Find out how a Peterborough labels firm is braving a deep freeze for new orders

The production process at AA Labels.
The production process at AA Labels.
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A specialist labels company in Peterborough has plumbed freezing temperatures to secure a  prestigious new contract.

AA Labels, in Wainman Road, Woodston, is making thousands of adhesive labels that can be attached to medical samples that have to be kept at below freezing temperatures.

Managing director Sohail Sethi.

Managing director Sohail Sethi.

its work secured a £43,300 contract from Imperial College London to make seven million cryogenic adhesive labels.

Family run AA Labels will supply 100,000 A4 sheets of cryogenic labels to the college’s school of public health based at St Mary's campus in Paddington, London, for use in a multi-centre research study.

Developing the labels has taken months of intensive work.

Field trials had to be carried out in various locations from London to Singapore as conditions vary depending on the type of transportation and storage used.

Experiments were also carried out to test print and label finishes to ensure information on the images would stay fixed during the numerous freeze and thaw cycles during usage.

The labels and the printed details on them have to be capable of surviving intact inside liquid nitrogen tanks that are used by the college’s epidemiology department to store various biological samples.

Ian Axelsen, business development manager at AA labels, said: “This is a large order for printed cryogenic labels and reinforces AA Labels’ growing reputation as a supplier of specialist materials to the biomedical sector .

“We have worked closely with the material’s manufacturers research and development department and the customer to ensure the correct specification for the adhesive and face-stock for this application.

He added: “These specialist labels are designed specifically to withstand extreme temperatures and multiple for cycles, for example in ice water or warm water, and retain their quality after being returned to the liquid nitrogen storage tank.

“These unique qualities make them ideal for the labelling of cryogenically stored biological samples and information various formats including those used by the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health.

He said: “The labels are designed to retain adhesion and quality in liquid nitrogen storage tanks over long periods of tim,e down to temperatures of - 196 degrees C, as the print is permanently fused to the label surface.

Mr Axelsen added: “We are delighted to be awarded this significant contract by Imperial College London.

“It demonstrates our ability as a manufacturer of labels. Achieving this has put us on an early path to growth in 2019.”

AA Labels has been designing producing and printing labels since the company's creation 13 years ago.

It now employs more than 50 people across two sites - a production facility in Peterborough and a digital development, data and design team based in Lahore, Pakistan.

The business is owned by the Sethi family with Sohail and Asifa as the directors and their daughter Kiran as general manager.

Their goal is to create an on-demand business for plain and printed labels online, where a customer can order their products regardless of how complicated the choice of design and materials.

Mr Sethi said: “We have experienced very strong growth over the past five years in the UK.

“We’ve done this by specialising in the provision of plain labels in roll and sheet formats for customers to print in a comprehensive range of materials and shapes to suit a multiple of applications.”

But it is not just in the UK that AA Labels is enjoying sales growth.

Exports to Europe, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong and the USA have taken off.

A key element of the firm’s success has been regular investment in new technology, software, website and digital marketing.

It now has four presses in print production, four roll label converting machines and four flat sheet converting machines in production plus label finishing equipment.

Three years ago it invested in a vacuum extraction system that collects the waste from the label production machinery and dumps it in large hoppers in the warehouse for incineration.

The future is looking bright.

The business is growing at about 20 per cent a year and demand for self-adhesive labels is soaring driven partly by the growth of e-commerce.

The self adhesive labels market is worth more than $31 billion with that figure is expected to rise to $40.5 billion over the next four years.