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Solvent Ink Technology Drives Plastic Cup Innovation

New solvent inks permit a full suite of hot, cool, and sunlight-activated options to impress consumers while speeding up manufacturing operations.

July 23, 2020

The specialty inks experts at Colorado Springs-based Chromatic Technologies Inc. (CTI) invented a new suite of color-change technologies using solvent inks including temperature-activated thermochromic inks, sunlight-activated photochromic inks (see the example below), glow-in-the-dark inks, and “reveal technology” wherein the ink reveals a message after the cupped product is consumed.

Previously, solvent-ink printers were forced to use water-based inks that slowed down manufacturing operations. The new solvent-specialty inks eliminate the operational hurdles of water-based inks.

The inks are also socially active. CTI’s consumer research found that the color-change technology is a tool for brands to drive content on their social media platforms that gets consumers to share that story with on social media.  And the bottom line is increased sales.  

“Consumers have their phone in their right hand and a Starbucks, Coke or Coors Light in their left hand,” explains Patrick Edson, former vice-president of consumer insights for Coors Brewing Company and, since 2012, the chief marketing officer for CTI. “In brand mapping exercises, we call this challenge ‘getting the right hand to talk to the left hand.’ If you can create an experience or start a story with your product in the consumer’s left hand; they in turn will share that experience on their phone in the right hand. Brands realize that the color-change technology is more than just creating an experience on a cup, it’s a new form of content for digital marketing.”

For more than a decade, brands such as Coors Light have used thermochromic inks to turn their mountains blue to deliver on the promise of Rocky Mountain Cold Refreshment. CTI reports that the program helped boost the brand’s sales incrementally by $450 million.

CTI photochromic inks.

Coca-Cola ensured a cold promise for 7-Eleven consumers with its “Ice Cube” 16-oz. can.  Cheetos used photochromic technology in Mexico for their “Where’s Chester?” promotion on chip bags. Oreo supported the 50th anniversary of the moon landing with Glow-in-the-Dark packaging. 

“Color-change technology is now affordable for cup printers and they offer a tremendous innovation tool for printers to help drive new margin for their customers in quick-serve restaurants and convenience stores,” notes Lyle Small, founder of CTI.

The company now offers in-house design services to help cup printers and brand owners develop concepts that can be quickly tested with consumers.

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