Dublin packaging specialist TLC has invested €2 million in just six months to develop new technology for its food labeling business.
"We have upgraded our technology to print directly onto the product," said David Clarkin, managing director, TLC Packaging.
"Rashers used to come in a plastic packet with a label stuck onto it. Nowadays, products are using packaging with printed film where it looks far more attractive to the customer."
As Clarkin sees it, the average punter takes just 4.8 to make an impulse purchase, making packaging a crucial differentiator in the food retail. "We taste with our eyes first," he said.
As well as the role it plays in product branding and marketing, Larkin said labeling also offered clever pricing benefits.
"By printing the label directly onto the packaging, you don't have the added costs of having extra people putting labels on so you increase your own efficiency," he said.
Environmental packaging and labeling methods are increasingly important, and TLC is one of the few companies in Europe to offer an entirely compostable packaging product.
"It will literally decompose in your back garden in 16 weeks. We are the first company in Ireland to have packaging that is accredited to go into the brown bin. We are also the first I have come across in Europe and I've been looking at this over the past three years," said Larkin.
Clarkin said this type of eco-friendly packaging could become a unique selling point for food companies.
"The likes of a retailer can go out and say 'we're no longer going to talk about being green, we are green because we are using compostable packaging.' It is an innovative way of getting somebody to look at your product over somebody else's'," he said.
A veteran of the labeling business, Clarkin set up TLC Packaging eleven years ago to target the food sector. He has seen a seismic shift in the FMCG market since setting up the company.
"It has moved quite dramatically in the past 10 years. Back then, people were more interested in cost than quality," he said.
Larkin said the recession had put the cost issue firmly back on the business agenda for food producers. "We're bringing something new to the market," he said.
"The challenge in our sector is to come up with not only another way of doing something that already exists, but of doing something totally new and fresh. There are only so many times you can reinvent a product label. You have to think of packaging as an overall thing."
The company has created four new jobs in as many months, bringing its total workforce to 12. By the end of the year, Larkin hopes to have another four to five staff on the company's books. He expects revenues, totaling €1.2 million last year, to double in the 12 months to end of December.
"Our objective is to become the leader in short-run printed film. We are primary looking after the SMEs of Ireland," he said.
"We have looked at innovative ways to make our customers look more like the bigger brands. People who do chocolates want to be able to look like Cadburys."
The company plans to expand into Britain with assistance from Enterprise Ireland and is also looking at entering the Benelux markets.