There’s never been a better time to make your wine brand more sustainable. Research, innovation, and technology have offered the wine industry a wealth of ways to curtail its carbon footprint.

But where do you start?

Beyond the vineyard, one of the ways to start taking sustainable steps is with your labels.

The amount of paper it takes to get from one end of an RCS printing press to the other is about 1.5 to 2 times the length of a football field. That is a lot of paper to get the press webbed and ready to run.

With proper planning, strategic questions, and some paper stock know-how, you can make a big impact — not only with sustainability but with your bottom line.

Combine your wine brand’s printing jobs for sustainability and cost-savings

Whether working on your entire packaging project or bottling your next vintage, planning in advance can save you from future headaches. In particular, planning for your label runs has additional advantages: sustainability and cost savings.

An easy first step is to think about consolidation.

Once or twice a year, plan to run multiple labels such as vintages or types of wines simultaneously. Whether it’s your Rosé that’s being bottled in March or your Cabernet that’s being bottled in August, if your labels share the same size and print techniques, it is worth strategizing your printings in groups. There will be less waste and better per-unit cost during the printing process by printing in groups.

It works like this: Every time a printing press starts, there’s paper and ink wasted to create a quality product. When materials end up in the trash instead of on bottles, you’re losing money and creating environmental waste.

On top of that, it takes more energy to run separate print runs than it does to do multiple labels simultaneously. Just think of starting and stopping the printing press over and over again. After chatting with James Stone at Fortis Solutions Group, it takes time to get the litho inks balanced once the press is stopped. Each time the press stops the process starts over again. The good news is once the press is running, it goes very fast, but setup takes both time and materials. According to James, it takes between 600-700 feet of material to just web their RCS press from end to end.

Not only does compiling multiple labels together (where applicable) cut down on material waste and energy waste, it also saves you time and money. You’ll get your labels faster, and your vendor will give you a better price because of the economies of scale.

Just by planning ahead, it’s a win-win-win.

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Questions and considerations to get the most sustainable label from your vendor

When you’re gathering quotes, carve out time to discuss sustainable strategies with each of your potential vendors.

To get the most insight, you should let them know two things early on:

1. You are looking for environmentally friendly options.

2. The artistic intent behind your label.

By letting them in on each of these objectives, they’ll know how to best address your questions and concerns while executing your vision. For example, if you are willing to adjust the sizing slightly of the label while keeping the design in-tact, this could help efficiency and fit more labels on the press. By letting your vendor know you are open to minor modification suggestions, you’re creating the best possible outcome for your design intent and desire for sustainability.

Another advantage of them reviewing your artwork is if they see any potential red flags, they can bring it to your attention, and revisions can be proactively made.

In addition to expressing a desire for sustainability and explaining your artistic intent, there are a few key questions to ask your vendor. Their answers can provide insights into what’s available or realistic for your wine brand.

1. How can your wine brand’s label be produced more efficiently?

From label sizing to embellishment options, there are a lot of ways a vendor might be able to make your label a more sustainable one. Sometimes this might mean adjusting your label size a fraction of an inch smaller or make your embellishments in the same spot on each label to help reduce setup time and waste.

2. What are your sustainable options for printing foils?

Sometimes it takes two passes on the printing press for certain foil designs. That’s a lot of energy and waste for a detail that might be amended without sacrificing the intent of the design. For example, your vendor may suggest a more economical option of using one foil with a dark color printed over it, so there’s the illusion of multiple foils. Often what will be the most efficient for the printer will also be the most sustainable option.

3. With your projected quantities, what would be more economical: digital or traditional offset/Flexo?

Some vendors may be able to run smaller orders digitally (with the same aesthetic intent) at a fraction of the energy and waste it takes for more traditional printers. But it depends on the order quantity, equipment and the vendor’s practices, so it is worth asking them.

4. Is everything produced in-house?

The more work that can be done under one roof, the better — for them, and you. This is often not a concern but worth asking. If a third-party is not needed, that not only saves time but also reduces transit costs and overall energy consumption.

By the end of your conversation, you should fully understand how the vendor can optimize what you’re aesthetically trying to achieve given their technology and processes.

Much like the advantages of planning ahead, you’ll find that what’s most efficient for your vendor is almost always the most sustainable and usually the most budget-friendly.

The amount of paper it takes to get from one end of an RCS printing press to the other is about 1.5 to 2 times the length of a football field. That is a lot of paper to get the press webbed and ready to run.

Labels are more than paper: Know your eco-friendly options

Do you know what your current label stock is made out of? Today, there are tons of paper stock options on the market that are produced from sustainable sources. To make the most strategic, eco-conscious decisions, you have to know the available options.

We leaned on our industry insiders James Stone from Fortis Solutions Group, and Jennifer Smith from Fedrigoni Self-Adhesives to let us in on the latest advancements in sustainable paper stock options.

Smith says the first step in making sure your label stock is sustainable is to ensure your paper stocks are FSC certified. “This will ensure their paper source is from a responsibly managed forest.”

The second step is choosing a paper stock with a percentage of recycled content or tree-free paper stock.

Tree-free paper stock could be anything from recycled cellulose fibers to cotton fibers, sugar cane, and hemp fibers.

Stone says Fedrigoni Self-Adhesives/Manter has been getting more sustainable options out in the market, specifically the Contone Bianco, a tree-free material. “It’s such a beautiful and rich-looking stock,” he says. “They also have a stock made from hemp fibers.”

Paying attention to what your label is made out of is key, but to make real changes your sustainability should go one step further: Consider your liners and PETs (Polyethylene terephthalate) materials as well.

Luckily, both Smith and Stone report vendors are working on liners made from recycled content.

If you don’t see many options on the market right now, don’t worry. Smith says this: “As larger corporations get behind the green movement and introduce their promises for climate change, I anticipate the need for sustainable products to grow. In the hope of this demand continuing to grow, we are expanding our recycled content product line.”

Eco-friendly paper stock and liners are becoming increasingly important to consumers who want to support wine brands making sustainable efforts. By going the route of tree-free labels or recycled PET liners, not only can you be confident you’re doing what you can. You can also be positive you’re appealing to consumers that appreciate a sustainable approach.

Creating a sustainable wine brand is within your reach

There are so many ways your wine brand can boost your sustainability efforts. Start by looking at one facet of your brand at a time. From packaging to labels to bottles, there are already many options, with more coming to the market as sustainability concerns increase.

Step by step, by making these seemingly small changes, you make a statement about your brand, potentially lower your costs, and do something positive for the planet you call home.