NAPA -- Tapp Label Technologies Inc., a printer of wine and spirits labels from plants in Napa and Canada, acquired Ben Franklin Press & Label Co. of Napa.Wine label printers on a rollMarch 11, 2013

The two largest wine label printing companies in the North Coast -- Collotype Label and Tapp Label -- have been expanding through acquisition, organic growth and equipment upgrades in the past year and a half as sales of wine bottles have been accelerating.

CCL Label also opened an $8 million plant in Sonoma recently. [read more]

Ben Franklin Press (benfranklinpress.com) and Tapp Label (tapplabel.com) were ranked the North Bay's fifth- and sixth-largest wine label printers on the Business Journal's April 2012 list. Tapp Label has 42 employees in Napa and 75 in Vancouver, British Columbia. Ben Franklin Press employs 33. Together, they become the second-largest region's second-largest wine label converter.

The largest North Coast wine label printer, Collotype Label, has 250 employees in Napa and Sonoma. Collotype's parent, Multi-Color Corp., in October 2011 acquired York Label, owner of wine label printer Cameo Crafts and now bases its Collotype Digital printing operation at Cameo's Sonoma plant.

In a deal inked Feb. 20 of this year, Tapp Label acquired the assets of Ben Franklin Press, hired its employees and kept the printing plant at 480 Technology Way.

"With this deal, what we've done is two-fold: we continued to serve Ben Franklin’s customer base throughout the process and picked up qualified employees and much needed assets to grow our joint business," said John Attayek, Tapp Label chief executive officer. "Our two companies’ business culture and markets align while building much needed scale to more readily compete in the marketplace.  Tapp is in growth mode based on our impressive results over the past 12-18 months after a very difficult recessionary period in prior years. "

Ben Franklin Press President and General Manager Dennis Patterson and Teri Ann Faychild started it as a small print shop in 1983 and grew the company into one of the North Coast's top wine label printers. Mr. Patterson will continue to oversee that 19,000-square-foot plant as general manager of what is now called Tapp 480 Technology Way.

"All of us at BFP&L are extremely pleased to join Tapp Label Technologies because of our like-minded commitment to our customers’ success and how we approach serving the wine and spirits marketplace," Mr. Patterson said in a statement. "The acquisition allows Tapp Label to offer customers an even broader array of goods and services, greater capacities, expanded product lines and service capabilities."

Tapp and Ben Franklin Press both have similar press platforms for waterless offset printing. Tapp can offer Ben Franklin Press customers flexographic and digital printing options. Ben Franklin Press has three roll-to-roll printing presses and several lithographic printing presses, offering Tapp customers the option of labels that will be applied to bottles with wet glue.

Started in 1992, Tapp opened a Napa plant in 2002 as the wine industry was shifting rapidly to pressure-sensitive labels. The plant soon thereafter expanded to 10,000 square feet in 2010 and now occupies about 23,000 square feet just around the corner from Ben Franklin Press in Napa Valley Gateway Business Park.

In 2003, Tapp expanded the Napa plant to offer digital offset printing. The company has four printing presses and three for finishing in Napa plus seven more printing presses in Vancouver. Two of the four presses in Napa are HP Indigo digital presses.

The printing industry has gone progressively digital in recent decades from computer design to computerized negative- and plate-making to digital offset presses. The latter allow for jobs that range in size from a handful to several thousand labels and customization of each item by replacing plates with a computer-controlled ink drum.

Tapp continues to invest in its California wine country operation. In December, it took delivery of a new state-of-the-art HP Indigo WS6600 digital offset press, the latest model for wine labels with an inline primer unit. Also, set to arrive from the United Kingdom this month is a fully-loaded ABG Digicon finishing press that will provide the high-class finishing of multiprocess labels that bridges the gap between digital and traditional label printing, according to Mr. Attayek. Tapp returned one of its earlier-model Indigo models at the plant while and keeping one as a backup and for additional capacity.

"This new HP WS 6600 does the work of the two old ones," he said. "That's how we could justify the capital expenditure, which was a large investment for us, coupled with the new multiprocess Digicon finishing press. We couldn't have made this investment and done the deal with Ben Franklin Press without Tapp's dramatic turnaround in the last 12 to 18 months."

This story was updated after an interview with John Attayek.