Companies To Watch: International Label & Printing

By Steve Katz, Editor | October 14, 2016

2550 United Lane, Elk Grove Village, IL 60007

International Label & Printing Co., Inc., is a label manufacturer in Elk Grove Village, IL with a rich history and a bright future. The company has been on the leading edge of the industry since 1993, when it was purchased by the partnership trio of Mark Turk, Tony Dardano and Bob Gorzynski, all of whom came from the newspaper business, having worked together at the Chicago Sun-Times. International Label had been in business since the 1940s, founded by the Gans family – immigrants from Europe and Holocaust survivors. For many years, the business focused on wholesale food labels and food service labels, which were produced on large format offset presses – platen letterpresses that produced cut-and-stack labels.

The company had two flexo presses in 1993 – a 6-color Mark Andy 2100 and a 3-color Mark Andy 810 CI press – when Turk, Dardano and Gorzynski took over the business. From their newspaper background, they were aware of flexography and the capabilities of an evolving print process that had proven to be a perfect fit for labels. Turk, who serves as president and CEO, recalls, “We came in and thought ‘Okay, this is great, but the press is only 7" wide.’ We felt that if we could go a little bit wider, we could open up some new markets for ourselves. So in 1995 we bought an Aquaflex 13" 6-color press.

“Our former colleagues at the Sun-Times were good to us. The three of us had left on good terms, and as it turned out, they came to us for their printing needs. Back in those days they printed Zip cards for the newspaper – basically 8" x 11" inserts. So they asked if we would like to print those for them. They were four over four and we had a 6-color press. So we bought two extra units to make the Aquaflex an 8-color press and we ran those roll-to-sheet, off the press and onto the skid ready to go. And that was a nice business for quite some time. For a long time, that was our flagship press. We then started to get new business that required the jobs to be run on that same press and we didn’t have the capacity, so we bought a 13" Nilpeter FB-3300 8-color press and made the tooling compatible in order to run everything interchangeably between the Aquaflex and Nilpeter presses,” Turk says.

Due to its history, International Label has many longtime customers – some of whom were clients of the original owners. With regard to markets served, Turk estimates about 75% of the company’s revenue is in food and beverage, and of that total, 75% are prime labels.

With its flexo printing assets, the company enjoyed steady growth. However, in response to the evolving needs of its customers, investments in new printing technologies have paved the way for success and opened new doors. Today, International Label has three true flexo presses – the aforementioned Mark Andy, Aquaflex and Nilpeter machines. In addition, notably, in 2010 International Label became the first company in North America to adopt hybrid press technology with the addition of a Nilpeter Caslon – it incorporates both UV flexo and digital inkjet printing processes. A Domino N610i, the company’s first fully digital label press, was installed at the end of December 2014.

International Label is not a big company – there are only 18 employees at the company’s 15,000 square foot facility – but Turk says that prior to the Caslon, they got on the radar of several digital press manufacturers. “We were getting tons of calls inviting us to take a look at all kinds of digital presses. We saw it as a learning opportunity – but at the time it was just too expensive,” Turk says of investing in a digital press. Then, at a show in 2008, we saw the Nilpeter Caslon and were impressed – but it wasn’t ready yet. So we waited. Two years later, Nilpeter came back to us and we decided to buy it – and it was the first one in North America. Of course, all of the clichés followed such as ‘you lead, you bleed,’ etc. but it was a chance for us to get started with digital,” says Turk.

At the time of the first digital investment, the regional wine label market was booming. In Illinois, there were over 90 wineries, and it was growing immensely. Craft beers were also becoming widespread. Both of those markets lend themselves to digital printing because of how the labels have to look and the quantities that customers are going to order – smaller, with many versions. While the 75 fpm hybrid Caslon filled a need for short run labels, when orders were getting into the higher volumes and increasingly with more SKUs, Turk explains that there were some inefficiencies with regard to printing white, as well as make-ready time and registration. “It wasn’t in the plan to add another press, but with the issues we were having, it suddenly made sense,” Turk says. “I was looking at Domino for another project we were working on for one color. A Domino account manager showed me this clear label with very opaque white ink printed on it, and I thought, ‘Wow, this is as good as silk screen’. The white was very dense, very opaque and the print quality was excellent.”

In November 2014, Domino invited International Label to its nearby facility. “It was just a 40-mile trip from Elk Grove to Domino in Gurnee, IL, so we thought we’ll go up for the morning, learn something and then come back,” recalls Turk. “We saw the press in 4-colors plus white, and it was everything Domino said it was. However, they were introducing a new press that had six colors plus white – a 7-color press with extended color gamut. So I got to thinking – maybe it would be good for us to make a deal on the 4-color plus white press? I told Domino that they could even use it as a demonstration press if need be since we are only 40 miles away. It was a very impressive machine.

“Domino asked if we were serious, which of course we were. They printed some jobs for us so that we could see it would do what we wanted it to do – everything looked great. I suggested that we buy the Domino in order to save this type of work that we were starting to get – small to medium sized runs with multiple SKUs. We couldn’t afford to throw half of it away due to the registration issues we were having. But the white is really what drove it.”

Turk emphasizes that it was now five years after the company’s first and only digital investment to that point. “We had some experience with UV inkjet with the Caslon, but the Domino was the latest and greatest,” he says. “The Domino runs twice as fast and the ink is half the cost. So once we started putting all the mathematics together, we realized there were cost benefits as well to going with the Domino, besides just being able to print great looking labels. And it’s truly been a game-changer for us.”

International Label & Printing Co., armed with its new digital capabilities, has also been in the limelight lately. Last year, the company joined TLMI for the first time and entered a few labels into the annual TLMI Label Awards competition. Turk says, “We ended up taking 2nd place in the category of Wine & Spirits – Digital Printing/Inkjet – Color Process Prime, with a label printed by the Domino N610i.”

Following successful entry into digital label printing, the company is not resting on its laurels. The most recent investment of a Jetrix UV flatbed printer has International Label & Printing forging ahead into large format signage, a completely new and different market. Turk and his partners continue to move forward – and all signs point toward growth and success.  –Steve Katz
blog comments powered by Disqus