexible packaging systems and invented dozens of innovative breakthroughs including degassing valves, modified atmosphere technologies, and reclosure systems.

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