Exclusive: Custom Bakery Packaging: Printing & Labeling

The bakery sector requires flexible packaging solutions to offer a quality, traditional product in an attractive presentation while conserving the products natural freshness.

When talking about custom made bakery packagings, we are talking about packages tailored to reflect the product as well as the brand’s communication strategy.

Packagings tailored specifically to the product are created with custom size and shapes requirements chosen according to their content. Their structure is designed to properly fit the product and ensure its protection both during transport and shelf life.

European Baker & Biscuit consulted with packaging experts from Packly, Kezzler and The Association for Packaging and Processing (PMMI), to gather relevant insight into what makes a successful custom package for bakery products, as well as printing and labeling considerations.

Applications and Brand Identity

“The structural and graphic design of custom packagings is studied to convey specific messages related both to the product and the brand values. Normally, their visual identity is designed to differentiate their content from competitive products but always keeping a look at the main corporate image. In this way, custom made packagings ensure a communicative consistency between all the marketing channels of a company, making it memorable and easily recognizable by every customer”, say representatives of the online package design company Packly.

The marketing advantages offered by custom packagings are essential for an industry like the baking one. Indeed, it is a sector with an elevated competition where manufacturers must always find a way to stay one step ahead to sell more. The packaging surely is a good way to gain the edge.

Custom packaging entails evoking a sense of personalization for the consumer. Millenials, which now make up the largest percentage of the population, seek products that appear aimed specifically at them. “They want their purchase to offer convenience, promise wellness results, stand on eco-friendly platforms or deliver a unique experience that cannot be replicated. Bakery products must adapt to these consumer demands or risk losing shelf-space to competitors who will”, specialists from PMMI explain. Customization is also growing due to SKU expansion – sometimes referred to as SKU explosion – thus creating the need for shorter runs while increasing the total number of items the customers are seeing.

Other reasons for the custom packaging demand growth can be linked to particular marketing needs, time-to-market reduction, product evolution, and many more. Custom packaging definitely meets all these needs, thanks to its flexibility, convenience, and production speed. “For instance, there are now different online applications that allow creating custom packagings in a quick and simple way at a convenient price”, Packly comments.

However, things are not always that simple when it comes to large volumes and plant operations. In those instances, the biggest hurdle for customization is integrating it into current existing packaging operations. Manufacturers have to weigh the wants of their customers versus the cost and ensure that the return on investment is measurable enough to make it worth their while. “For such applications the increasing use of automation and robotics can combat the labor issues baked goods producers face. The baked goods segment constantly faces workforce demands unlike other food industries because their processing and packaging lines still involve manual- and labor-intensive work due to the delicate nature of their products. An opportunity exists for robotics to help address these needs with the improved capabilities of end-of-arm-tooling (EOAT)”, PMMI explains.


Flexible packaging solutions offer many benefits and are poised to be the best option for many baked products. Flexible packages are better suited for printing, which makes the package an ideal marketing tool. Usually flexible packages have smaller footprints than similar rigid packages and multi-layered films allow for longer shelf-life.

“When choosing a material for bakery packaging, it is important to keep a very essential thing in mind: food-grade regulations. Indeed, whatever the material, you must be sure that it meets all the health requirements imposed by law and beyond”, Packly emphasizes.

Then, the choice is surely influenced by technical requirements, just like strength and durability, and by the production and packaging machinery available. And last but not least, it might be influenced by specific marketing needs. For instance, an ecological and genuine brand should opt for the use of sustainable materials with an authentic look.

In this respect, premiumization continues to drive trends across all product segments. Consumers want baked goods packaging that feels sophisticated and stylish and offers the perception of top quality.

Baked goods and breads and grains are continuing to experience strong growth in bags and pouches. This is primarily driven by the lower cost of bags and pouches, high product visibility and excellent freshness protection.

“Smaller product runs are definitely a trend and digital printing allows for a higher level of complex art on the label and requires less pre-press setup. Digital label printing brings greater efficiencies to label design and content changes through programmable software. Some printers today support up to 15 color printing, including four color process, varnishing and over-lamination”, PMMI points out.


Active and intelligent packaging solutions can be deployed in the bakery industry for brand protection, supply chain visibility and consumer engagement purposes.

Such is the case with Kezzler’s serialization technology, where “every item is given a unique, secure and traceable identity in the form of a code. These codes can then be used to track products from creation to consumption, garnering deeper insights into the product journey and the entire product life cycle. In the case of the bakery industry Kezzler codes serve as a foundation for numerous applications that support the running of an efficient operation, from production control and validation, to product history and tracking, and recall and expiry date handling,” explains Christine Akselsen, Kezzler CEO.

Digitizing products also enables brands to share additional product information with the consumer beyond what can be displayed on the packaging. This helps brands meet the growing demand for transparency by providing information regarding an array of considerations, ranging from health-related topics such as allergens and nutrition to ethical and environmental concerns regarding provenance.

At the same time active and intelligent packaging solutions can enable real time consumer engagement directly through the product and thereby build trust and nurture loyalty.

Serialization can also support brands to elevate the consumer product experience, as once each product is made unique and digital the possibilities are almost endless, from creating an avenue for feedback to sharing incentives to repurchase.

Labeling, decorating and coding machinery is forecast to be one of the fastest-growing groups through 2023, as a result of legislation demanding new/increased labeling and coding on products, the continuing developments in printing technologies and the proliferation in SKUs.

“There has been a number of regulations that are driving demand for improved labeling and coding that have consequently driven demand for new machinery. To comply with legislation, baked goods producers may need to retrofit existing lines and ensure new machines meet serialization requirements. For example, printing systems may need to be upgraded so that line management software can interface with ERP software to be able to receive a string of numbers and codes that can be printed onto packages. Machine vision products may be integrated for inspection”, representatives of PMMI explain.

Digitization can be implemented through several means. In the case of Kezzler’s serialisation technology the codes can be embedded into QR codes, NFC or other existing labels and there are three main options for brands to consider.

“Firstly, pre-serialized labels can be provided. These are simply applied to the existing packaging and then activated as required.

Secondly, the codes can be printed inline. Kezzler’s technology can integrate with any system, and as pioneers of mass serialization we have built unique competence in deploying solutions in high volume production facilities and integrating serialization into a company’s existing IT architecture.

Thirdly, brands can opt to pre-serialize their products using Kezzler’s patented technology. For example, our joint offering with global packaging leader Amcor, MaXQ, enables companies to digitalis their products in this way. A unique code integrated into the product packaging is simply activated at a later stage via the cloud, minimizing the operational burden”, explains Christine Akselsen.

Labeling Impact on Consumers and Industry

A new Food-PRICE systematic review and meta-analysis of interventional studies, led by researchers from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, assessed the effectiveness of multiple types of food labels. The researchers found that these approaches can impact some targets, but not others, for both consumer and industry behavior. The 60 interventional studies reviewed were comprised of two million unique observations, including consumer reported dietary intakes, purchases, and sales receipts, and were published between 1990 and 2014.

The researchers found that labeling reduced consumers’ intake of calories by 6.6%, total fat by 10.6%, and other unhealthy food options by 13%. In contrast, labeling did not significantly impact consumer intakes of other targets such as total carbohydrate, total protein, saturated fat, fruits, whole grains, or other healthy options.

When industry responses were evaluated, the researchers found that labeling led to reductions of both trans fat and sodium in packaged foods by 64.3% and 8.9%, respectively. However, no significant effects of labeling were identified for industry formulations of total calories, saturated fat, dietary fiber, other healthy components (e.g., protein and unsaturated fat), or other unhealthy components (e.g., total fat, sugar, and dietary cholesterol).

“For industry responses, it’s interesting that the two altered components—trans fat and sodium—are additives,” said senior and corresponding author Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School. “This suggests that industry may be more readily able to alter additives, as opposed to naturally occurring ingredients such as fat or calories, in response to labeling”, he added.

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