Labels & Labeling hosted a day-long conference at Graphics Canada, a traditionally commercial print trade show, which garnered great interest from Canadian printers looking at entering the label market.

For the first time, Labels & Labeling coordinated a conference program with Graphics Canada, a Toronto-based print show. The three-day event offered an educational forum for the trade show’s primarily commercial print audience to learn more about the label industry.

Label Forum Canada was hosted by Labels Group strategic director Andy Thomas and Labels & Labeling North America editor Chelsea McDougall. It included presentations on label technology, global market trends, a Canadian converter panel, and information and discussion sessions from a range of suppliers.

While the show primarily has been marketed toward commercial printers, show director Dan Mustata says he’s seen a growing interest in the label market. ‘The goal this year was to expand the focus of the show and feature opportunities for the entire spectrum of the graphics, printing and converting industries from dye sublimation to labels and packaging, security printing, printable electronics and other specialty graphics and industrial printing,’ he said. ‘We’ve seen good traffic and interest expressed in many of these additional opportunities, especially dye sublimation, labels and packaging.’

Converter panel

It’s clear there was interest. Participants on the converter panel noted that at the last Graphics Canada show two years prior, there were only a handful of audience members sitting in on a discussion on labels, compared to this year’s standing-room-only audience for the panel discussion.

‘The number of graphics people looking at labels, that’s what keeps me up at night,’ said Chris Henderson, owner and president of Digital Labels. ‘This is a very competitive space. It’s changing rapidly, it’s hard to keep up with technology, everyone’s trying to nip at everyone’s heels; but that’s the nature of business.

He continued: ‘In terms of labels and packaging, it’s a stable market but it can’t sustain an influx of competition. That doesn’t help anybody. When everybody gets into labels just because it’s stable, it’s a difficult thing for the whole market, which is pretty saturated already.’

In addition to Henderson, the panel consisted of Jeff Sommer, Lorpon Labels; Deanne Sinclair, Cambridge Label; Shawn Werbitt, Pazazz; and James Lee, Jones Packaging.

The panelists have a range of in-house label technologies – from an all-digital manufacturing facility, a mix of the two and a converter with a flexo-only shop.

‘Flexo presses have hit their peak, apart from maybe speed,’ said Pazazz’s Werbitt. ‘But faster is not always better – you need vision systems to make sure what you produce comes out properly. This is where hybrid presses (digital and flexo) are coming into play – it will be interesting to see where they go.’

Of choosing to run a job on a digital or flexo press, Sommer from Lorpon Labels said: ‘Run speed is important but pitstop changeover is most important. When we choose to run jobs digital or flexo, it’s not always because of run length. It’s really the consumable costs on the digital that’s a factor. And it can work both ways. We run very large jobs digital and we run smaller runs flexo. There are a lot gray areas, there is no black and white.’

Lee is the director of technology and innovation at Jones Packaging. Sometimes, he said, helping customer innovate means showing them the way. ‘We look at what our customers want and find solutions, but our customers don’t know what they want – so we look at trends in different business and consumer behavior and supply a solution they don’t know they need.’

The panelists agreed that waste is a top concern in the industry, however, for most brand owners buying labels, cost often outweighs environmental concerns.

Sinclair said: ‘We present customers materials that have a high percentage of post-consumer recyclability and I say, “It costs 20 percent more than what you’ve been buying all along” and they say, “No thank you”. It will need legislation to force bigger customers to purchase more sustainable labels and packaging, and then maybe the cost will come down so the small to medium sized players can adopt that, too. But until then we won’t be seeing the change that should be taking place.’

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andy Thomas is strategic director of Labels & Labeling.

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