For White Meadows Farms, custom label manufacturing is much sweeter with the iTech AXXIS Digital Label System

Among the picturesque hills of the Niagara plateau surrounding St. Catharine’s (Pelham) Ontario, Canada, White Meadows Farms, a 4th generation family-owned farm, has become renowned for their maple products. Over the years they have diversified their maple product offerings with syrups, jelly, sauces, candy, nuts, popcorn – and even grape juice from local grapes. While ten people are employed full time, during harvesting season in February and March, the staff swells to 75 people – serving 25,000 visitors.

For years White Meadows Farms relied on traditional printing and die-cutting for its labels. “We printed our name on generic labels supplied by a local trade association. They provided the design and printed labels; we just added our name,” remembers Richard Bering, Director of Marketing and Advertising. “Then, we created our own labels for our syrup. We had one die produced for us and the labels were printed on a flexo press. That’s when we understood just how expensive dies were in relation to the small quantities of labels we needed.”

White Meadows Farms was launching new product lines and printing simple labels from their own laser printer in the past. As the product lines and sales expanded, they knew that they needed higher-quality labels to better represent the quality of the product inside the packaging. After researching the best way to print small quantities of labels, they went to a local company that had a digital press — but they still needed expensive dies. They were printing labels for twenty products, using six different dies to fit all of the different packaging. However they were still buying more labels then they most often needed.

When Bering first looked into digital printing, he needed a way to print roll-to-roll, because their production equipment applied labels from rolls. One system used a laser printer, but just printed on pre-die-cut labels. They would have still needed a large inventory of pre-die-cut labels. And, it didn”t provide finishing, so labels would not have been protected from the elements. Because they were looking at different-shaped labels, digital die-cutting seemed very attractive to Bering. There were a couple digital label systems Bering focused on because of their digital die-cut capabilities and lamination. However, one was more than twice the cost of the other. Plus, operationally it was much more expensive to use, and the print quality didn”t meet their standards. That made the decision pretty easy. They purchased Allen Datagraph Systems, Inc’s iTech Axxis Digital Label System: the iTech Axxis Digital Label Printer and iTech Axxis Digital Label Finisher.

“Once we made the decision, the implementation was pretty seamless,” describes Bering. “Our labels are designed in Adobe Illustrator, which was perfect for the iTech Axxis Digital Label System. There was a slight learning curve on the Wasatch RIP software used for printing. The Wasatch RIP’s color correction and management was a nice surprise. And finishing the label is very simple – any vector shape I design in Adobe Illustrator is sent to the finisher directly from Adobe Illustrator – creating any shape label I want, on-demand, without the additional cost of a die. The two-day free training I received at Allen Datagraph was valuable. I don’t think I would have been quite so productive, so fast, otherwise. At the end of the training, I drove the system home in the back of my Pontiac Vibe.”

Before, Bering planned a year ahead, and always had labels in inventory. Sometimes they would run out, but wouldn’t order any new labels because they only needed 100 more. And their label supplier would not supply labels in such a small quantity.

Any need for a special label was cost prohibitive and created problems of its own. For example, White Meadows Farms offers ‘First Run’ syrups — the first syrup of the year. They fill 200 bottles that are sequentially numbered. “Before we purchased our iTech Axxis Digital Label System we relied completely on our label supplier. The normal wait time to receive our labels was too long for this purpose – maple season would be over. We weren”t able to use high quality labels on our ‘First Run’ syrups.”

The system has also created new business opportunities. Last Christmas, White Meadows Farm received a potential order from a company that wanted to send maple syrup to its clients. “We gave them a quote and I made a custom die-cut label with a star and ornaments. We were bidding against someone else,” recalls Bering. “While our prices were comparable, I was able to create a custom shape and, using variable data, put each recipient’s name on each label. That personalized approach sold the job. Now, we’re getting into wedding favors too – putting the brides’ and grooms’ names on the labels. Being able to customize, on demand, is working well for us.”

The iTech Axxis system has also been cost-effective. “The savings are in the dies and the plates Bering would have to purchase. “It cost us $850 for one set of dies. The iTech Axxis Digital Label System provides a huge savings just in that,” assesses Bering. “Include the savings in inventory that we do not have to carry. I have never calculated it, but I’m sure it’s in the thousands of dollars. We are a small company, and that’s a lot of money to us.”

Before, with new colors or changes in design — for example, ingredients — White Meadows Farm threw out older labels. Waste was a concern. Now, Bering produces only the labels he needs. The flexibility with the iTech Axxis Digital Label System is unlimited for a company like White Meadows Farms.

The iTech Axxis Digital Label System has saved White Meadows Farms money, provided label delivery times on-demand, and allowed the company to be more creative with its products. “The iTech Axxis Digital Label System has opened up a whole new part of our business,” summarizes Bering. “We’re creating 10-fold the number designs that we generated before. And, more important, we have grown our business and our profitability.”