Global specialty materials company Neenah, Inc., began in 1873 in the paper mill industry.
Founders John Kimberly, Havilah Babcock, Charles Clark, and Franklyn Shattuck established the company’s first mill in Neenah, Wisc. (now its oldest continuously operating mill), and expanded across the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, and the Netherlands during the following decades. Neenah was the first to introduce the brand watermark, a practice that within a few years became a symbol of authenticity for business and personal correspondence and is still in use presently.
Today, Neenah employs about 2,600 people and focuses on premium niche markets including advanced filtration media; specialized performance substrates used for digital transfer; tape and abrasive backings; and premium printing, label, and packaging papers. Its main products for the wine, beer, and spirits industries include premium label papers, folding board for gift boxes, and box wrap for premium set up boxes.
Neenah’s label papers are designed for both glue-applied and pressure-sensitive conversion, and manufactured with proven wet strength characteristics for increased resistance to tearing or shriveling in moist environments. These high-performance papers easily accept a variety of common production techniques such as offset and flexographic printing, embossing, die cutting, foil stamping, and letterpress.
The company’s Estate Label Papers were introduced 40 years ago and lead as its top-shelf choice for premium uncoated wine and spirit label papers. Estate Label No. 8 is the most popular label for wine and spirits brands.
More recently, Neenah introduced Bella Label Papers to bridge a gap in the market with lighter basis weights. “They’re designed to be the workhorses in production and stunning on the shelf, and they perform exceptionally well on high-speed presses and labeling lines,” says Michelle McDermott-Pautz, brand manager, label, Neenah Packaging. “The uncoated, natural feel provides an authentic, handcrafted look that’s perfect for the craft beer market.”
Each market has its own set of needs. “We continue to see the wine and spirits market follow a common tendency toward brighter, whiter labels,” says McDermott-Pautz, noting that Neenah has seven different whites in its Estate Label portfolio (all FSC certified), including one made with 100 percent post-consumer recycled fibers. “In the craft beer market, texture is key and natural whites are more popular. These brands are looking for a handcrafted look and feel.
“Then there’s the trend toward a custom look,” she continues. “We work with global brands such as Makers Mark and the Jack Daniel’s family of brands to create custom label and folding board papers.”
Gift boxes are especially popular within the spirits industry, and are a specific area in which Neenah has been instrumental. Neenah Folding Board is dyed through, “therefore eliminating the unsightly white edges at the cut lines,” says McDermott-Pautz. “Brown-Forman was at the forefront of moving its gift boxes from the industry standard SBS board to Neenah Folding Board, and many brands have followed suit.”
In 2017, Neenah further connected to the craft beer market by partnering with CODO Design to produce a printed version of the Craft Beer Branding Guide. “The book’s 18 chapters include step-by-step guidance and sample label designs for branding, differentiating, and marketing to the discerning craft beer market,” says McDermott-Pautz. It was offered free of charge and was so well received in the industry that the 10,000-book inventory was depleted within weeks. However, it’s still available for download at craftbeerbrandingguide.com.