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FLEXO Magazine : July 2010
Industry Indicators “ We’ve got a pretty good tra- dition here of good quality at a price that any- one can afford,” said Georden Elliott, art di- rector. “ We want to compete on shelf with the national brand and we do that with design. The consumer is pretty familiar with us. They know Western Family. We feel that not only are our customers comfortable with us, they see that they are competing image-wise on shelf.” To effectively communicate its brand, and compete with mainstream brands, Western Family Foods works hard to focus on its design priorities. “ We will examine the compet- ing label brands, top national brand, etc. and see what has been done,” explained Johnson. “Our No. 1 priority is to sell Western Family. Next is to have a quick read of the product. Then the photography has to have a lot of appetite appeal and accurately represent what is in the package.” The goal, she went on to say, is not to mimic the national brand, but instead to communicate Western Family Foods’ value. “ Our products are very good and very high quality. Our goal is to be equal if not better than the national brand. They don’t always hit the target on the head anyway.” Maintaining the company ’s identity is high priority, in particular because Western Family engages in less frequent packaging redesigns. “A national brand will re-design every one to three years; we are a minimum of three to five years. That’s private label simple economics,” said Johnson. Who’s on FIRsT Western Family Foods only controls an estimated 20 per- cent of the actual print decisions—including the process, print shop, and other factors. Those decisions are often made by the packer. What the firm does manage is the entirety of the design aspects of all the work it oversees. To ensure that the design matches the desired print outcome, Johnson insisted that all packages are built in accordance with FIRST (Flexo- graphic Image Reproduction Specifications and Tolerances) guidelines. The consumer products company partners with Stevenson - T he Color Co for all prepress work and has employees on site. Again, all files are separated and built to FIRST. The challenge for Western Family Foods comes in working with printers that are aware of, understand and run to FIRST. According to Johnson, the difference between a packaging provider that uses FIRST and one that doesn’t is like night and day. “ T hose printers that are familiar with FIRST, it makes a huge difference. But those who aren’t, it’s a struggle.” She added, “If the printer is more ‘old school,’ they may not have a fingerprint or press characterization. We do develop everything to FIRST and we impress upon them that they must hit these measurements established by FIRST. But there are times when the printer does not even have a densitometer; they can’t even measure. They eyeball it!” Johnson is a long-time FIRST advocate who was intimately involved in the establishment of the Premier Edition of the manual. When a printer is known to not be proficient in FIRST, then Western Family will often send a person to oversee the run, usually from Stevenson Color. “ T hey have developed the files and know the ins and outs of it and can work with the printer to get the print result where it should be.” In some cases, though, there is only so much coaching that can be done. Johnson recalled, “There was a case where the printer was not running to FIRST. It was not even running a true cyan or magenta; it was using a process blue and rubine red. Even after working with the press crew on the color, the result was just poor. Unfortunately, with private label, so much is driven by cost. If I start making changes on the printing side, the cost of the package goes up. I may not have the luxury of going elsewhere because the packer would have negotiated the price. If that happens, we simply inform the customer that this is the best that it is going to get and make a recommendation for what they need to do for the future.” GeTTInG ToGeTheR According to Elliott, to help achieve Western Family ’s de- sign goals, it’s critical to include the printer and the prepress house in the design phase. “ We try to get involved as early as possible with all parties participating, so that we can com- municate with them both in a design phase and a production phase. That way, they come to understand our intent and can assist us in sorting out any issues of printability.” More often than not, Elliott insisted, Western Family is able to push the limits of the intended design. But not always. “Sometimes we are working with a printer who is not up to our preferred caliber. In those cases, we are forced to push the printer to get the maximum result from them. It’s pretty rare that we scale back. Once we have a conversation with the printer, we can establish if the design is going to work or not. But there are those times when a printer is just not going to be able to print what we designed. In that case, we communicate with the packer as to whether there is another printer, or can they push the printer, and if not, only then will we reconfigure the design.” Johnston stated, “In those printing situations that we control, we attach a sheet to the print samples that include all the measurements. If I see the values getting too high or too low, then I make a call and bring it to their attention. When we sep- arate our colors, we try to remove contaminating color and find the cleanest way for it to print consistently. We work very hard on the design, and you can have a great design, but if it can’t print, forget about it. ” Both she and Elliot agreed that any and all printers should be running to FIRST. “Otherwise printing is too subjective,” said Johnson. “ You need to have consistency from run to run.” n collaborating with printers and application of First helps Western Family Foods achieve it’s design and print quality goals. www.flexography.org july 2010 FLEXO 19 ® FLXO_July10_v2.indd 19 7/16/10 9:36 AM
Sustainable Summer 2010