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From King John to Nanography

Monday, 07 October 2013 | By Gerry Mulvaney


By Gerry Mulvaney, European Sales Manager, Landa Digital Printing

From King John to Nanography
We have got greedy English bakers to thank for the introduction of food labelling. King John, he of Magna Carta fame, was apparently driven to introduce a law in 1203 which compelled bakers to put their identifying mark on loaves, so the bread could be traced. It seems that bakers in London had taken advantage of the growing population by adulterating their bread and adding all sorts of other cheaper ingredients to the wheat, in an attempt to increase their profits.

King John’s law was taken up by Parliament in 1266 and prices were set for different standards of bread. If bakers were caught selling sub-standard or underweight bread, the penalty was to be set up in the stocks and pilloried by the local population, often with their own faulty products.

Lest we only blame the English, the Americans weren’t averse to similar practices and in 1646, bakers in Massachusetts were compelled by law to have their own personal and distinctive mark for the bread they were selling – probably the forerunner of the US Food and Drug Administration.

I was ruminating on these little known facts while munching a sandwich in Brussels at Labelexpo. King John would not have recognised how his law had developed into a massive global industry with representatives from every part of the globe poring over the very latest technology.

The industrialisation of food manufacturing in the nineteenth century was the catalyst for identifying the source, weight and contents of the food. As manufacturers vied for our business, increasingly the power of brands was also to play a major part in the growth of labelling.

My sandwich had come wrapped in flexible packaging with not only the name of the producer and their contact details, but a brightly coloured label with the brand name, weight and contents, sell by date and a digital barcode which told the computerised till how much to charge me and what sandwich to restock on the shelves.

Looking around the Labelexpo show, it is the next generation of technology that will have the biggest impact. An increasingly computer literate younger generation will be making buying decisions using information available to them on their smartphone and tablets. Labels containing near field communication chips will promote the product to the customer and augmented reality will demonstrate a possible use for the product on the touch screen. 

However the products will still need packaging! And converters and brand owners are increasingly looking at the different ways to engage with their prospective customers. It is this ambition which is creating the opportunity for Landa Digital Printing to bring Nanography® to the table. Different and limited run versions of products, the ability to eliminate additional spot colours using NanoInk® and the use of personalisation in labels and packaging will combine with the other technologies to transform our shopping.

King John might be better known for signing the Magna Carta at Runnymede, but looking around at Labelexpo, there is another legacy running a close second.


Landa S10 - Printing Press