Vollherbst Labels: navigating trends since 1921

Print and labelling company, Vollherbst, has been a partner to South African wineries for close to 20 years – a substantial time which has cemented this Germany-based company’s reputation as a trusted and loyal friend of the local wine industry.

This year, Vollherbst is celebrating its centennial, a milestone which illustrates this company’s ability to innovate and adapt, but which also highlights its greatest asset: 100 years of accumulated knowledge which is used to benefit brands and help them reach their full potential.

Wine labels have of course changed to reflect and be responsive to trends. As a leader in the wine label market, Vollherbst Labels makes a concerted effort to stay abreast of design influences from across the globe. Matthias Vollherbst, fourth generation managing owner of family owned Vollherbst, says that Vollherbst Labels has been in the fortunate position to be exposed to new trends globally, and have always used this knowledge to inspire wineries and distilleries in their quest for innovation.

Matthias says this has been especially true in South Africa: ‘There is a willingness among South African wineries to be creative and push the boundaries, and we’ve been exceptionally lucky to have the ability to help these brands achieve their big and bold ideas – and we have been inspired in turn!’

Trend 1: Sustainable luxury is achievable
Lorna Scott, owner and founder of Africa’s first luxury craft gin, Inverroche, understands and values the attraction of beautiful packaging – but, similar to Vollherbst, also values the need for sustainability.  Inverroche Gin is made from sustainably harvested fynbos botanicals, and it acts as an important conduit between the endangered floral kingdom and the consumer.

Vollherbst Labels provides the brand with expertise, tools and products that consistently ensure this luxury gin continues to convey a strong sense of place through storytelling elements and luxury cues. The company also matches Inverroche Gin’s sustainability mandate. Matthias elaborates: ‘In our aim to be a climate friendly, production at Vollherbst is already 100% climate neutral, and the entire company has been certified in accordance with the German FAIR & GREEN sustainability standards since 2020.’

This “confluence of values” is deeply appreciated by Lorna: ‘The print and labelling quality we get from Vollherbst can’t be duplicated locally, we admit that we will have residual carbon emissions, but we mitigate for this by working with like-minded partners and suppliers who support our sustainability mandate, and by being involved in environmental solutions.‘

Trend 2: Discreet luxury is not a contradiction
Matthias says that South African wineries really understand the nuances of understated luxury. He references Stellenbosch winery Delaire Graff as an example, detailing work done on the Delaire Graff Reserve labels – one of the country’s most expensive Cabernet Sauvignons. The estate opted for a black label on this wine, a brave choice as firstly, black paper options are limited, and secondly, black is notoriously difficult to work on when it comes to embossing.

However, the discreet elegance provided by a black label was a non-negotiable and Vollherbst could ensure that this objective was met when it provided the estate with various black-paper options that could withstand a double emboss layer and the knowledge to apply this technical embellishment too.

Trend 3: Efficient collaboration – then printing!

Third generation master distiller Rolf Zeitvogel of Triple Three Distillery understands the value of a familial mindset when it comes to business, therefore, when opting for the design and print of his Triple Three Raspberry Blush Gin cooperation between himself, the label designers (BRAVO design in Cape Town) and Vollherbst Labels was key.

‘Before we could even consider printing all three of us – Rolf, Brenden (Schwartz owner, of BRAVO) and myself were all open and willing enough to work together to find the best labelling solutions for this brand. By listening closely, being open-minded, brainstorming and proper testing, we arrived at a beautiful and successful label, that is eye-catching, sexy and upmarket,’ reveals Matthias.

Trend 4: Labels in motion

Trend-setting wineries globally have been embracing augmented reality to add an exciting, “living” layer to wine labels. This trend has made the complex world of wine fascinating, engaging – and easy. Using a simple point and scan action on a mobile phone, consumers can peel back the layered stories of wine waiting to be discovered behind the label.

With the help of Vollherbst’s augmented reality smartphone app, LABELinmotion, wine brands in South Africa have also been embracing this captivating technology: KWV’s Cathedral Cellar just launched their second installment of augmented reality labels, making use of the world of story to transform their consumers’ wine drinking journey.

Faced with an unprecedented travel ban due the pandemic, Mosi Wines and Gin, invited wine lovers to „virtually“ travel to one of the world’s most visited natural sites, the Victoria Falls. This World Heritage Site is beautifully depicted as a line drawing on Mosi’s labels, the very same labels which were turned into colourful waterfall animations with the use of LABELinmotion.

Vollherbst’s illustrated commitment in the fields of innovation is also present in its exciting craftLABEL offering, a whole new and specialised process which incorporates real raw materials into wineries’ labels.

Awards cast a light on the future
Reflecting on their successes, Matthias says the company is proud that this year has also provided its share of inspiration in terms of awards: this 100-year company was awarded the winner in the Sustainability Category of the 2020 Printer of the Year competition – hot on the heels of Vollherbst being recognised as one of the 100 most innovative medium-sized companies in Germany in the Top 100 competition, which recognises the innovative strength – and thus the future viability – of the award winners.

‘Sustainability is one of the most important issues of the future for us,’ says Matthias. ‘We’re part of the wine and spirit industries. Our clients, especially those in South Africa, value the importance of green practices and are incredibly close to nature. As their label manufacturers, we feel equally committed to nature and take responsibility for people and the environment.’

Bringing it home for SA clients
‘It is well-known that Germany has a love affair with South Africa, and our company is no exception,’ says Matthias. ‘Our relationships in South Africa have faced major challenges, such as exchange rate fluctuations, transport difficulties, new legislation and most recently, of course, the Coronavirus pandemic. However, throughout all these years and in particularly challenging times, we have always found solutions with our South African contacts.’

Matthias concludes: ‘We hope to honour the stamina, perseverance and creativity of our South African clients for the next 100 years and look forward to ensure they are the trendiest labels on the block!’