L&L spoke to Matt Bennett, global vice president for business strategy at Fujifilm North America, about why he’s taking part in the upcoming Label Congress 2021, and why flexible packaging is one key trend to watch.
L&L: Why have you decided to take part in this year’s Label Congress 2021 conference in Chicago?
Matt Bennett (MB): Well, for us it‘s an exciting time to be here as we'll be announcing our entrance into the digital market with a new game-changing product. It was originally our intention to bring this new product to this event, however, due to the changing dynamics and the uncertainty, we decided not to. The new product is presently en route to our Hanover Park, Illinois, Graphic Innovations Hub and will be available for viewing, demonstrations and testing very soon.
L&L: We hear a lot about “diversification”. To give us a taster for the flexible packaging panel you’ll be joining at label congress, in your opinion, should converters be considering this right now?
MB: It’s an interesting question for sure. It’s always good to be able to offer a wider and diverse range of products to your business in order to grow and there are certainly some existing synergies between the label and flexible packaging segments that could be leveraged, the main one being around customers. For many label converters, especially the ones who are heavily focused on the food and beverage spaces, there could exist real potential to be able to offer both label and flexible packaging products to your present customer base and offer one stop shopping to your clients. Obviously, because you’re already in there, your acquisition costs for moving into a new segment is next to nothing, why not leverage this opportunity? Now, with that being said, flexible packaging is a very complex market compared to labels, highly regulated, very competitive and not for the faint of heart. However, there needs to be lots of research done in advance before any decision were made to move into it. Besides, the customer base, do you have the right equipment already or would you have to invest, are you operationally savvy and automated to support new workflows, do you know and have the right equipment and suppliers for inks, coatings, adhesives, laminations, embellishments and finishing? These are just a few of the many considerations that need to be discussed and in place in order to move into this space.
L&L: How do you feel flexible packaging has weathered the last year, and what impact is this having on the region’s label industry – and beyond? Why?
MB: Well, the flexible packaging industry certainly was one of the most successful industries and overall actually thrived during the pandemic. The industry itself had already been on a steady growth path for the past several years and now is even projected to grow even more over the next five years, anywhere between 4 and 6 percent CAGR depending on the segment. The main reason for growth is the consumer, or I should say, the rapidly changing buying habits and expectations of the consumer. Consumers today more than anything want variety of choice, which represents more SKUs, they want healthier, organic, more sustainable and earth friendly products and they want them fast. This is commonly referred to now as the “Amazonification” of the markets. Secondarily, flexible packaging allows the longest shelf life, freshness and lowest costs compared to rigid formats like cans, cartons and rigid containers. Many CPGs are now shifting product lines to flexible from these other packaging formats, contributing to the growth.
L&L: What’s next for Fujifilm’s flexible packaging operation?
MB: Because of the rapidly changing dynamics that are occurring and forecasted into the future, we believe that digital print will be the next big frontier in flexible packaging and we plan on being a major player. Like the label market, we believe that digital print will play a prominent role in the growth of the market overall and will be a technology that will coexist with analog for many years to come. Flexible packaging converters will have both flexo and digital print in their manufacturing process for many years to come but ultimately, as the technology advances, digital will at some point in the future become the dominant print process overall. As someone who lived through and participated in the digital label transformation, it certainly feels like the conditions and dynamics in the flexible packaging space today are very similar to the early days of digital labels.
The Label Congress panel discussion 'Should label converters diversify into flexible packaging', takes place from 12:30-13:10 on Wednesday September, 29, 2021.