Retail-Ready Packaging Expiration Dates & Labeling | InkJet, Inc.

As an umbrella term that encompasses a wide range of materials, retail-ready packaging is a fast-growing sector within the packaging industry. Used throughout the world to protect products and attract consumers, retail-ready packaging often takes the form of display trays, cases, pouches, and cartons. As such, these primary and secondary packaging forms can utilize a variety of substrates including plastic, film, paperboard/cardboard, flexible packaging, and more.

However, regardless of the material, all retail-ready packaging shares a need for traceable codes and markings. Through laws mandated by groups like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the European Commission, food packaging operations must place a variety of codes on their products to ensure end-to-end traceability. Without these markings, companies are subject to expensive fines, recalls, and other reputation-damaging consequences.

Fortunately, marking retail-ready packaging doesn’t need to be difficult. At InkJet, Inc. we carry everything one would need to code these materials. Offering industry-leading hardware and a diverse ink portfolio, here’s how InkJet, Inc. can optimize your retail-ready packaging operation:

The Importance of Properly Marked Retail-Ready Packaging

Retail-ready packaging is widely used as a way to make products look attractive on shelves while also providing a degree of protection. Like other forms of product packaging, these often decorated pouches, cases, and trays must comply with legislation like the FTC’s Fair Packaging and Labeling Act which requires clear displays of information like package contents and manufacturer title/location. 

While things like the package contents and manufacturer information generally stay the same regardless of batch or packaging date,the most cost-effective application method when marking retail-ready packaging is to make these markings part of the packaging design itself. However, this is not the case for many other essential codes. 

Markings that are used to track specific product batches or inform consumers about product expiration must inherently change from one lot to another. Required by both governmental bodies and distributors alike, these codes must be placed onto products to aid in recalls, maintain accurate inventory, and educate consumers. Most frequently, these codes take the form of:

As these codes change so frequently, companies need to mark the individual packages with in-house hardware. This is where InkJet, Inc. can help. 

How the Right Technology Can Improve Your Marking Operation

In years past, hot-melt wax hardware was the go-to marking option for retail-ready packaging. Hot-melt printers were utilized for their ability to create sharp, high-contrast codes on both porous and non-porous substrates. While these printers produce great markings, they are not capable of very high print speeds and require regular maintenance to ensure sustained uptime. 

Consequently, over the past five years or so, technologies like continuous inkjet (CIJ) printers and thermal inkjet (TIJ) printers have become the preferred choices for retail-ready direct coding applications. 

Although CIJ and TIJ printers are both inkjet technologies, their mechanical properties differ greatly. CIJ printers like the DuraCode Keyboard and DuraCode Touchscreen are physically larger than TIJ printers and are capable of higher-speed coding. TIJ printers like the Anser U2 Smart and Anser U2 Pro-S are much more compact, though still capable of producing high-contrast codes on a variety of substrates. 

To be more specific, CIJ printers offer:

  • High-speed printing, above 1000 feet per minute.
  • Uninterrupted coding for maximum uptime.
  • Curved surface compatibility, perfect for retail-ready pouches.
  • Reliable operation enabled by sturdy, IP-graded industrial structures.
  • Mid-operation filter and fluid changes for minimal work time disruptions.

Most TIJ printers offer:

  • High-resolution coding, reaching 600 x 300 DPI.
  • Lightweight construction, generally around five pounds.
  • Easy mobility, allowing users to quickly change line positioning.
  • Zero-maintenance operation, eliminating repair costs.

For another TIJ option, the Anser X1 offers mechanical properties that other thermal inkjet printers can’t match. These properties include:

  • CIJ-level printing speeds, up to 300 meters per minute. 
  • Large-image coding, reaching a max 2-inch print height.
  • Dual-line capabilities, as the X1 can simultaneously control two different production lines.
  • IP66-graded housing, which ensures complete dust particle protection and a high degree of water protection.
  • Wide operating temperature, ranging from 0°- 40° Celsius (32°-104° Fahrenheit).
  • High humidity resistance, ranging from 0% - 90% (non-condensing).

Both CIJ and TIJ printers are great hardware choices for direct coding on retail-ready packaging. However, sometimes companies need to place more text-heavy labels on their products to include information like nutritional fact boxes and ingredient lists. To place these labels in a streamlined manner, businesses can incorporate print-and-apply labelers into their packaging lines. 

With a print-and-apply labeler like the Evolabel®, companies can:

  • Efficiently create    labels with the help of IT system integration.
  • Automatically apply labels in a fast-paced manner.
  • Eliminate readability mistakes through precise label application.

Why Using Quality Ink Is Essential

Just as the optimal marking technology will differ based on a company’s unique operational needs, so will the best ink. Retail-ready packaging comes in many different forms and can be made of everything from flexible plastic to paperboard. Surface properties change from substrate to substrate, therefore, if an ink is compatible with a porous material like cardboard, it won’t work with a nonporous material like plastic. 

If a company uses an incompatible formula to mark its substrates, the codes will likely come out illegible. This can violate distribution channel policies as well as governmental regulations. 

For more than 30 years, InkJet, Inc. has helped companies avoid these problems by offering both high-quality ink formulas and guidance. Our in-house ink development team creates formulas that are suitable for nearly any substrate, porous or non-porous, enabling us to provide clients with the perfect ink to meet their needs. With our decades of experience, wealth of knowledge, and varied ink catalog, we can help you find the best formulas for your operation. 

Need Help Marking Retail-Ready Packaging? InkJet, Inc. Is Here to Support You

Whether you need to apply codes to paperboard displays, individual plastic pouches, or any other form of retail-ready packaging, InkJet, Inc. can help. Our diverse marking technologies and extensive ink selection enables companies to mark nearly any substrate with long-lasting, machine-scannable codes. Contact us today to learn how we can maximize your marking operations. 

For more information on how to optimize your retail-ready packaging and meet guidelines, contact InkJet, Inc. online or call us at 1(800) 280-3245.