Many of the New England’s recognisable food and beverage brands are mass-produced inside a 65,000-square-foot facility in Andover, Massachusetts. At the end of a winding, tree-lined road, stands the headquarters of New England Label: a pharmaceutical lab-turned-industrial warehouse, holding half a dozen printing presses. Throughout the day, the machines churn out labels, in addition to booklets, decals, and manuals continuously. Here, labels of all kinds are processed, printed, designed and prototyped. There are labels for baby food, soaps, embalming fluid, vitamins, protein powders, medicine, and industrial products. Some labels are simple, while others require more time and effort to design.
Ryan Dunlevy is a graduate from the Northeastern University with an international business degree. He is in line with his sister, Kara, to take over the business from their father. According to him, people don’t realise there’s a lot more that goes into a label than they think.
Depending on the complexity of the job, the production process may take hours; in fact in some cases, up to a few weeks. It is a tremendous task involving selection of proper material for the label, approving a proof, printing, die cutting it, stripping away the waste, and laminating it. Then inspectors must count, weigh, and shrink-wrap rolls of the labels before sending them on their way to various corners of New England, sometimes even to places like India and China.
Dunlevy is quickly learning that adapting to the modern comes with its challenges. As he and his sister work to grow the multi-million dollar company and broaden their customer base beyond New England, they must compete against global brands such as Amazon. “The way they operate has completely changed the way that every consumer expects things to happen. You can order anything on Amazon and get it the next day. A lot of people, especially in the 35-and-below category, are just so used to getting anything they want, whenever they want it, immediately like instant gratification, and that’s hard to explain to people when there is a manufacturing process that goes through it”, says Dunlevy.
Dunlevy doesn’t regret the major career pivot he made five years ago to join the family business. Northeastern education prepared him well for making the transition. “It’s a weird business, but it’s a fun business, and there’s a lot going on every day. You’ll never think of labels [the same way] again after you come through here”, he concludes.
Shahjadi Jemim Rahman