June 2, 2023

Sappi: Metallic finishes play a vital role in brand communication

Metallic finishes play a vital role in marketing and brand communication, especially in
the packaging of premium products. Meanwhile, issues of recyclability, the circular
economy and climate protection are high on the agenda. Can print-based metallic
decorations play a part in providing premium looks and plastic-free embellishment?
These topics are the focus of the latest Sappi Blue Couch episode, “Great Finishing
versus Solid Sustainability. Can we find a balance?”. Christoph Sontheimer, Global Head of Business Development at Eckart – the leading international manufacturer of metallic and pearlescent pigments for the graphic arts industry – alongside with Sappi Europe’s Head of Packaging Solutions Lars Scheidweiler partticipated in the interview series conducted by Sappi Packaging and Specialty Papers who are producers of sustainable and innovative solutions for brand owners, converters, printers, designers and communications agencies. Sappi group is a leading global provider of sustainable woodfibre products and solutions.

>> Metallic product finishing is indispensable to the marketing of many brands
>> So far, print-based metallic decorations have not been seen as premium in the same
way as traditional, foil-based decorations. But are things changing? And to what
levels of quality can foil-free, print-based, fully recyclable decoration be taken?

The very sight of metal – especially precious metals – subconsciously evokes certain
associations: value, prestige and durability. Metallic product finishes convey appealing
attributes and trigger positive emotions in many people. With silver lettering, for example, or
a shimmering golden highlight, the premium appearance of a package transfers its quality
attributes to the product it contains. That’s why for the branding of high-quality premium
goods, metallic effects have proven to be an extremely effective means of brand

However, with traditional metallic decorations such as foil lamination, hot-foil stamping or cold
transfer there are also other factors to consider.
Utilization of fossil-based films in packaging decoration comes with a CO2 footprint alongside
the cost. In classic foil lamination (mostly PET-Foil), for example, the paper-based substrate
is turned from an easily recyclable mono-material that can contribute to the circular economy
into a compound material almost impossible to recycle at reasonable expense and effort.
While hotfoil stamping and cold transfer-decorated packaging can be recycled, such
decorations require foils as process carriers for the metallic look of the packaging – which
needs to be taken into account when calculating the carbon footprint of the packaging
While all packaging needs print, where could 100% print-based, premium, metallic
finishing that uses no foils in the packaging decoration process take us?
Can attractive, premium, metallic finishes on packaging be achieved by using print only –
and in a way that saves resources and allows easy recyclability? Would metallic pigments,
for example, generate a similar perception of quality as hot foil stamping or cold transfer? Is it
possible to ensure fine line thicknesses, screen gradients and filigree details using only
metallic inks?
Beyond the issue of technical feasibility, other questions arise if high-quality metallic effects
with no influence of plastic foils in the process are to become a reality for recyclable
packaging. For example, what special requirements does the substrate material have to
fulfill? To what extent do the challenges for packaging designers change as a result of a
pigment printing process?
There’s a lot to cover in this new episode of the Sappi Blue Couch Series, where Christoph
Sontheimer, Global Head of Business Development at Eckart – the leading international
manufacturer of metallic and pearlescent pigments for the graphic arts industry,
discusses the future of metallic product finishing with Lars Scheidweiler, Head of Packaging
Solutions at Sappi Europe.
Since last year, our two speakers have been working together on the Metall Ink Project to
explore all the above questions. Not least by bringing GT Trendhouse 42 finishing and
design pioneer on board for the project. As quickly becomes clear in their Blue Couch
discussion, there can be no universally valid answers for all applications. Rather, marketable
solutions mean that different industry players must bundle their specific expertise and pull
together. Blue Couch viewers will find out how a closer look at these issues reveals new
application possibilities for metallic product packaging.balance?”.

The new episode will be broadcast on the Sappi Blue Couch page from 18 January at 10am
CET: https://www.sappi-psp.com/the-blue-couch-series

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