NAPA and SONOMA -- The two largest wine label printing companies in the North Coast 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.

[caption id="attachment_70213" align="alignright" width="420"] Collotype Labels and Tapp Label have added HP Indigo ws6600 digital offset presses at their Sonoma and Napa plants in the past few months, respectively.[/caption]

In the latest consolidation in wine label printing, Vancouver, British Columbia-based Tapp Label Technologies, Inc., a printer of wine and spirits labels from plants in Napa and Canada, acquired the assets and hired the employees of Ben Franklin Press & Label Co. of Napa.

Ben Franklin Press (benfranklinpress.com) and Tapp Label (tapplabel.com) were 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. Ben Franklin Press employs 33 at 480 Technology Way. Together, they become the second-largest wine label converter.

“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 to 18 months after a very difficult recessionary period in prior years."

Dennis Patterson and Teri Ann Faychild started Ben Franklin Press as a small print shop in 1983. He still manages the 19,000-square-foot plant as general manager of what is now called Tapp 480 Technology Way.

Tapp and Ben Franklin Press have similar waterless offset press platforms. Tapp offers flexographic and digital printing. 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 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. In Napa there are four printing presses, half of which are HP Indigo digital offset presses, and three for finishing plus seven more printing presses in Vancouver.

In December, Tapp received a new Indigo ws6600 press, the latest model for wine labels, with an inline primer unit. Also, set to arrive this month is a fully-loaded ABG Digicon finishing press for 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 keeping one as a backup and for additional capacity.

“This new HP ws6600 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.”Collotype adds capacity

The largest North Coast wine label printer is Collotype Label, which has 250 employees in Napa and Sonoma plants. Collotype’s parent, Ohio-based Multi-Color Corp., in October 2011 acquired York Label, which owned wine label printer Cameo Crafts and had a printing facility in Sonoma.

Since then, Collotype has been shifting specialties between the two North Coast plants and significantly upgrading capacity, according to David Buse, president of Collotype Label North America. He also oversees plants in El Dorado Hills and Montreal. A large combination offset label press was installed at the Napa plant as summer approached, and a second one arrived by year-end.

"We recognize that speed to market and shorter lead times are what clients need, so we want to allow them to rise to the occasion and support our customers' needs," Mr. Buse said. "We had a big jump in demand last year, and we're keeping up with that demand."

One of the specialties in Sonoma was sheet-fed printing for glue-applied labels. Through shifting of equipment -- sheet-fed presses to Sonoma and pressure-sensitive label printers to Napa -- Collotype has used the extra space in Sonoma to house digital presses, according to Dan Welty, manager of the 18-person Collotype Digital (collotypedigitallabels.com) team there.

An HP Indigo ws6000 press moved from Napa to Sonoma, and an ABG Digicon finishing press was installed there in May. The press was upgraded to the data-processing power of the latest-model ws6600, just after the plant received a ws6600 press near the end of the year.

The upgrades significantly increased job throughput from prepress to press, according to Mr. Welty. A 550,000-label job with unique graphics on each one took 35 hours over three consecutive nights to process on the Indigo ws4500 system, eight to nine hours on the ws6000 and four to five hours on the ws6600. Jobs loaded on the press can be run during prepress processing, but new jobs can't be loaded, he noted.CCL opens $8M Sonoma plant

A newcomer to the North Coast wine label printing is publicly owned CCL Industries, Inc., of Toronto. At the end of last year, the packaging company for health care and consumer products opened an $8 million wine label printing plant in Sonoma under its CCL Label division (ccllabel.com), focused on pressure-sensitive labels.

At the helm of the venture is Stephan Finke as vice president and general manager. He was a principal of Cameo Crafts. He is also guiding a joint venture CCL Label project in Chile.