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  • 02 Sep 2022

Smithers forecasts digital printing boom

Smithers has released a new study, The Future of Package Printing to 2027, forecasting that the labels and printed packaging markets will continue to increase in demand and represent a strategic priority for press OEMs

Smithers has released a new study, The Future of Package Printing to 2027, forecasting that the labels and printed packaging markets will continue to increase in demand and represent a strategic priority for press OEMs, ink suppliers and print service providers across the next five years.

The new study of the labels and packaging markets shows how these sectors are emerging from Covid-19 and will evolve in the medium term.

Smithers’ data forecasting charts how a global market worth USD 456.3 billion in 2021 will increase to USD 473.7 billion; and then grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.1 percent to reach USD 551.3 billion in 2027 (constant 2021 prices).

Across the same period, the volume of corrugated board, folding cartons, rigid and flexible plastics, metal, and labels stocks printed worldwide will increase from 13.0 trillion to 15.4 trillion A4 print equivalents.

Flexo will remain the most widely used print process – due to its popularity in long-run corrugated board, labels and flexible plastics work. It represents around 36 percent of the contemporary market and natural expansion gives flexo a positive growth outlook (+2.4 percent CAGR, by value) through to 2027. Other analog processes, including offset litho (+2.5 percent CAGR), will see similar organic growth across the five-year Smithers study period, mainly from developing markets.

The greatest expansion, however, will come from digital print for packaging – with a CAGR of over 10 percent forecast through to 2027. Print service providers are poised to reap the benefits of significant R&D investment by digital OEMs, delivering improvements in productivity and reliability and expanding the number of print commissions where digital is price-competitive with established analog production.

Packaging print is becoming increasingly competitive and will be the focus of further technical innovation through the 2020s, such as improving the sustainability of print systems by minimizing waste, optimizing the energy efficiency of print equipment, and developing systems that can print on an array of new more sustainable packaging substrates, including flexible barrier papers, molded fiber, and monomaterial polymer constructions. 

The report also shows that the market will adapt to new legislative requirements to move away from single-use plastics, and improve the recyclability of all formats, react to post-Covid print buying patterns by reducing turnaround times, embracing print-on-demand business models, and enabling more economic short promotional and versioning commissions.

According to the study, print supply will become more resilient and agile to withstand disruption, following the post-pandemic trend to re-shore or near-shore production of certain essential FMCGs.

Evolving print technologies and business models will create opportunities to capitalize on the booming e-commerce segment, innovating with print designs and graphics to optimize engagement with home delivery customers.

Furthermore, implementing the latest automation will advance both digital and analog production. These Industry 4.0 technologies have the potential to simultaneously reduce the need for skilled print room labor while increasing responsiveness and overall print quality, consistency and uptime.

All these factors above will contribute to further the penetration of digital printing – especially inkjet – in packaging and labels. A trend that will also benefit from advances in workflow software, making printing more streamlined and cost-efficient, thereby allowing more low-run jobs to be produced. 

The impact of all these drivers is assessed critically in The Future of Package Printing to 2027 from Smithers. This analysis is quantified in a comprehensive dataset with over 150 data tables and figures, segmenting the market for 2017-2027.

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The Labels & Labeling global editorial team covers every corner of the world from Europe and the Americas, to India, Asia, Southeast Asia and Australasia with all the latest news from the label and package printing market.

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