Label Tech creates custom labels that stand out on the shelf

Small Business Future ProofJames Costello, Label Tech

James Costello, managing director of Label Tech: “Our customers trust us and trust our track record.”

James Costello, managing director of Label Tech: “Our customers trust us and trust our track record.”

 

James Costello was aged just 22 when his father Pádraig, the founder of Santry firm Label Tech, passed away having established the business just a year before in 1992.

“It was a shock to us all but the guys here rallied around and stuck with the business,” he says. “They have a great team ethic and great focus. Some of the original people are still here and it really underlies their loyalty to the business. It is great to have people like that around you.”

In 1993, Costello had just a couple of years experience in the industry having gone straight into it from school. He took over the role of managing director in 2001. In the early days the business concentrated on the fast-moving consumer goods sector (FMCG) but then an opportunity to work with Microsoft turnkey vendors on the Windows 95 product meant a turning point for the business.

The company printed labels for 3.5-inch floppy disks. “We worked with various plants throughout Europe to produce labels in various guises and various languages and were an approved Microsoft vendor – a situation that arose through hard work and good contacts,” says Costello.

This project also required the investment in innovative six-colour machines, which meant the company was well placed to pivot back to the FMCG market when floppy disks became outmoded.

“What we decided then was to refocus the business and to concentrate on the FMCG sector in which we were very strong.”

The business began to concentrate on areas such as the meat and dairy sectors, producing on-shelf labelling. In 2002, the current chairman and finance director David Keogh joined the business and much focus was placed on marketing, investment in machinery and in examining the export market which now makes up 25 per cent of the business’s turnover.

Expanding our offering

“I’ve always been focused on expanding our offering and increasing efficiencies internally within the plant,” says Costello.

“It’s been critically important to bring in new technology. Almost 20 years ago, we brought in a full-time Mac operator; fast track 20 years and we have two guys here with state of the art technology that enables us to produce the likes of the award-winning label for Screaming Banshee beer – we can drill right down to the basics of the files and change them to ensure that the customer gets exactly what they expect when the label is printed.”

The company has used digital technology since 2006 and last year invested heavily in the new generation of this technology to the tune of €750,000. “The digital sector is becoming prolific in terms of production tools in the labelling and packaging industries,” says Costello. “Consumer demand is getting broader so this system allows us to provide a wider variety of products in an efficient manner.”

Label Tech’s clients include Aldi, Centra, Butlers, Dunnes and Spar, with whom they work closely to develop labels that work for them in terms of differentiation, embellishments, the use of non-standard materials or finishes for their labels. Raw materials for the labels are largely sourced from two of the leading suppliers globally, namely Avery Dennison and UPM Raflatac.

The downturn around 2008 was a difficult time for the business which led to a stagnation in growth and a “hammering of margins”, according to Costello. “Whilst it was a difficult time, we put a lot of project work in place to maximise purchasing, improve our efficiencies and cut down on cost – measures that stood to us well in the subsequent years.”

Client demands

Based in Santry, the factory is located in a 30,000sq ft facility and the business employs almost 40 staff who work across two shifts a day, often at weekends. “The FMCG sector is fast moving so we need to react accordingly if a client demands it. If a producer is running promotions in-store and demand peaks, we have to act,” says Costello.

Being located in Santry in the vicinity of both the M50 and the N1 has also benefited the business in terms of transport links to clients and proximity to export transport links.

A new area for the company is that of personalised labelling as seen in recent Coca Cola and Nutella campaigns which featured people’s names on the labels. “It’s a micro-marketing approach and the trend for personalised products brings a personal touch and exclusivity to the client. We have the software to offer such services.”

Looking at utilising new materials and finishes to their products has also been a focus of the business which invested a six-figure sum in an embossing and foiling machine last year.

“We wanted to offer the client something they hadn’t seen. It gives an ultra-premium feel to a product and helps it stand out from the crowd,” says Costello. “We can offer a huge amount of variety in terms of finish . . .”

While clients could probably get labels made elsewhere in Europe or Asia, Costello says that technology, innovation and customer care have been key to the company’s longevity: “I think the quality of the product that we sell and the relationship that we maintain with our customer is vital. Our customers trust us and trust our track record.”

www.labeltech.ie

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