When Teakle became involved in the business, it was a general printer with some label production and had been so since its establishment in 1903. The company began producing wine and spirit labels in the 1930s, and over the years since taking the helm, Teakle has narrowed the company’s focus to the point where, today, it is a world-renowned supplier of premium wine and spirit labels, application systems and other support services to the bottling industries on three continents.
Labels produced by Collotype today at any one of their three plants adorn bottles in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, France, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States. Despite the vast distances between Collotype’s label printing and converting plants in Australia, the United States and South Africa, the operations have more in common than one might expect. “We and our customers use the same machines, substrates, bottling lines, applicators and bottles whether in Australia, North America or Africa”, says Teakle. “The main point of difference is the culture of our customers in each market”.
Though it has a very high profile as a manufacturer of award-winning wine labels, Collotype is also a major supplier of labels for spirits and supplies some of the best known global brands. For example, Jim Beam Bourbon destined for the Japanese and Australian markets is distilled and bottled in Kentucky, USA, and finished with labels made by Collotype. But, says Teakle, there has been enormous growth in the wine labelling part of the business over the last 10 years.
Today, Collotype labels some of the best known and most popular wines in the world. So why do distillers and vintners choose Collotype labels and service over those of their competitors? Columbia Crest is one of the most popular and fastest-growing wineries in the United States. To earn their business, Teakle had to do a lot selling. He went right to the top and met with the president of the company who wanted to know three things: why he would commit to buy all his wine labels from one source; why he would buy them from an offshore company; and, moreover, why he would buy from an Australian company?
Teakle’s arguments were convincing to the extent that a major and enduring production contract was secured for premium label supplies and a new saying gained currency: “If your job is difficult and needed in a hurry, give it to Collotype. It isn’t just about price, although you must be competitive”, says Teakle. “Whilst our labels may cost a little more than those of the competition, they are more efficient and this more than compensates for the cost with less waste and reduced downtime.
“We focus on the total cost of label production. It is our part, the application of the labels, that causes most bottling lines to stop most often so we have focused on improving that part of the process with the result that labels apply faster and cause the bottling line to stop less often. Our labels are more scuff resistant and are rated to stay applied to the bottle for up to four hours in an ice bucket”.
Many of the efficiencies and much of the success enjoyed by Collotype at its far flung production facilities around the world are due to the fact that the same workflow, equipment (including narrow web presses) and techniques as well as strategic business philosophy are in play at each site. Such synergies also mean that remote proofing for one site can be carried out at another when capacity permits and because the business operates in three different, well-separated time zones, customers can get help from a Collotype office somewhere around the globe almost 24 hours each working day.
Collotype has earned export business often through its ability to produce technically difficult labels for end users. Says Teakle, “We will print a batch of demanding labels for a potential customer and ship them without charge. We let the quality and technical excellence of the labels speak for themselves and this has often resulted in new contracts for Collotype”. A good example was the production of Tia Maria labels for the bottler in New Zealand. The then printer had difficulty in achieving the trademark brown required on Tia Maria labels and in getting the gold foil to ‘take’.
At stake was the continued bottling of Tia Maria in New Zealand: so Collotype produced a batch of labels specifically for the bottler and airfreighted them to New Zealand – and has been doing so ever since. “We look for challenges in label production by which we can demonstrate our technical skill”, says Teakle. “We are the best at what we do and we don’t do anything else but labels”.
On another occasion, Collotype was invited to France to assist with a problem with neck labels on the Moet et Chandon bottling line at Epernay. Within six weeks, the line was running faster and with fewer problems – and Collotype had a contract for production of neck labels for one of the world’s favourite champagne brands.
For a couple of years, Collotype also labelled New Zealand’s Steinlager beer whilst a local printer got up to speed with the quality and technical specification required. Whilst Collotype’s focus has been on the production of premium quality labels, the company recently established Sprint Labels, a $15m venture in Adelaide which will supply the higher volume market here and overseas with labels to tight deadlines. Among the targets of the new business will be the growing RTD (ready-to-drink) market, for pre-mixed alcoholic drinks such as vodka and orange.
When asked how Collotype, an Australian-owned and managed company has been so successful in other markets, such as the fiercely competitive United States, Teakle doesn’t mince words: “Businesses in the United States talk service but it doesn’t happen. We don’t talk about it, we just do it! Our customers whether here or overseas get service like they’ve never seen before”. And whilst no cake walk, Teakle believes that English-speaking markets such as the US and South Africa have been easier than places like Argentina or Chile, where language and cultural barriers are higher.
Asked what advice he’d give a company looking to get into the export market for print, Teakle says “The first requirement is a fairly large domestic base, so that when the overseas demand comes, your operation is big enough to handle the volume. You need to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses and importantly, you need to have a competitive advantage. Price should be the last element you consider: you can never expect to compete on price with China, so your focus needs to be on quality and service”.
Teakle has abundant experience to back up his beliefs. When quoting for his first job in South Africa (to be printed in South Australia), Teakle quoted a delivery time one-third faster than a local supplier. Until the labels arrived, the buyer was skeptical but had to concede the Collotype had won the day – and the contract – when the labels exceeded both delivery and quality expectations.
Looking to the future, Teakle believes there is still much to be accomplished with the development of labels and label technology. The increasing pilfering and counterfeiting of products has led to the development of holograms, RFID and now DNA technology, the latter being employed successfully on some James Hardy labels.
Teakle is excited about the future of his business and expects to grow it even further. In December 2004, he was named Entrepreneur of the Year.
He admits to “eating, talking and sleeping labels” as well as drinking some of the products he labels. His other passion is boats and he is proud owner of several. Never one to do things by halves, Teakle owns a 70 tonne paddle steamer, the “Akuna”, built in 1875. He also has two 32 ft Sydney racing yachts and fishes internationally. Having won the Lizard Island black marlin tournament last year, Teakle has been invited to represent Australia at the Hawaiaan marlin fishing championships this August.