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Editor's note - growth in the sheet-fed offset label market

Editor's note - growth to the sheet-fed offset label market

Could we see the return of growth to the sheet-fed offset label market in the developed world? Although reduced to 18 percent of the US market and one third of the European market, and faced with the rise of shrink sleeves and filmic PS labels, there are signs that the humble wet-glue label might see its fortunes revived. How so?

We are in the midst of what looks like a war on plastics driven by increasingly frenzied publicity over waste plastics clogging up the oceans, as viewers of the BBC’s superb Blue Planet season will know. Even former CEO of Asda/Walmart, Andy Clarke, is openly calling for supermarkets to stop using plastics packaging. 

More straws in the wind: L&L. com recently ran a story about a wet-glue label converter in the UK, Print-Leeds (located very close to the Asda HQ), moving to bigger premises and doubling its Heidelberg press capacity. This reflects buoyant demand, particularly from the craft beer sector. 

The wet-glue labeled can, whether aluminum or stainless steel, might after all be the ultimate in environmentally friendly packaging: easily recoverable and taking advantage of the ‘natural’ appeal of simpler forms of packaging. 

The PS and shrink sleeve label converter can also play in this market. There are new self-adhesive can labeling systems being developed, and roll-on-shrink-on and full body shrink labels might play well in reducing the costs of stock obsolescence from direct printed cans. 

Offset is very good at short runs – Cerm recently revealed a partnership to automate ganging labels on sheet-fed presses. And what of digital? Presstek has already demonstrated, at drupa, plastics cut&stack water-bottle labels printed on its Eco DI presses by a US converter. 

It’s not just wet-glue labels reviving the sheet-fed market. In this edition is a report from Heidelberg talking about growth in IML labels. 

Of course, the plastics industry is fighting back with ocean plastics recovery schemes while stressing the life-cycle, convenience and performance benefits of plastics compared to heavier cans. The anti-plastics hype will surely die down in time, but meanwhile, wet-glue label printers have a unique window of opportunity. 

James Quirk


James Quirk is group managing editor of Labels & Labeling.

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