A sophisticated product design drives an American family business to labelling specialist in Bavaria

15 years ago, Eric and Laura Sorkin started tapping maple trees in Cambridge, Vermont (USA). They processed the trees’ unique sap into pure maple syrup and sold it on the bulk market. Demand grew quickly and after six years, the couple decided to professionalise production in 2016. Launching the brand Runamok, they focused on high quality ingredients, innovative flavours and an elegant product design.

A family business with the highest quality standards
Runamok quickly developed into a well-known manufacturer of high-quality syrups, honeys, cocktail mixers and bitters in the USA. Today, its products are sold in over 2,100 national and international shops as well as via its own online shop and Amazon. Despite managing over 100,000 taps in their ‘sugarbushes’ (maple tree forests where sap is harvested), they soon outgrew their own supply and began partnering with dozens of family-owned and operated maple sugaring operations across the state of Vermont. One reason for their success is Runamok’s commitment to high-quality standards. All ingredients are of the highest quality and many of their products are infused, smoked and/or matured in barrels. Their products have made waves in the American specialty food industry, even making an appearance on Oprah Winfrey’s annual ‘Favourite Things’ list. Attention to high quality doesn’t stop at the consumable level, however. The same meticulous focus and high standard is applied to their packaging as well. 

Elegant design posing a challenge to labelling 
Runamok is traditionally bottled in rectangular 250ml glass bottles, with labels and designs unique to each category of products. In 2021, the Sorkins wanted to expand and optimise their existing production line with a state-of-the-art labelling machine. While demand and sales continued to grow, many of the products were still being hand labelled. Their challenge was in finding a way to scale the production and finishing of their intricate, unique products without sacrificing design quality and consistency. Hitting a wall with labelling manufacturers in the US, they began to look internationally.  Runamok came across the Bavarian labelling machine specialist Gernep, and found a partner willing to take on the challenge. "We held many discussions with potential suppliers and immediately had a good feeling about Gernep. We were confident that they would fulfil our requirements," says Jeff Mitchell, Director of Strategic Development at Runamok. Gernep’s task was to not only fulfil the company's high-quality standards, but also take into account the limited space available in the Vermont plant. For this reason, a compact servo labeller with two self-adhesive dispensers was chosen. The Soluta 6-720 2SK SD can label up to 6,000 bottles per hour with two labels per container.
Runamok’s signature rectangular bottles feature a transparent foil label with white, sketch-style artwork illustrating the bottle’s contents. For example, their Elderberry Infused Maple Syrup features an intricate drawing of an elderberry bush. The bold reddish, brown colour of the syrup can still be clearly seen through the transparent label.  The long foil label covers three sides of the bottle - more precisely, the front and the two narrow sides. In addition, a narrow strip of paper is applied over the ‘invisible’ looking label. This is attached in a limited area exactly between the product name and the size information on the foil label. The strip label also extends over three sides - from front to back. 
In addition to maple syrup in various flavours, the company also produces maple-based cocktail syrups. These are filled in the same style bottle with a similar invisible label look, accented by a splash of colour as a background. Instead of the narrow paper strip, these products have a larger paper label on three sides. Runamok’s syrups are visually stunning, brought to life only by a labelling method requiring a high degree of precision.

Technical modifications for a perfect product
Runamok’s syrups posed a complex challenge for Gernep. Film labels generally tend to develop bubbles and creases due to the static charge. However, bubbles are all the more visible on transparent labels with dark bottle contents. For this reason, a deionisation unit was integrated into the labeller. This neutralises the electrostatic charge of the label material and prevents uncontrolled adhesion to the glass bottles, which could result in poor labelling results.
In addition to preventing bubbles and creases, labelling accuracy is extremely important for Runamok. The labelling tolerance with regard to the height offset when applying the label was specified by the customer with a very small deviation. Gernep, therefore, had to modify the labelling machine for the uncommonly long labels. Sponge pad material had to be carefully selected and special brushing had to be requested from suppliers.
To meet Runamok’s high quality standards, the labeller has been UL-certified specifically for the American market. This test mark certifies standard compliance in manufacturing and testing and is regarded as a quality mark for machines supplied to North America - similar to the German CE certification. To successfully complete the challenging project in the USA, Gernep sent an experienced service technician to Vermont. He commissioned the machine and personally tested the first runs.

Ideally prepared for the future
With the highest standards of quality, Runamok is not only concerned with their product contents, but with the packaging as well. To this day, random checks are still carried out by hand to ensure products are up to spec. With no plans to slow down, Runamok needs a labelling machine that can accommodate its growth. Gernep Soluta can be flexibly prepared for future changes without having to integrate control and coding systems from the outset. As a precaution, the labeller has been prepared for label inspection with cameras in order to check the placement of the labels with millimetre precision. Both in-house and external camera systems can be easily integrated on request. The labelling machine has also been prepared for coding so that data, barcodes or QR codes can be lasered or printed onto the label. A rotary encoder with a socket for the printer has been installed in the base of the machine; the printing system recognises when the label is applied and then initiates the printing process. From precision application to the final stages of printing, Gernep and its Gernep Soluta helped solve Runamok’s labelling challenge to the satisfaction of its founders: "Gernep always responded to our wishes and requirements throughout the entire project. We are very satisfied with the result and are pleased that we have made our production line more effective and modern by integrating the self-adhesive labeller." - Eric and Laura Sorkin