Global Trading

Thermochromic labels for your hot/cold products

Overseas, the use of thermochromic ink on beverage labels is now fairly common, especially on beers in Germany and the US. For instance, a Coors (US) beer label shows mountain peaks which turn blue when the beer is the "right" temperature.
In South Africa only two products have used thermochromic labels – one which reacts to heat and the other which reacts to cold. Debonairs Pizza’s ”dot” changes to the required colour (red) when the pizza is hot enough, and Castle Lite’s ”crystal image” changes to the required blue image when it is cold enough.
In the rest of Africa, thermochromic labelling could have an excellent marketing effect. But packagers should know it is not cheap – on the other hand it does not have to be very expensive.Global Trading
Certainly in South Africa, both Debonairs and Castle Lite have gained through their offerings.
One company supplying speciality inks in South Africa said it is involved in a number of projects with foodbev companies currently as they seek the "wow" factor through using thermochromic, holographic, flip-flop and phosphorescent ink.
Any flexographic or gravure printer can print with a chromic ink, according to ink suppliers.
Holographic inks can cost 20 times the amount of normal ink, so the unit cost of labels is higher, and a long print run is almost imperative. However, if the area printed is small – as is the case for both of the South African products (above) – cost increases can be restricted.
Of course, the extra cost of the thermochromic ink is really not the main cost issue: because this is essentially a marketing gimmick, the big issue is the cost of the advertising to go with it.
The Castle Lite label was a project of Hi-Tech Inks (the South African supplier of the ink) in conjunction with Powermark International, Thuthuka Packaging (part of the CTP Group, which prints the labels) and South African  Breweries (the brewer, part of SABMiller).
This was Hi-Tech Inks’ first launch into thermochromic inks. Hi-Tech Inks has branded its thermochromic ink as Thermotech. It says Thermotech is "a water-based thermochromic flexographic or gravure ink suitable for absorbent papers and board". 
Although Castle Lite’s advertisements indicate that the beer should be served very cold – the bottles are shown with blue ice on them – that’s not the reality for the beer’s thermochromic label.
In fact the thermochromic image starts appearing at 15°C (a relatively tepid beer) and the blue colour is full at 12°C (a chilled beer). This combats the possibility that Castle Lite will lose any sales due to the beer not in fact being cold.
Debonairs pizzas
Each Debonairs pizza box has a sticker (supplied by Debonairs to its franchisees), which under normal circumstances is black. The pizza boxes, made by Mondipak, are die-cut with a small circular hole, over which the sticker is placed.
When a hot pizza is placed in the box, the sticker turns red, and the words "Hot & Fresh" become visible. However, the sticker will turn black immediately if put out in cold weather, for instance.
Debonairs provides its now well-known guarantee that the sticker will be red (in other words the pizza will be at least fairly hot) on delivery. Debonairs pizzas which are about to be delivered are kept hot by a hot "Acutemp" disk which is kept in a heating oven in the shop; the disk is inserted in the bag with four of five pizzas when a delivery goes out.
Short-term promotions are normally not as sensitive to restricted costs as are ongoing products, because of extra budget assigned to them.
There has been at least one promotional application of thermochromic ink in South Africa. In 2004, Pyrotec produced a unique label for Distell’s promotion of its Savanna ciders. The clear thermochromic ink was activated when the drink was cooled to below 10ºC, to reveal a prize on that specific bottle.
Thermochromic labels are also particularly amenable to vending machine products. In 2005, Huhtamaki received the Support Services Award at the British Auto Vending Innovation Awards as a result of its development of "Heat  and Reveal" temperature-responsive labels. Huhtamaki’s Heat and Reveal labels use thermochromic technology to reveal a hidden message incorporated in the cup’s design.
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