Frontier Label combines digital printing services with design to give small businesses a competitive edge

Jared Powell, CEO of Frontier Label. Photo by Will Crooks/Upstate Business Journal.

Product labeling may not be one of the first things a company considers when looking to grow sales, but if you ask Jared Powell, it definitely should be.

Not only do labels provide basic information about the contents within a package, but they also help to establish brands that consumers can trust and to differentiate products when the store shelves become crowded, according to Powell, who is CEO of Greenville’s Frontier Label.

“Whether it’s an eye-catching design or contrasting colors, labels and packaging are the face of any product, and brands need to develop a strategy for how they want to present themselves to consumers,” Powell said in a news release. “For the mom-and-pop shops to larger businesses, there are resources and companies to help with label and packaging design if the skillset isn’t available in-house. Especially when it comes to celebrating seasonal events or brand anniversaries, an intriguing label and packaging is a must-have.”

Growing a business 

Headquartered at 340 Interstate Blvd., Frontier Label has been working with small and medium-size businesses across the U.S. for over a decade to provide design advice and to help distinguish their brands with custom stickers and labels.

Founded in 1981, Frontier began as Pioneer Packaging Machinery, which provided the packaging industry with labeling machinery and support, according to Powell.

Frontier Label prints stickers and labels for a variety of industries, including supplements and nutraceuticals, health and beauty, food and beverage, and others. Photo provided.

Pioneer’s owners — Hans Frist and his sons, Dan and Howard —  relocated from New Jersey to Pickens County in the 1990s and established a new manufacturing operation.

After Hans passed away in 2004, Dan and Howard decided to rename the company and adopt a new business model — label and sticker printing. The company relocated to Greenville a year later to find qualified employees, according to Powell.

Powell, who was a graduate student studying bioengineering at Clemson University at the time, sparked a friendship with Dan Frist at a local church event, and Frist eventually offered him an accounting job at Frontier. It wasn’t long, though, before Powell was running the company. The Frist brothers decided to pursue ministry work several years after relocating to Greenville and promoted Powell to chief executive officer of Frontier.

Today, under Powell’s leadership, the company has more than two dozen employees and produces stickers and labels for a variety of industries, including supplements and nutraceuticals, health and beauty, food and beverage, and others.

With over 1,300 custom dies (a thin, razor-sharp steel blade that has been formed into a specific shape or pattern) and 15 printing materials, Frontier can produce labels and stickers in almost any size or shape a customer wants, according to Powell.

“If a customer wants something we don’t have then we work with them to order a customized die,” he said. “We can just add it to our catalogue once the job is done.”

Frontier specializes in short-run labels and stickers as well as serialized and multi-design orders, according to Powell. A typical order takes only about three days to complete.

Because it operates with digital printers, Frontier can run any number of images or designs that a customer needs on the same order. There is no minimum quantity for orders.

Winning in the digital age 

Powell said Frontier has become one of the industry’s leading printers of labels and stickers because of its early adoption of online sales and digital printing services.

Frontier Label partners with a number of coffee roasters across the country, including Greenville-based Methodical Coffee. Photo provided.

The company’s website, for instance, allows prospective customers to receive an online quote for their order by making simple adjustments to the size, material, shape, color, and total number of stickers or labels, according to Powell.

“We were probably one of the first companies in the industry to let you go through the entire ordering process without having to speak to a single person,” Powell said. “We keep doing what we can to push the envelope online and to make things easier for our customers.”

Digital custom printing solutions also help customers save money by removing any plate charges and fees related to artwork setup or print setup, according to Powell.

Powell said Frontier’s products are used in hundreds of different applications, and the customers buying them range from startups to Fortune 100 companies.

Most of the company’s revenue comes from out-of-state customers, but Frontier has made an effort in recent years to expand its local market presence, according to Powell.

South Carolina companies now account for 12 percent of Frontier’s revenue stream, compared with 5 percent a decade ago. Some of the company’s local customers include Methodical Coffee, Palmetto Distillery, Mail Room Barber, and Poppington’s Gourmet Popcorn.

Capitalizing on craft beer  

While Frontier’s high-quality materials and quick turnaround time has positioned the company as the go-to printer for a wide variety of industries, it has garnered increasing popularity among breweries.

The craft-beer industry now accounts for more than 23 percent of the $111 billion beer market, and Frontier partners with more than 50 breweries nationwide to help them stand out with custom labels that encapsulate the aesthetics of the brand and brew.

Frontier Label prints stickers and labels for a variety of industries, including supplements and nutraceuticals, health and beauty, food and beverage, and others. The label depicted above was produced for Quest Brewery in Greenville. Photo provided.

“It’s inspiring to work with craft-beer companies, and we’ve found that this industry gravitates to creative label designs that reflect the personality of the brew and the culture of the brewery,” Powell said. “We serve as a partner from beginning to end, rolling up our sleeves to ensure we’re getting hands-on with customers from the ideation of labels to the moment they’re placed on the product. We take pride in how we work with our brewery customers to make sure they stand out, even before the first pour.”

As an example, Greenville brewery Birds Fly South recently partnered with Frontier to help develop a new label to celebrate its brand.

Working with local artist Chris Koelle and Birds Fly South throughout the design and printing processes, Frontier helped bring the design to life, incorporating elements of metallic plastic, resulting in the brand’s signature label.

“My experience working with Frontier Label’s pre-production team to solve any and all issues has always been a pleasure,” Koelle said. “As an artist, it’s important to me that my vision comes across organically on the finished product, and from day one, the Frontier Label team was committed to that. They appreciate the creative process and are able to seamlessly translate the details from the art to the label, resulting in a beautiful finished product that is true to the original design.”

Tapping into design 

In addition to providing printing services, Frontier provides a consulting service for customers who don’t have a design for their stickers or labels. The company’s graphics team will usually create a logo or design and then send it to the customer for approval.

Frontier also remains up-to-date on the latest design trends, according to Powell.

Every couple of months, Frontier releases a trends report identifying “the top label design and creative aspects of the season.” The company’s latest report, released in September, includes designs that consumers and companies can expect to see as the holidays approach.

“We love to help businesses, especially smaller ones, identify trends that can lead to successful holiday selling,” Powell said. “For small businesses, standing out visually is a quick way to end up on a holiday wish list without spending large amounts of capital. A label can say a lot about a brand. Remaining timely and highly intentional should be top priority for anyone looking to build a strong, successful brand.”

As for the future, Frontier is looking to diversify its product selection over the next year or so with folding cartons and packaging, according to Powell. The company is also looking to purchase equipment that would allow it to offer smaller, cheaper sticker orders.

Frontier may also add additional environmentally friendly materials to its catalogue, Powell said. The company currently offers stone paper and recycled paper, both of which are low-cost alternatives to plastic and help cut down on waste.

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