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Sustainable labels that are the taste of the Westcountry


by Filip Weymans

ROOT Sustainable Labels prints green labels that reel in southwest food and drink aficionados.

Established in 2022, ROOT Sustainable Labels is building on the pedigree of its family-owned parent company (KCS Print) and leveraging a local desire for sustainable printing along the coasts of Cornwall and the Southwest of England. With its Xeikon 3500 digital press working at the heart of its carbon-neutral print operation, it uses eco-friendly materials to support food, drink, and lifestyle brands with smaller-scale label print runs for bottles, cans, and packaging.

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As time goes by, more and more people are realising the impact we all have on the environment. That accountability stretches into the world of print too, with printers of all shapes and sizes - and their customers - looking for consumables and processes that are more sustainable. This mission is something very much on the collective minds at UK print specialist, ROOT Sustainable Labels. In fact, it is a mantra around which the entire company has been built.

WANTED - local printer for local businesses

Based in Cornwall on the Southwest coast of the United Kingdom, ROOT Sustainable Labels supports like-minded customers with digital print and finishing services for self-adhesive roll labels. Its focus is on bridging the gap between high-quality print output and a fully carbon-neutral production cycle. It’s a progressive approach that has sustainability at the forefront at all times.

A division of KCS Print, ROOT Sustainable Labels was envisioned as a print partner specialising in food, drink, and lifestyle brands. And while its parent company is more occupied with high-volume print runs, ROOT Sustainable Labels instead focuses its attention on creating a truly bespoke, sustainable label printing service for companies that require high-quality on-demand print runs. And thus, a local business supplying local companies with high-quality labels and films emerged.

Its Launceston-based factory is fully carbon neutral, with accreditation for ISO-14001, FSC and PEFC certifications and a ‘zero labels to landfill’ commitment. For Steve Trethowan, Head of Sales at ROOT Sustainable Labels, a big part of its game plan comes from the lessons learned from its three-decade-old parent company and how the marketplace has changed over time: “KCS Print has been printing for over 30 years, specifically around business forms and integrated labels. This experience of working with big contracts and large print runs has really influenced the kind of digital print presses we need, especially in support of our ambition to offer truly sustainable and local label printing.”

That commitment to carbon neutrality even extends to how it delivers its print runs to its customers, leading it to partner with a logistics provider that uses a fleet of purely electric vehicles (EVs). Being able to turn around short print runs in an environmentally accountable facility and fulfil customer orders through electric power gives customers real confidence that their print provider is fully committed to sustainability.

With Cornwall and the broader Southwest region already known for its local produce and gastronomic output, creating a sustainability-minded print brand in the heart of a picturesque area seems like the perfect recipe for success. “We live in a beautiful part of the world so it shouldn’t be a surprise that sustainability is a big focus for us,” explains Steve. ”Cornwall has some beautiful ocean coastlines and countryside, etc. So, when we were formed last year, it seemed only natural that we offer sustainable print services for a local customer base.” The region also has a reputation for environmental responsibility, so ROOT Sustainable Label’s approach has definitely struck a chord with like-minded businesses.

Locality is a key factor for ROOT Sustainable Labels, both in how it supports local talent by engaging graphic designers through local universities and how it meets a growing demand from a raft of local food and drink businesses operating across the region. “We looked into future markets, and it became clear that we had a wealth of customers on our doorstep here in the Southwest,” adds Steve. “They’re all very much food and beverage based. There are a lot of food producers such as bakers, pie makers and butchers and a real pedigree for breweries and wineries in the region. And many of these businesses are looking for a local print partner that can support smaller print runs and shorter delivery trains. Our shortest delivery track must be with the Firebrand Brewery Co. They’re in the building right around the corner. We can just roll the labels in.”

A taste for sustainable substrates

With most of its customers previously using more traditional materials for their printing such as polypropylene, a big part of ROOT Sustainable Label’s mission has been to educate customers and show how using recycled and semi-recycled products can still deliver a high-quality label for cans and bottles. ROOT Sustainable Labels supports a variety of print options, but it always brings sustainability into every conversation it has with a customer.

One such customer was Padstow Brewing Company, a local brewery that built its reputation on operating an independent business with a clear strategy for how it markets its beers and brewing experience. That brand self-awareness was a perfect match for ROOT Sustainable Labels. It presented an ideal opportunity to work with a print specialist that not only aligns itself with the brewery’s core values but one that is locally based, too. Padstow Brewing Company is around 30 miles from the ROOT Sustainable Labels facility.

Padstow Brewing Company produces and sells beers in both bottles and cans, so with its Xeikon-led digital press and finishing setup, ROOT Sustainable Labels was able to produce sustainable paper-based labels for both the bottles and aluminium cans. To quote Steve on the partnership: “They make good beer, and we make good labels!”

Simon Howers, General Manager at the Padstow Brewing Company, concurs: "We are proudly independent, and love to work with other like-minded businesses. We've been searching for a Cornwall-based label printer to minimise our carbon footprint, so being able to have our labels delivered a short distance via an electric van has massively reduced this. The fact that ROOT Sustainable Label has access to great printing technology, and with a little bit of feedback have adapted their processes to provide us with the perfect finish on our labels makes the partnership even better."

Growing greener by the label

For Steve and the rest of the team, this kind of customer - and the broader marketplace - required printing presses and finishing technologies that could meet those expectations. The team has been utilising the Xeikon 3500 digital presses at its Launceston facility, alongside three finishing lines.

Integrating the Xeikon 3500 into its digital print setup not only offered ROOT Sustainable Labels a low-cost model with a wide spectrum of label applications, but one that enabled it to incorporate those more environmentally friendly substrates. “While we can print with various substrates, materials and adhesives, etc, we’re always trying to advocate for the option that’s the most sustainable,” comments Steve. “What we're really trying to do is to educate the customers and to take them on a journey to do things more sustainably knowing that they can't change overnight. Through consultation over a period of time, we can help them achieve their own sustainability goals by opening their eyes to new processes and materials.”