By Eric Peterson | Jun 08, 2015
After spending the 1990s with Avery Dennison Corporation selling adhesive substrates, Jackson bought Columbine Label to move to the state he loved.
The company did about $2 million in sales in 1999, the year he bought the company, then hit $3 million by the early 2000s.
Sales plateaued until Columbine Label started printing digitally in 2010. "That's when things took off," says Jackson. "We did a hair under $5 million last year."
Jackson calls craft beer "an accidental niche" for Columbine Label. While the company started printing keg collars as a sponsor of the Craft Beer Conference in 2003, the company's HP Indigo digital press is a much better fit for the craft beer industry than its predecessor.
It also allowed Columbine Label to get into the wine market. The heavy stock paper for wine labels "aren't worth a damn with traditional printing methods," says Jackson. "But digital works very well for that."
Today more than half of Columbine's sales come from food and beverage companies, and about 15 percent of the business is from craft breweries. Customers include Oskar Blues, Wynkoop, Lone Tree Brewing, Tivoli Brewing, and MicroStar.
From some suppliers, "It takes a minimum order of 200,000 for a pre-printed can," Jackson notes. The low-volume alternative is blank aluminum with an adhesive label. "Digital lends itself pretty well to it because you can do as many or as few cans as you want."
Columbine offers opaque and clear filmic wraparound labels for 12-, 16-, and 32-ounce cans. The artwork can have transparent spots to let the metal show through the label. Aluminum remains recyclable with labels, thanks to the heat of the recycling process.
Columbine Label also prints front, back, and neck labels for beer and wine bottles, as well as keg collars. Labels with wood veneers have been getting more popular. "It's actually real wood," says Jackson. "A lot of the brewery guys are very interested in that."
Most of Columbine's customers are regional, but it ships labels to breweries across the country. "We can go about anywhere," he says.
Jackson says efficiency has helped drive profits in recent years. "The production and material costs are set," he notes. "What you do in between is the only part you control."
Challenges: "The obstacle with digital is timing," says Jackson. Columbine Label needs 48 to 72 hours plus shipping time to fulfill most orders.
Opportunities: Custom printing, like Coca-Cola's "Share a Coke" campaign that features personalized bottles. "Every single label in the run is different," says Jackson. "That can only be done digitally."
Needs: The company is looking at a big investment in its digital printing capacity in 2016. Until then, "We're in hiring mode and have been," says Jackson. "We're having some trouble finding quality people and keeping them."
Read more manufacturing profiles from this week's edition: