Every Wednesday morning, senior executives at Century Label get together and do something that most businesses leaders might do in private: they pray.
Religious faith is a key tenant at the Bowling Green, Ohio-based label company. It’s even written into its mission statement, which states: ‘To birth, grow and operate businesses to model and extend the kingdom of God.’
‘It’s the core of our business,’ said Todd Frendt, vice president and general manager at Century Label. ‘For about 15 to 20 minutes first thing in the morning every Wednesday we pray for the company, we pray for the employees, we pray for where our business is going. That Kingdom of God mission statement is a pretty strong model for us.’
In addition to its unwavering faith, technology, digital printing, innovation and business ethics guide the day-to-day operations at Century Label.
Century Label started in 1980 as Century Marketing. Its current owner, Al Caperna joined the company that same year.
Much of Century Marketing’s early success came with what the company said was, ‘unprecedented popularity and demand’ for children’s fuzzy stickers. Century Marketing later changed its name to CMC Group, the parent company of Century Label.
Under the CMC Group umbrella is also DayMark Safety Systems, a company that specializes in FDA and USDA compliant labels; SmartSolve, a manufacturer of water-soluble paper-based materials; NovaVision, a producer of holographic security products, and a company called Affirm Global that provides financial help to end poverty in developing countries.
Across the five businesses, CMC Group employs more than 300 people in the US, Canada and the UK.
The early days at Century Label meant producing labels for what the company calls ‘Main Street businesses’, or small companies such as gift shops, florists, jewelry stores and bike stores. As the retail landscape shifted to big box stores in the 90s and early 2000s, Century Label shifted with its changing consumer base. But ironically, today’s retail landscape looks a lot like the early days at Century Label. Many of its customers today are small, independent and craft retailers looking for quality and inventive labels.
Augmented reality (AR) labels have been a fun project at Century Label. With an app, consumers can scan the label, sleeve or flexible package and engage directly with brand, even from the store aisle.
Century Label executive director of marketing Leasa Lee says: ‘There’s a lot of research and articles showing that consumers actually make decisions based on the look and the feel of the label when they’re making their selection at the store. It’s not a far stretch to be standing in the aisle at the grocery store and you want more information, or want know the brand story, and you can scan it and find out. AR really endears the consumer to the product.’
Century Label caters to craft beer, specialty food and beverage, nutraceutical, health and beauty and industrial and chemical markets. It’s cornered the market on short-run, multiple SKU jobs, but has recently invested in equipment that will open the door to new markets and new strategies.
Century Label relies on the latest label technology for its pressure-sensitive labels, shrink sleeves and, the latest addition to its portfolio, flexible packaging.
The company was the beta site for the HP Indigo 8000 digital press. When Century installed it in 2016, they were determined to print shrink sleeves on it.
‘When the 8000 press came out, we weren’t sure if we were able to print shrink on it, but within a month we were,’ said Susan Ramos, an account manager for the craft beer and specialty food markets. ‘We were the first company in the world to run shrink sleeve films on the 8000.’
Two HP Indigo 6800 digital presses, and two 17 inch, 8-color flexo Mark Andy P5 presses round out Century Label’s printing machinery. Its HD Flexo press allows Century Label to print at 4000 dpi. Digital printing has been key to its success.
Frendt said: ‘We’ve always been playing in the short-run, multiple SKU markets, but strategically we’re moving to mid- to long-run jobs with the (HP Indigo) 8000 and our flexo presses.’
Ramos added: ‘As our customers grow, we like the ability to grow with them. Now we have the means with the 8000 and the flexo presses to do that. As they see more growth, we can service them as their needs change.’
Century Label is frequently honored for its innovation in print and work with color. The company prints in expanded gamut CMYK+OV and can hit 93 percent of the Pantone colors. A full-time color manager on staff ensures that. The company is G7 qualified in both digital and HD Flexo.
For finishing, Century relies on equipment from AB Graphic, Brotech and Karlville. The company cites its Aztech inspection units as crucial to ensuring labels, sleeves and packages are quality controlled. The company uses Esko’s software in prepress and HP’s Mosaic for individualized and unique labels and shrink sleeves.
New markets and opportunities
In the past year, Century Label has seized on the growth of flexible packaging in the narrow web market. The company recognized the format’s rise when some staff members attended some end use tradeshows.
Caperna says ‘Over the last two to three years we’ve really seen labels and shrink sleeve move into flexible packaging. We started researching it: how big is the market? How can we compete in it? It’s a $354B industry and we want a piece of it.’
Flexible packaging will be a key focus for the company in 2019 as they evaluate the market, its customers and equipment.
‘With the groundwork that the team has done over the past year, we’re seeing the need. Particularly after walking the Labelexpo, Pack Expo and Fancy Foods shows, we saw a predominance of flexible packaging in every booth,’ Frendt said. ‘It’s the place to play right now. We see it as key for our growth.’
Article originally published in the Feb-Mar 2019, Volume 41, Issue #1 of Labels & Labeling.