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Package printing is here to stay

David Pittman looks back on his five years covering package printing for L&L, and looks forward to where the market is heading

When this writer joined the label and package printing group of Tarsus, the parent company of Labels & Labeling and Labelexpo Global Series, the goal was to bring a stronger focus to package printing.

Label printing is a very exciting, fast-paced and evolving industry, and one willing to adapt to new paradigms, and adapt new practices and processes.

However, package printing at the start of this decade was somewhat of an unknown quantity for many label printers and their supplier partners, but a topic that was being widely discussed and assessed.

Then to now

The intervening years have seen this firmed up considerably, with corporate strategies evolving to cater for this, new supply chain models forged, and new technologies launched to meet emerging demand. Big M&A, such as Xeikon’s acquisition by Flint Group, Bobst absorbing Nuova Gidue and Heidelberg taking over Gallus; Highcon and Synthogra’s emergence as suppliers; and the introduction and market adoption of HP Indigo’s 20000 and 30000 digital presses, and the ecosystems supporting them; this is a small sample of package printing developments important to the label sector during my time in the industry. L&L’s rebrand, as a publication for ‘the world of package printing’, provides additional indication of this trend, as does the open use of ‘labels and packaging’ throughout the supply chain.

Visit Labelexpo Europe 2017 in Brussels (September 25-28, 2017), and on almost every stand you’ll fi nd technologies, products and services tailored to the needs of package printing. The words ‘label and package printing’, or a close approximation of that, will be emblazoned across many suppliers’ stands, from Mark Andy, HP Indigo, Flint Group, Avery Dennison and UPM Raflatac, to Soma, Synthogra and MBO, and all those in between (Bobst, Taghleef Industries and Karlville). At my fi rst Labelexpo in 2011, this was not as clear to see.

Future developments

Expect there to be renewed and refreshed focus on package printing as part of the Labelexpo Europe 2017 experience, with all the suppliers already named, and many more, exposing their package printing interests to the market.

There is no doubt that 2017 will provide yet more advances in package printing for the label and narrow web industry. Across the supply chain, R&D is ongoing to provide products and technologies that afford label printers even more opportunity to diversify into package printing, and provide their customers, the brand owner, with the tools to satisfy the consumer.

‘Promote, protect, perform’ are long-established tenets of packaging, and will remain the bedrock of developments in the market. NFC, QR codes, barcodes and other triggers will be used by brands of all sizes to engage with consumers and make packaging perform in new and exciting ways, either as a delivery mechanism for additional content, promotional activities, or to create an emotional connection between the consumer and the product/brand through packaging.

Protection will be realized though developments in materials, with new characteristics and capabilities allowing new constructions and films to be used in different ways, be they for packaging difficult and harsh products (from sharp-edged pistachio nuts to abrasive chemicals), or providing the essential OTR and WVTR barrier properties certain products demand. Additionally, GEW, Nilpeter, Bobst, Flint and the like are promoting UV LED as a safe option for food packaging. Expect this to ramp up as we move deeper into 2017.

And to promote products and brands better through packaging, an evolution in digital and conventional converting technology will facilitate the delivery of shorter runs of customized and personalized flexible packaging and folding cartons. As such, advances in sheet-fed inkjet, mid web CI fl exo and web offset will be towards the top of my agenda for the year ahead. Nanography will feature too. Will 2017 be the year Landa breaks through? Only time will tell.

These developments and more will be covered by Labels & Labeling throughout the year and beyond, and will be there to be seen at Labelexpo Europe 2017, so make sure to visit the show and read the magazine online and in print to stay up-to-date with these package printing developments.

This opinion article featured in the L&L Yearbook 2017, which is avalable to read online here

David Pittman


David Pittman is former deputy editor of Labels & Labeling.

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