Muesli? Customized? Yes, that is a familiar idea – but what’s new is that the packaging can be customized directly at the POS – the result of a partnership between mymuesli, Heidelberger Druckmaschinen and zipcon consulting.
When Max Wittrock decided together with two friends in 2005 to make organic muesli with no flavorings or colorants and containing less sugar that the consumer can mix as they like, many people regarded that as a ‘crackpot’ idea. When Heidelberg unveiled its Jetmaster for 4D print on April 2, 2014, many people saw that as a late April Fools’ joke. Yet in December 2015 the crackpot idea and the April Fools’ joke have given birth to a new business model. For eight years now the Passau-based start-up, mymuesli, has provided healthy custom organic products containing flakes and fruits of all sorts. The multi-award-winning company has revolutionized the muesli market and now offers a staggering 566 quadrillion different possible muesli mixtures at its website.
From a present-day perspective it is almost a given that this concept works on the Internet. But that it also works in local store format surprised even Max Wittrock and his team. The stores in attractive inner city locations (there are now well over 35 in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, where muesli originated from) are well-lit, bright and friendly. The stores feature a choice of more than 50 ready-made varieties. And the professional range of print products available in these stores – ranging from simple adhesive labels via catalogs and brochures through elaborate and ready-made gift wrapping – really is a surprise.
But that’s what any store could look like – Max Wittrock lacked the personalization ingredient. If you can’t produce the entire wealth of distinct muesli varieties in the stores, then something else needs to be personalized, right? For years mymuesli has used adhesive labels in its production processes to enable its customers to personalize their custom muesli mixtures. Customers are pleased with the results – however the mymuesli team is not satisfied with the quality of personalization.
I met with Max Wittrock and Andreas Freund, mymuesli‘s IT mastermind, more or less by coincidence and we made a date during which they showed me around their production facilities and provided an insight into their personalization philosophy. This meeting generated the idea of personalizing muesli packaging (in this case, cans) using a direct-to-substrate method. Therefore the first step was to print the packaging in the store. And here we come full circle. Since I was familiar with the process of printing direct-to-substrate on soccer balls using Heidelberger Druckmaschinen’s Jetpress, I wrote about this previously in this blog, I brought both companies together and we developed the appropriate solution as a team of 3. There were enough unresolved issues to be getting on with. A printing press in a food store? How is the public health department going to respond to this request? What about the inks? In which languages can and should the cans be printed?
“Being able to sample the muesli and then watch the can being printed is likely to be an unforgettable experience for many people.” – Bernd Zipper
And even after the muesli has been consumed, these cans certainly won’t be thrown out with the trash. The software platform used to make this happen is a web-to-print application provided by the Augsburg-based company, Longo. Longo uses CloudLab’s Printq software to present the templates. The customer therefore completes their personalization job on a tablet in the store – the data is then transmitted to the Longo server via the cloud, made ready to print at Longo and then sent back to the in-store printer within seconds.
“Our customers attach particular importance to individuality and quality. They don’t just want any old muesli, they want their own muesli. Surprising family and friends in such an original way has never been easier than with the custom-printed mymuesli can. That is realtime personalization, which matches our philosophy superbly and enhances our business model,” says Max Wittrock at the launch of the Jetmaster Dimension in the mymuesli store on Heidelberg’s busy main drag.
This has now been made feasible by the Jetmaster Dimension, which Heidelberg adapted to meet mymuesli’s requirements and which is the first press of this kind to have been installed directly in a retail space. The press can be operated by all twelve employees working at mymuesli’s Heidelberg store.
Heidelberg Druckmaschinen unveiled its so-called 4D-print method, which entails custom digital printing of three-dimensional objects using inkjet technology and high-precision robotics, over a year ago for black/white print and in 4-color press format at InPrint at the beginning of November. The press can print round or cylindrical objects with diameters ranging from 10 to 300 mm at a resolution of 360 dpi in four colors as well as in opaque white or protective lacquer. This enables mass-produced articles like soccer or golf balls, drinking bottles and other curved surfaces like cans to be personalized almost in realtime.
Almost, because 20 cans an hour is probably sufficient in the muesli store; however industrial-scale usage may well cause requests for increased speed to appear on Heidelberg’s to-do list very soon. And if personalization is a hit with customers in the stores, then it is only a matter of time before you can create your own individual muesli variety on the Internet and have your own label printed on the packaging. The next challenge is the industrialization of the printing process – mymuesli canning requires higher speeds and absolutely fail-safe print production – the objective is still a long way off.
And that’s not all. Heidelberg will now have to get a shift on, to build a team to market the Jetmaster Dimension, which recognizes the press’ potential and targets applications outside traditional core markets. Heidelberger Druckmaschinen still has a long way to go, particularly because a core element of the overall process came from somebody else after all – from Longo. This print provider has simply grasped the fact that mass customization is based on one key factor – the right software.
More background information available from Andreas Weber, Value Communication AG