Creating an exquisite sake was not enough for centuries-old Japanese brewer, Hinomaru Jozo. The company needed a label that conveys the craftsmanship that goes into their drink.
The Japanese word shokunin roughly translates into ‘craftsman’ or ‘artisan’. It describes someone who has perfected a craft by following centuries-old techniques and who can create something truly exquisite. This dedication can be focused on food, like sashimi or ramen, on traditional paper known as Washi or on the alcohol made from fermented rice, sake.
The Hinomaru Jozo brewing company has well and truly earned the title shokunin when it comes to its sake. Founded in 1689 in Akita, Japan the company has utilised an abundance of the area’s brewer’s rice and groundwater from nearby Mt. Kurikoma to maintain the ancient traditions around the culture of brewing the drink. “Hinomaru sake truly embodies the natural features of Akita,” says Jouji Sato, the brewer’s President.
Quality takes time
A crucial step in the sake brewing process is the development of koji, or malted rice. While mass production methods exist, Hinomaru prefers to use the traditional process – one that is both time and labour intensive. Using this method, the brewers create their koji in small batches. This painstaking attention to detail results in a sake superior in quality and flavour.
Labelling to match the quality of the product
While creating the sake itself is evidently an all-consuming task, it is only the beginning. “Ideally, the impression created by a product label should match the quality and flavour of the sake”, says Hinomaru’s Sato. “But that is very difficult to convey with a design. Actually, that is the hardest thing in the entire process.”
You can create an amazing product but how do you get consumers to notice, take it off the shelf and make the decision to purchase? For Hinomaru, compromising on the label design was not an option. The company’s printing partner, TrustSeal, agreed. Fortunately, with the increase of digitisation in the printing industry, the companies were able to work together to successfully achieve the special label designs that the product demanded.
Manabu Takahashi, TrustSeal Executive Director, explains, “I feel that Hinomaru Jozo’s label designs accurately reflect the strong commitment they have for sake. As a printing company, we never want to have to tell a client that we can’t communicate this commitment in a label, so we are doing everything we can to visually represent this 100%”.
Taking the digital plunge
To satisfy a customer with high standards in terms of labelling, printers need equipment with equally high standards. To fully realise the brewer’s design ambitions, TrustSeal utilitsed new digital technology with Epson’s SurePress printer.
“The most important thing was that we knew this label press could meet the needs of our customers. There were designs we couldn’t render with our analogue printers. That forced us to have to negotiate design changes with the client. Now, with SurePress in the print shop, that is no longer a problem,” says Toyokazu Sasoki, Designer at TrustSeal.
A strong business partnership
The concept of shokunin exists across a diverse range of crafts. When the two can be brought together, something truly memorable is created. In a business sense, this forges a partnership that reaps rewards for both parties.
“Printing an ordinary flyer and printing a label for your own product are completely different. We are extremely fortunate that TrustSeal understands our brand. We can talk to them as if they were part of the family,” says Hinomaru’s Sato.
TrustSeal knows that successful labelling is more than just grabbing attention – it’s about conveying the quality of the product too. Digital printing makes branding come alive and is an important step in creating a loyal customer.
“The first thing is to get people to hold the product in their hand,” says TrustSeal’s Takahashi. “When a lot of different brands are lined up, I want people who are first attracted by the label to pick up the product, take a sip, experience the flavour, and keep coming back for more.”