Short-Run & Variable Printing: How One Beer Company Is Owning The Shelf

By: Jeff Sommer

Toronto’s own award-winning Henderson Brewing Company is an immensely refreshing brewery. While Henderson honors brewing techniques of the past, their imagination is not restricted by them, and when they teamed up with the imaginative minds at Lorpon Labels, the partnership took printing and branding to the next level.

What is Variable Printing?

Variable content combines several names, images and information in one single print run. There are many types of variable printing, including mosaic, which creates individually unique labels and is proprietary to the HP Indigo Digital Printing technology. Variable printing also lets you take data and use it to create unique labels for each person in a database.

The Ides of…

Lorpon pitched the idea of variable content and its possibilities to Henderson because they knew it was the perfect fit for their brand, specifically their unique series called “The Ides of…” Every month the brewery hosts extremely cool beer-centric events featuring one-of-a-kind beer.

For the Ides of April 2017, Henderson, along with the printing gurus at Lorpon, teamed with Canadian publishing company House of Anansi Press to celebrate Anansi’s founding fathers, Dennis Lee and David Godfrey. The team leveraged the power of variable content by creating labels that featured book covers of renowned Canadian writers. During the event, Dennis Lee was asked by patrons to autograph the bottles’ labels. This is what Lorpon refers to as “owning the shelf.” In this instance, the power of the brand far exceeds the consumption of the product as the can became a collector item.  

“I knew the variable content print concept for Henderson’s labels was a natural evolution of their unique brews. I believed it would be a great brand enhancement for their monthly Ides series,” says Jeff Sommer, Lorpon’s VP of Business Development. Variable printing is about engaging the consumer by taking a brand to the next level. Who doesn’t want hyper-personalized products that highlight a person’s individuality? Through a customized label, variable content can create and foster brand loyalty while generating a social media buzz…but it has to be done correctly.  

The Challenges

One of the first questions the teams at Lorpon and Henderson asked was, “Why should we even attempt a variable print campaign?” Did variable printing bring benefit to the brand? Could they use it to create awareness or to engage consumers on a new level? Was it worth it to offer consumers unique packaging?

The answer to all four questions was yes—because they had the right team in place. The key to making variable content successful is having the ideal combination of creative artists and production experts working together to understand and develop the process.

The right printing partner must have specialized technology. From Lorpon’s perspective, HP Indigo is essential. Lorpon’s HP Indigo WS6800 press was built specifically for variable. It boasts the highest print quality, registration and the largest choice of substrates on the market. Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” and “One of a Kind” campaigns were possible because of HP Indigo. From a software perspective, a print service provider will need expertise with the Esko software suite. Esko is the the leader in prepress graphics software for the label and packaging industry.

The Solutions

The run quantities were small at first. Lorpon brought in material samples and thoroughly tested them for colour and feel. The feel of the label is just as important as the look. Henderson’s labels are textured, giving the bottles and cans depth and personality.

The team found a way to create the desired tactile effect and produce it consistently on different press platforms. Testing at Lorpon involved several different suppliers of inks, varnishes and materials as well as multiple application methods to come up with a product and process. Sommer states, “We needed the flexibility for this process to work on multiple platforms—with digital labels printed on our HP Indigo WS6800, as well as traditional flexo printed labels for Henderson’s larger print runs.”

The experts at Lorpon matched the range of PMS spot colors in the Henderson color palette for both flexo printing and digital on the HP Indigo WS6800. Henderson’s brand colours are well outside the traditional CMYK color gamut on most digital platforms. However, using advanced color control and profiling software from HP and Esko, along with expanded gamut digital printing, the Lorpon team was able to match all the desired PMS spot colors, including the main Henderson brand color a challenging bright orange, to under a ΔE (delta E) of 2 with their HP Indigo WS6800.

Variable Content Advice From Those Who Know

“Work with a printer who has done this in the past. They must know the HP Printing technology, and presses inside and out. Creative agency, printers, clients—they all have to be involved from the beginning,” says Tony Halmos, Henderson’s Creative Director “And don’t forget to keep the scope of the project in check right out of the gate,” advises Sommer.  

Photo credits: Neil Wadhwa


Jeff Sommer, Vice President Business Development
Jeff has been with Lorpon for 15 years. During his tenure he has worn lots of different hats, but his main role is developing new opportunities for the company through new clients, new markets and new ideas.

Jeff isn’t an order-taker. He’s an idea guy. He asks questions and offers options. He assesses all the angles and gives you the information you need to make an informed decision. If there’s something Lorpon has never made before, he will figure out how to do it, do it affordably – and do it well. Whether it’s sourcing new equipment, evaluating new production methods, or connecting with dependable partners, he finds the solutions that will help you break into new markets, create a connection with your customers—and unequivocally own the shelf.

Want to talk about the possibilities of digital? Jeff is your man. As Lorpon’s resident digital champion, he is incredibly passionate about how new tech is changing the packaging landscape and creating new and exciting opportunities for growth.

“My favourite project is always the next one. I love a challenge—and I love solving a problem that keeps my clients up at night. Money isn’t what drives me. It’s innovation. Possibilities. I’m incredibly interested in technology and how it can change our business for the better.”