As 2013 draws to a close, suppliers and partners from across the label and package printing industries give their predictions for the next 12 months.
2013 has been a year of big technological developments, attention-grabbing applications and seismic corporate shifts.
Take the development of in-line solventless lamination by Mark Andy, the Coca-Cola 'Share…' campaign and creation of Coveris, initially Exopack, as examples of such developments. There are many, many more and the final Label News of 2013, published on December 19, highlighted many of these. Click here to read it now, and here to register to receive future editions of Label News direct to your inbox for free.
And if the record-breaking Labelexpo Europe 2013 is used as a barometer of business confidence, the next few years should be similarly interesting and exciting.
Ahead of the dawn of the new year, Labels & Labeling asked a number of suppliers and partners across the label and package printing supply chain to look forward to 2014, and highlight some of the trends and topics they expect to influence business in the next year.
(Below is a list of contributions listed by the author's name - click their name to go directly to their comment)
Looking forward to 2014
One of the major driving forces behind the growth of labels and printed packaging over the years has always been a requirement by brand owners to best market their products and grow sales using creative design, innovative ideas and maximum shelf-appeal. These attributes have now become available to marketers and brand managers in ways that have never been freely offered by printing companies in the past – whether its personalization, variations, multi-versions, serialization, QR codes, augmented reality, interactive or smart labels and packaging.
As the label and package printing industries learn how to better provide these new marketing opportunities, and brand owners continue to discover the benefits of these latest digital printing, interactive and web-based technologies, then the role of print providers will move even further towards that of service providers, consultants, project managers and web solutions specialists.
Those printing companies that embrace this new and exciting future will undoubtedly become the dominant providers of the future.
At the close of 2013 I am amazed at the level of technological and behavioral change I have witnessed this year. And, I am certain that the amount of change we saw in 2013 is only just the start of a consumer-driven model that demands greater personalization, customization and sustainability.
Each brand must pay closer attention to its packaging and labeling as this has become the ultimate marketing billboard and one of the strongest and most cost effective promotional tools in the marketing toolbox. Global trends have indicated that brand loyalty continues to erode and decisions made at the shelf have increased to over 76 percent of the time.
To capture the consumer's eye, brands will continue to leverage digital print technology to offer solutions and stay relevant with the ever-evolving consumer who is looking for items that speak to him/her personally. Additionally, flexible packaging continues to enjoy increased usage and consumer acceptance and, with advances in the digital print space, these packaging solutions will also enjoy extreme digital print flexibility within the next three to six months and beyond.
Consumer demand for a greater personal connection to products has evolved and opened the door for labels and packaging to speak directly to the consumer and dominate the decision-making process. These brands will seek digital printing to solidify that brand-consumer relationship. I look forward to seeing this trend take over in 2014 and beyond.
2014 holds as much uncertainty as 2009 did. Whilst confidence has increased in recent months, any number of macro-economic factors could stamp out the 'green shoots' of recovery in the UK.
That said, we are investing for growth, as are many others. Perhaps 2014 will see further consolidation in the industry as well.
Business certainly won’t be getting any easier as 2014 will be another year of doing more for less and driving bottom line growth through innovation and scale.
The marketplace has certainly become more buoyant and signs are that customers are showing evidence of confidence once again after a slower than normal start to the year, and although the European figures are showing a decline in business this has not shown in our figures this year.
Following on from Labelexpo Europe in September, we are now also finding people and end users are becoming far more aware of certain regulations. One of the most prominent regulations concerns packaging, and in particular migration issues.
We are very fortunate to have pioneered multi-layer technology and if buyers of packaging materials and consumables ask the right questions, every label printer nowadays can supply very low migration labels at no more expense than comparable single-layer labels. We also have the certifications to go hand-in-hand with migration reductions.
Our food safe adhesives 62Dps and 62Gpt have already been tested and certified by ISEGA alongside a whole range of other standard adhesives, and have been certified for direct food contact with dry, moist and fatty foodstuffs. These adhesives give the security our industry needs at all times and I strongly believe that more and more label printers will be forced by end users to start using these kinds of adhesives next year. Several of our customers have already taken these adhesive products to their markets and are seeing the benefits very quickly, which is a good sign.
The benefit of such technology for printers and converters alike, in addition to increased efficiency, is no additional cost. We are setting this bar as a standard on all main line products to be multi-layered going into next year, along with all the other benefits this range of adhesive offers.
2014 will be a big year for Nanography with the shipment of the first presses to our customers in Europe. There are a lot of people waiting to see the results of the work that has been going on since Drupa – our customers naturally, as well as prospective customers, brand owners and of course our competitors.
There is no doubt that Nanography will have a major impact on the printing industry in the years to come and 2014 will be the year that starts the process.
In the flexographic industry, I believe we have ridden the storm of the prolonged recession and are now looking forwards and upwards to renewed success for our industry.
Yes, we have seen bankruptcies, site closures and loss of business for several players over the past five years but we’ve also experienced consolidation of companies leading to an increase in their competitive strength, acquisitions and significant growth in the more robust sectors.
We’ve therefore further matured, become more competitive and have renewed innovation vigour which I, and the board of our trade association, are very excited about.
I believe some key trends will really stand out in 2014. Renewed growth in the retail industry will drive packaging innovation and differentiation. Increases in GDP have already been seen in 2013, and as the average consumer regains confidence, we will again see a boom on our high streets or in the digital world, which will increase demand for packaging and drive demand in our industry to new levels. However, this time, as this growth increases, packaging differentiation and functionality will become the new focus.
Driving sales share through packaging that 'pops', packs that grab the consumers’ attention and packs that have new uses, even post their basic use in the protection and preservation of the goods they store. Augmented reality, QR codes, gaming systems – packaging and print will be the fundamental link between the 'bricks and clicks' reality of the retail world in 2014. These trends will of course drive new challenges for the UK flexo printer as well as the packaging designer.
We’ve talked a lot in recent years about the 'aging economy' and this is never truer than in the flexo industry. For many years, lack of recruitment has led to the average age of the UK printer climbing and a lack of fresh blood entering the industry, which will ultimately stifle innovation and fresh thinking. I believe in 2014, as the wheels of fortune turn again, our industry will begin to focus on this challenge and hopefully start to invest in new younger people for all areas of the business and train them effectively to compete into the future.
At EFIA we have invested heavily in the Academy 2 flexo modular e-learning programme to support this initiative and are excited to have recently achieved National Skills Academy accreditation for its use.
With respect to the flexo technology itself in 2014, EFIA just recently held its annual partners’ luncheon debate and the motion for this year was around whether the flexo industry requires further innovation? The resounding conclusion of the day was that whilst innovation is key to competitiveness, much of the innovation in the industry today is really around sharpening up the process, as opposed to step change process development.
My hope in 2014 is that we continue to see an uptake of the latest technologies available, to further drive printing quality, for example, high resolution imaging system, advanced photopolymer plates and the latest novel cell formations for anilox rollers.
These innovations will allow the industry to respond to brand owner trends and changes that may affect us in the long term. Many talk of the advent of digital and flexo printers should certainly be embracing that development for specific requirements – very short run, personalised work for example – but the flexo process with its quick changeover times, ability to run both short and long work cost effectively and increasingly high standard of print quality, I believe will really stand the test of time.
The year 2013 threw in some thought provoking challenges to the self-adhesive label industry in India: shrink sleeves were continuously taking a significant share of the label market; offset printers were diversifying into labels and packaging due to the slowdown in commercial printing, thereby creating more competition; the expected market expansion due to FDI, foreign direct investment, in multi-brand retail did not happen; environmental concerns have been highlighting the adverse impact of liner waste and pressure-sensitive adhesive waste matrix going to landfills, with alternatives becoming evident and initial investments made to move towards linerless materials and labels; growth rates, though still positive, have slowed; and raw material prices have risen while selling prices have not seen any improvement.
There is still need to cater to an increasing market size so capacity enhancement is an imperative that we cannot deny. This appeared to be the silver lining but the exchange rates making purchases go up by over 15 percent in value became the spoilsport, so making many printers put their purchase plans on hold.
As we move into 2014 things appear to be crystallizing: printers have started to invest in label presses with multiple capabilities as they understand the need to expand the range of their offerings as well as the necessity to have a wider customer base; and have started to consider high-end equipment to reduce waste, achieve faster production to achieve economies of scale, offer innovation in their products and reduce dependence on operators to meet the competition head-on.
And as we enter the third week of December 2013, we have news that FDI in multi-brand retail is finally here with Tesco tying up with Tata to be an active player in the ever increasing consumer product retail industry.
While they were shrugged off in the past, environmental friendly alternatives are now being seriously looked at, and the trend will continue in 2014, while the general feeling around India is that economic growth will return after the general elections.
In 2014 I do not see any reduction in raw material prices nor do I expect any escalation of selling prices in a competitive growing market. Printers will have to tighten their belts achieve better productivity, reduce wastages and, to top it all, they will have to innovate.
The industry has to expand in capacity to cater to the needs of growth in demand in a country with a huge population. So we can safely expect more quality investments in the year ahead.
The digital age of mobility is changing shopper behavior and doing so very quickly. As consumers become increasingly more impatient and demanding they are drawn to different interests. Consumers are living more in the moment and mass produced analog print runs create stale artwork. Printers need to be aware that brands will in turn make new requests of their suppliers to keep consumers engaged.
Packaging will need to keep pace with the fast evolving mindset and interest of the shopper and consumer. Graphics and messaging that is just several months old becomes stale in this new era of mobility. Brands using digital workflows can create speed to market to keep packaging and products relevant generating engagement and interaction.
Lessons learned from the recent Coca-Cola ‘Share…’ campaign across Europe is that digital printing can create personalization, has the capability for long runs, can respond to social media when requesting the addition of more names and enables brand growth by looking beyond printed item savings
Brand owners have been mis-lead by digital package printing but this will all change with more campaigns such as ‘Share…’ now spreading around the world.
New 30in wide format digital print presses begin shipping in 2014 and these will create opportunity that has not been available before. The market success seen in digitally printed labels with the narrow 12.5in format will be possible in the flexible film and folding carton markets.
2014 will be a year like no other for the package print industry.
Mike Ferrari is founder of Ferrari Innovation Solutions, LLC and package industry consultant. Retired after 32 years of service from The Procter & Gamble Co., he is dedicated during this time of great transformation to educate, guide and inspire brand owners and those in the packaging industry.
The biggest shake ups in the packaging industry have really been in the cartons and healthcare segments. It all started on Christmas Eve 2012 when Graphic Packaging completed the acquisition of Contego Cartons and followed this deal by buying certain assets in the beer and beverage market from A&R Carton. Prior to the Contego Cartons deal Graphic Packaging had not been a very significant player in the Europe but had been the USA’s biggest carton business and is also vertically integrated, producing carton board.
It could be argued that the deal acted as a catalyst for other transactions in the cartons sector announced in 2013 including the sale of A&R’s Specialties packaging operations, consisting of Å&R Carton Lund and Flextrus, to Weidenhammer Packaging Group in Germany and the sale of A&R tobacco and Russian assets to Mayr-Melnhof.
Similarly, in healthcare packaging, including cartons, leaflets and labels, Contego Healthcare was sold to Filtrona, which had previously only had a relatively small labels business in its portfolio. Then, in September Carlyle completed the acquisition of Chesapeake and merged it with MPS. This created not only the leading transatlantic player in healthcare packaging but also a leading carton producer for luxury goods.
These changes are likely to drive further consolidation as competitors who do not have a multinational footprint may struggle to serve key clients and they may not have the economies of scale, negotiating position with suppliers, or the most efficient manufacturing footprint.
Sustainability as a buzz word continues to dominate everything in the packaging world, all the major substrate suppliers and the major brands are including it in their mission statements in some form or flavor and most have them have set themselves some pretty aggressive targets. This will continue for the next few years. I’m sure this will be joined by tougher environmental legislation in the future. I also think consumers are becoming more environmentally aware and the sustainability angle will influence more people’s buying decisions/habits in the future.
Digital is continuing on its drive to go faster, wider and cover a wider range of substrates and packaging markets. In the future I think most hybrid packaging lines will include a digital element. No doubt there will be plenty more Coca-Cola type marketing programs in 2014. The quantum leap here will be if/when the Landa project reaches its quality targets and the first commercial machines hit the market.
There’s also definitely a lot of interest in intelligent packaging and I’m sure that interest will grow in 2014, however it will be interesting to see how much of it makes it through to commercial applications and if we (as consumers) start to see it in our shopping trolleys.
One topic that has been raised time and time again is the lifecycle of flexo printing, and whilst we see the importance of the digital emergence – especially with our partnerships with FFEI/HP Indigo/AB Graphic – there is no doubt in my mind that flexo still has, and will remain to, have its place. Digital is still a fairly new process and in regards to the speed and accuracy that it used to sell as an advantage – with newer technology coming through from plates, inks and aniloxes, as well as the newer technology in the machinery – flexo is really fighting back.
Another big development for us at the latter stages of this year has been the forming of Edale Asia Pacific, with a sales and support office based in Thailand. Having a base in the Asia-Pacific region has really helped to promote our brand further afield. The representative we have is very proactive and technically minded. With four installations behind them in a short period of time we look to the future and expect many, many more to come. This sits alongside the second UK support office based in Manchester, which was set up in February 2013.
The other growth we have witnessed is the increase in flexible packaging demands; as label printers diversify into more areas to meet the challenging needs of their customers they are breaking away from just producing self-adhesive labels and being able to offer their customers more options. This is where Edale has seen such demand for the FL-3 press as it has the ability to print on standard label stocks but also a variety of films as low as 12 microns, meaning customers can buy one press to do everything rather than two presses as they may have had to do historically.
Our customers are generally facing a difficult market situation in many sectors of the industry. We expect that the trend of restructuring in the printing industry will continue during the next years, therefore the demand for excellent service and value for money will continue.
In printing flexible packaging, which is mainly printed in rotogravure and flexo, we see a clear trend towards the use of offset due to the fact that smaller sized orders can be printed more economically and more environmental friendly. We expect to address this increasing demand with the Thallo which will show an unbeatable press platform in terms of price / performance ratio.
Our growth is purely because we have proved and we will continue to prove that we generate added value to our customers worldwide. Therefore we will focus on the delivery of services, used and new presses to the industry.
For 2014, we will keep our focus on meeting the needs of our existing and future customers and will continuously invest in improving our services and creating state of the art (used and new) presses that are fit for the demanding future of our customers. We will increase our investments in services and press development, grow our assembly and refurbishment capacity and implement a new press assembly structure. Next to this, we trust that we can offer great solutions for the label market.
2013 was an outstanding year for Pulse Roll Label Products with sales up a record 40% from 2012, and we expect this momentum to continue into 2014 and beyond. Sales growth was experienced in both the UK and export markets, as we increased our international presence with distributor appointments made in key markets worldwide. Growth was notable particularly in Northern Europe and Australasia.
There was dramatic growth in demand for our peel and read varnish (also known as piggy-back, release, peel and re-seal), which reflects end-user requirements to provide more enhanced product and detailed consumer information as well as gearing up for forthcoming changes on classification, labeling and packaging to be adopted by June 2015.
Pulse’s RD Series (economy range) of UV flexo inks witnessed a surge in growth throughout the year as label printers and converters margins continued to be under pricing pressure but also as demand for low-cost consumer packaged goods and 'value' products continues. We see that trend continuing into next year, driven predominately by the consumer. Pulse’s metallic ink sales also grew in the UK but even more so in exports markets, as companies use metallic products to differentiate their products on shelf.
Slow but steady progress was seen as some converters moved away from traditional UV inks towards low migration products and we expect this trend to continue in the longer term. Alongside this, we have also seen customer interest stimulated in water-based inks as an alternative to UV. Steady sales of digital varnishes and our flourishing partnership with HP Indigo backs up the industry wide trend of the growth experienced in digital label printing.
Our new UV curable flexo matte varnish range saw unprecedented growth due to excellent runability and superior performance on press. These can be used on wider web applications as well as narrow web for both labels and other packaging types.
All in all, 2013 was a highly successful year for Pulse and we are well-poised to enter 2014 and excited about the many opportunities that we feel lie ahead in the industry.
2013 has been, for Labeltech, a year of changes and celebrations.
We celebrated the 10-year anniversary of our first slitter rewinder finishing machine IT350/450 with a completely renovated version and the launch of our new machine for die-cutting, EIGER.
We moved to a larger and more technologically advanced headquarter to streamline our production, and strengthened our sales and after-sales network by appointing new agents all around the globe. Our aim for this year was to provide the best products with the greatest service possible, we reached it and we will not stop increasing it in 2014.
'Go green' will be our most aggressive goal for 2014. The Italian region Lombardy promotes corporate social responsibility through workshops and Labeltech has embraced the project to become a sustainable company.
We built a 'green team' that engages the whole staff in environmentally-friendly practices like using less paper and encouraging the use of electronic media, and for printed items we introduced the use of recycled or eco-label paper as for example for our handbooks and brochures.
Reduce, reuse and recycle are now our daily cornerstones.
We will install energy-saving light bulbs and sensors in offices and common areas so that energy is not consumed when no one is in them and we are also planning to install solar panels to supply our factory.
New solutions implementing sustainable practices have been applied to our products also, as all machines are already equipped with an energy recovery system that reduces considerably the consume of energy and consequentially the costs and the new machines will have a sustainable design that reduces packaging and size for shipping.
In 2013 we started up a biomass boiler in Workington, where Incada is produced, that means that we have eliminated all fossil carbon dioxide emissions from the mill. The reduction, 190,000 tonnes, is equal to taking more than 65,000 cars off the road.
This makes Workington a unique folding box board mill, and judging from how all UK retailers claim that they want to lower their carbon footprints, Incada should have a fantastic 2014.
In 2013 the global packaging industry experienced some common business concerns and consumer buying trends that may continue in 2014. Pressure on margins, customer price sensitivity, volatility and increase in input costs, and a shift in consumer spending and behaviors were the leading business concerns for the global packaging industry in 2013.
Brand reputation and environmental records that were a focus for many brands and suppliers may become less important in the coming year, while delivery lead times, service levels and price will be considered the most important factors for supplier selection in the global packaging industry in 2014.
The first noticeable trend in 2013 was that capital expenditure towards new product development, sustainable or green initiatives, and machinery and equipment purchases increased in 2013, and will continue in 2014 as global packaging companies strive to improve operational efficiency, expand in their current markets and expand their product portfolio.
Luxury brands were in a major flux in 2013 and will continue to be so in 2014 as they try to position themselves with the new 'normal'. There’s a bold new world out there and the word 'luxury' now has different meanings in every language, and that meaning has been stretched almost beyond recognition causing luxury brands to find a common definition.
Is luxury about appealing to only the affluent or has it become more available to a wider demographic? Is about having recognizable status, or is something more personally meaningful? Luxury now means different things to different people and the luxury industry will continue to struggle in 2014 in defining itself to encompass this broader field.
2013 also saw a rise in new luxury brands entering into the market that were without heritage and history. These brands appeared newer, better, faster, fresh, more open and responsive to consumers versus the old, slow, and untrustworthy brands of the past. This trend was seen primarily in developed countries as a result of the lack of trust in big business.
What brands truly stand for, not just what they say, will be the deciding factor in increased sales in 2014. To connect emotionally with customers, brands must remain true to what they stand for. There will be an intensified focus on values, beliefs, and corporate social responsibility.
Going well beyond the functional and emotional benefits of products and services, corporate culture will determine brand loyalty. The luxury brands that will experience the greatest success this coming year will be those that employ sophisticated consumer segmentation techniques, invest in experience-enhancing technology, and exploit digital and social media to connect with customers.
Eco-friendly packaging was a key area of focus in 2013, but the ecological focus and first priority in 2014 will be on packaging that has a secondary use. Doing good for the environment must also mean doing good at the cash register for many brands, so companies will offer packaging with a dual use because it resonates with the environmentally conscious and the budget conscious alike by reducing waste and giving the customer two products in one.
Luxury brands will turn more and more to technology to create engaging experiences for consumers. Luxury brands honoring their heritage while pursuing the latest technology will have the greatest edge. These technologies include green technologies, use of 3D holographic imagery and integrated technologies that enable customers to learn more about the product at retail and preview the experience of the product and social media networks that provide inspiration and support.
2014 will also see an expansion of packaging surfaces that are equipped with multi-dimensional barcodes that enable the consumer to use their smartphone application that read and interpret these codes to gain online access to a wide variety of product or brand related information, which increases the consumer’s knowledge of the product or brand.
We are happy - not only as a provider of eco-friendly cleaning systems - to register a distinct trend in the label printing industry to increasingly invest in sustainable production technologies for the benefit of their employees and the environment.
In 2014 we expect to see even more printers going ‘lean’. Everybody is focusing on cutting costs by optimizing production, workflow and uptime on the printing press.
We at Flexo Wash see it as a key task to help our customers ‘leaning’ the process around job changeovers and cleaning. We will focus on selling complete and 100 percent automatic cleaning solutions covering all aspects of cleaning needs with our customers. By having a complete washing solution, the operator does not have to spend time on any work related to washing and he is sure that all aspects of the printing press (chambers, aniloxes and plates) are always clean so the press keeps running and the print quality stays high.
The top three pointers to what I believe will be trends through 2014 are:
Direct-to-pack - With the emergence of the dedicated digital carton presses, printing short-run cartons will be a reality. Ordering what you want when you want it will change the availability of complex dedicated cartons. Small industries ordering online will be a big user of this direction.
Markets merging - A significant move from commercial printers to involve themselves with the carton market will be aided by an existing digital know-how, a tight margin commercial marketplace and new technology that makes carton manufacturing achievable.
Brands extending SKUs - The ever desirable 'first moment of truth' will become stronger and so the need to alter packaging to encompass regionalism, seasonality and campaigns for growth will become wider used and new technology will aid this direction.
My observations as a supplier of continuous feed and specialty plastic pallets to the packaging industry are:
Equipment - Successful printers have continued to invest in the newest presses, primarily 145cm size.
Market -specialty packaging and shorter runs seem to be increasing.
Product - special effects differentiate printers – rubberized carton stock, varnished finishes, hygienic paper and process for health care, etc.
In general, customers are fewer, slightly larger, but successful enough to look at capital equipment (including our pallets) to reduce costs and improve quality.
The Labels & Labeling Yearbook 2014 will be published at the start of next year, and provide more detailed insight into key trends and topics to impact the label and package printing markets going forward.
If you work in the label and package printing markets, and would like to contribute your own thoughts to this article, please email David Pittman, group news editor, at email@example.com.