Label and package printing industry predictions for 2020

Leading industry experts look at the key challenges and talking points likely to dominate the label and package printing industry in 2020.

2020 predictions - Leading industry experts look at the key challenges

Andy Thomas-Emans, Labels & Labeling; Mike Fairley, Labels & Labeling; Bob Cronin, The Open Approach; Pascale Wautelet, Avery Dennison; Christian Menegon, HP Indigo; Carl Joachim, ePac Flexible Packaging; Jakob Landberg, Nilpeter; Thomas Schweizer, Gallus; Benoit Demol, Codimag; Atze Bosma, MPS; Philip Easton, Domino; Luca Goldoni, Cartes; Geert Van Damme, Cerm; Ajay Mehta, SMI Coated Products; Gary Seward, Pulse Roll Label Products; Nick Coombes, Publicity Studio and L&L contributor; Jimit Mittal, Monotech Systems; Alex Cruz, Yupo; Doug Niemeyer, Teklynx International; Ranesh Bajaj, Vinsak; Mark Day, Armor; Ken Moir, NiceLabel; Mette Laursen, Flexo Wash; Josh Roffman, Loftware; Ralph Giammarco, S-One Labels & Packaging; Harveer Sahni, Weldon Celloplast; Edoardo Cotichini, Konica Minolta Business Solutions Europe


Andy Thomas-Emans, Labels & Labeling

My prediction for the 2020 is for an exponential increase in interest in, and application of, machine learning (AI) and automation in all aspects of the label and package printing industry.

AI will not replace skilled human input, rather it will lend ‘cyber assistance’, multiplying the efficiency and effectiveness of the human operator and manager. AI will increasingly be linked to, and implemented by, closed loop automation systems. 

These trends were clearly presaged at Labelexpo Europe in Brussels, with inspection leading the way.

So in 2020 we will see cloud-linked AI-driven cameras capable of learning from print errors not only on the target machine, but across all installations, anywhere in the world. Such a system understands the difference between, for example, incorrectly mounted plates, or the wrong plates, out of tolerance spectrophotometric color measurements and so on, and will feed back to the operator and factory manager re-planning strategies and advice on troubleshooting that error.

At the same time, presses and finishing equipment are increasingly equipped with open operating protocols, which are able to interact with factory management systems to open up new possibilities in cyber-assisted plant management and total quality control.


Mike Fairley, Labels & Labeling 

2020 is likely to be another milestone year in the world of label production, predominately geared towards ever-more digitization and workflow automation, faster job changeovers, enhanced efficiency, reduced downtime, less ink and substrate wastage and exciting new embellishment and added value solutions.

Labelexpo Europe 2019 undoubtedly pointed the way, with streamlined pre-press to pressroom connectivity, to new press technology and software advances bringing new levels of automation to plate, cylinder and flexible die changes, to in-line color measurement, to slitter and knife set-up, press management and web inspection, semi-automatic turret rewinding, non-stop winding, adjustable anvils and automated waste stripping  – all creating significant improvements to productivity, and ultimately profitability.

Bring all these developments together in the latest generations of hybrid analog/digital presses and the result going forward will be the creation of some of the industry’s most sophisticated in-line and automated multi-process machines that will be able to create almost undreamed of new printed, embellished and converted solutions. And all linked in with advanced MIS and business management software, artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing and fast-evolving IT possibilities.

These new advances will also continue make a significant contribution towards better industry sustainability, energy usage and waste reduction, enabling the production of exact quantities, faster and more efficiently, with less wastage, and real-time performance monitoring of production equipment.

The future of the industry will surely look very different.


Bob Cronin, The Open Approach

Given global economic fears, it may seem bold to predict a strong 2020 for any industry. Yet labels and packaging has a resiliency unmatched by its counterparts. Its broad practicality and continued creativity in formats and abilities keep its star shining brightly.

In 2020, we’ll build on the same themes we did this past year, across every segment and niche. In particular, you’ll see three major drivers: Mergers and acquisitions, digital manufacturing, and personalization.

First, expect to see continued consolidation. It’s being driven by the majors and private equity investors building out strategic models. Those models are based on their perceived opportunities in various segments. This underscores a belief in large-scale growth far beyond 2020.

Next up is digital. Digital will be the focus of everyone in labels. The improved quality, increased substrate and color choices, and quicker lead times align digital with customer demand. This is not just happening in labels but in every segment of the graphic arts.

Finally, personalization will be at the crux of virtually every marketing campaign. It will also expand via personalized labels, smart packaging, product sampling, and other go-to tools. Nothing impacts business growth more than a direct customer connection.

With the impact of these drivers, we can expect 2020 to be one of our most profound years yet.


Pascale Wautelet, Avery Dennison 

For the last few years, our predictions for the year ahead have focused on the growth of intelligent labeling and sustainable packaging. And this year, once again, our focus in these areas remains a priority.

We continue to strongly believe in a future where every physical item will have a unique digital identity which will transform the visibility of products throughout the supply chain, all the way to the consumer, helping to improve efficiencies, increase sustainability and enhance the consumer experience.

Sustainability is continuously accelerating and remains central to our business strategy at Avery Dennison. In 2019, to create an even clearer focus for our teams, we distilled our eight sustainability goals into three broader ones: deliver innovations that advance the circular economy; reduce environmental impact in our operations and supply chain; and be a force for good, adding value for all our stakeholders.

As well as delivering new materials that contain increased recycled content, our R&D teams are committed to delivering solutions that will advance the circular economy. One such innovation, launched at Labelexpo Europe, is the newest addition to the CleanFlake Portfolio – CleanFlake Flex – which is specially designed for use with freshly blown PET bottles, helping ensure the containers are easier to recycle. 

In 2020, as well as launching even more sustainable innovations, we look forward to our industry working closely together to accelerate a more sustainable future.  



Christian Menegon, HP Indigo 

We are all part of a permanent shift, should it be in technology or in ways of living, which are somehow linked together. This is true for people but also in the industry. Therefore I would not limit my words to 2020 as a calendar year, but more express a trend which just keeps on moving. This being said, there are some common aspects like sustainability and need for information which will for sure be very influential in the months to come.

Regarding sustainability, we can predict that there will be some consolidations of ideas which will hopefully end up in guidance. Instead of having a kind of wild approach where everyone does his little thing here and there, with a proper target definition related to a given direction, the whole industry will go in the same direction and really make a difference. It will probably be painful for some, as a given target may imply a complete change; for instance if a material is due to be replaced, it means finding alternatives; it means re-test, re-qualify, eventually accept compromises in performance, and this will be all the way from design to recycle. Many of the known standards are going to be challenged, and new ones will probably come up, implying new activities to be accepted along the whole value chain. Being conservative in these times will end up being very risky in long term, much more than taking the risk to be innovative.

We can expect agility to be the new norm, replacing pure performance. This will be at the printer’s level, but also at the brand’s. Agility requires acting based on data which new innovations in sensors and in machines will allow. Information flow will connect existing islands which were typically disconnected. There will be a complete end to end flow of information simply due to the digitalization possibilities. Information can be the job order, the file to print, the proof of delivery, the logistics parameters, the MIS connectivity, the ERP connectivity, the color values, but also the track and trace hidden code, etc. All these new connections, and probably more, will reduce waste, errors, production time, and therefore go to market faster at a cheaper overall cost.

These levels of automatization, should they be on the printing presses and processes, or at the brand’s supply chain structure, will facilitate more focused products delivered in smaller batches more often, will facilitate e-commerce, and will allow customization all the way to personalization.

As a consequence, brands will enjoy the use of the mandatory print on the label to transform it as a bi-directional communication media. This opens up the giving of information from the brand to the consumer, and the gathering of information from the customer by the brand. Both sides will benefit from this exchange. We can think of using that same property to allow authentication and tracking at the item level. The computer systems have today the power to handle this amount of information, the next generation will be even more powerful. The required software will turn into analytics processes.

We can predict the brand to be at the center of an information system that links his label supplier to the consumer demand. 

We can predict the label supplier to use business automation systems connected live to his increasingly automated machines. These machines, besides being more agile, will still need to deliver consistent quality and a differentiation which will come from new technologies, probably digitally driven (digital cutting, digital embellishment, digital control, closed loop sensors). The expected quality will not suffer from any compromise since the technologies allow to maintain it, and even increase it. The agility will be extended to allow multiple applications, and the printer will offer print services for more than labels.

We can predict the consumer to express his wishes to the brand, and the brand to deliver what is demanded when it is demanded. Allowing the consumer to interact with the design and delivery of his product will grow, while not becoming standard in the short term. The amount of information collected will feed the whole system and will make the changes go faster.

Not all big brands will be able to change quickly, which means smaller ones – more agile by definition – will emerge and gain market share for a few years, then some acquisitions and mergers are expected. 

All these connecting components, mainly ‘digital’, coming from innovation and use of a given technology outside of its initial intent, will drive faster change. At the heart this, HP Indigo with digital printing and business solutions will play a very active role. Many of the required tools exist, be they software, machine specs, types of inks, quality, connectivity, color gamut, random or personalized image printing, etc.

I think that 2020 will be the year where these interconnectivities will start to flow.


Carl Joachim, ePac Flexible Packaging

2017 and 2018 saw the emergence of digital printing for flexible packaging, and in 2019 market awareness and utilization of its value to brands began to gain traction.

In 2020, expect to see an increasing number of small and medium-sized brands benefit from digitally printed flexible packaging. Low minimums, no plate fees, fast time to market, and order to demand will have a major impact on how quickly brands can go to market and accelerate growth. Large CPGs, too, will increasingly see how digital can be used for marketing campaigns, niche products and test marketing.

Variable data printing (VDP) has been around since Xerox introduced the 9700 in the late 1980s. It drove the concept of one-to-one marketing that today is commonplace. There are numerous examples of both variable data and graphics being used in the label and folding carton markets, however for flexible packaging the concept is still new. I expect to see an increasing number of brands and retailers start to use VDP for consumer engagement, brand protection, product authentication and track and trace applications. 

There is also the issue of sustainability and our environment as it relates to plastics. We will continue to see acceleration of the development of recyclable, compostable and recycled materials, and – just as important – municipal, state and national regulations that strive to fix the ineffective recycling practices in the US today. In many ways, we need only to look to Europe to see the future of plastics in our environment.


Jakob Landberg, Nilpeter

From a political and socioeconomic point of view, I hope to see less political uncertainty in central Europe and the UK, and believe that this will stimulate growth in our industry. Furthermore, as various heated trade talks cool off, and mutually beneficial agreements are finalized, North and South American markets should progress, with increased activity and investments. The industry-wide consolidation that we’ve seen in the past few years will undoubtedly continue – both for converters and suppliers. We will see label printers migrating into new flexible packaging sectors. I believe we’ll see an increased focus on combination printing, both with conventional and digital hybrid technologies, and – in large part due to low cost consumables – increased interest in highly efficient offset presses, primarily for short-run production of high-end labels. Improved efficiency trumps capacity in these sectors with automation and ‘clean-hand technology’ at the forefront. Last, but certainly not least, the green wave will continue, rightfully so, and we’ll respond with less waste, lower power consumption, biodegradable substrates and the like.


Thomas SchweizerGallus

The declining job sizes in product decoration are driven by local adaptations, temporary promotions, print security, and other requirements for individualization. Accordingly, brand owners such as Philip Morris International (PMI) discover the opportunities for digital end-to-end production and design their supply chain towards flexibility, agility and speed to market. The way forward is to (pro)actively listen to brand owners and printing houses, understand the individual applications they need to stand out from the crowd, and co-create innovative solutions to fulfil consumers’ expectations.

Machine equipment that allows for fast and easy changeability of jobs and processes will become the key driver behind the omnipresent efforts to optimize productivity and efficiency such as lean management. The growing importance of return on investment (ROI) and life-cycle oriented calculations result from the ongoing transformation in the packaging and label industry from manual artwork to industrialization. Obviously, hybrid printing is perfectly suited for that transition combining digital and conventional converting technologies in the spirit of best of both worlds.

On the road to fully integrated digital workflow management, the idea of a solid-free production will be visible in the print shops of the future in terms of both intelligent machine equipment and the network-driven data cloud that connects the diverse devices and interfaces. The Internet of Things creates a symbiosis of hardware and software with clear advantages for process transparency, error prevention and finally production efficiency. Digitalization in the entire workflow chain from pre-press to dispatch and the respective digital business models will become a standard in our industry.

Sustainability concerns, for example for reducing the use of plastic materials, will more than ever dominate the product decoration industry and encompass basically all elements of converting (substrates, curing systems, waste figures) and all actors in the packaging supply and value chain (consumers, brand owners, printing houses, and suppliers of equipment and consumables). Thus, the reduction of waste in daily operations and the durability and recyclability of machine equipment will culminate in the future.


Benoit Demol, Codimag 

Labelexpo Europe 2019 clearly showed that a variety of complex printing technologies must co-exist in the narrow web market.

Label converters face complex challenges from the perspectives of the supply chain, the economy and rapid technological change. First, there is a continued trend towards shorter runs, along with expectations of higher quality and shorter delivery times. Second, competition is becoming more intense – not only because existing label converters have improved their performance with as a result of new machine and software technologies, but because new players are entering the market, with wider web or sheet-fed printing capabilities. 

The convergence between the markets, the expected global economic slowdown, and the digitalization of printing, converting and logistical processes are arguably major threats to the industry. But these changes can also be seen as opportunities, for those investing in technology that offers quality, productivity and flexibility.

In addition, these economic and technological trends provide favorable conditions for increased merger and acquisition activity in the coming months, for both label converters and their suppliers.


Atze Bosma, MPS

In recent years, we’ve seen several developments within the label and package printing industry. Connectivity and hybrid flexo-inkjet printing have been major topics, and both are still growing in popularity. Still for 2020 and years to come, we expect growth in hybrid press sales, as well as a growing interest in the benefits of connectivity in label businesses. 

Increasingly, data-driven service and a more scientific approach in business efficiency are becoming important. If a press runs at only half of its capacity, there are many improvements to make in the printing process. Industry 4.0 and connectivity are key. 

Another focus is the supply chain integration between ink and substrate manufacturers up to end users, the brand owners of FMCG. These long chains get integrated. Brand owners’ issues become challenges for converters and machine manufacturers. What are their struggles and how can a press supplier help solve them? We’re looking for ways to offer extremely high-quality results, innovative but also in a sustainable and cost-effective way. I believe it should be a win-win-win situation. Never choose between quality, sustainability or efficiency: always have all three ingredients together.


Philip Easton, Domino 

Sustainability: This has been both a risk and an opportunity for quite some time. I predict a major shift now from this being something that has largely been marketed, but with little investment or prompting real major change, because the cost to implement and the cost of the packaging has been a more dominant consideration, to where it is now going to happen. Besides greater political will, a key driver is the greener, cleaner new generation expanding in the workforce. It will affect the label converter sector in a number of ways, but most importantly the types of packaging will change and this will lead to a different mix of packaging decoration types. Currently, much of the focus is on reducing plastic PET bottles, but I think sustainability requirements will change as we better understand the overall circular economy impact, including the cost and resources to produce and recycle packaging, and not just the recyclability of the materials.

Waste reduction: There is a well-established trend for shorter runs and more SKUs as well as growth in specialty craft type brands in almost all sectors. This will continue to drive label converters to printing/converting systems that have fast set-up times, such as digital printing. The sustainability influence is going to drive the move to digital printing even further, as brands will target reducing the write-offs for packaging inventory they do not use. Supply chains will need to respond to an ever more ‘just-in-time’ form of delivery, with short lead times and working with the minimum amounts of inventory. Brands and converters will increasingly look more closely at the start-up waste required to print a job, less related just to cost, but more to the sustainability.

Decline of the high street: We are already seeing bricks and mortar retailers going into bankruptcy, especially in the UK, in a wide range of industries. The reality is that almost all the growth is in online sales. From 2009 to 2018, the share of European food and grocery e-shopping has almost doubled (92 percent growth) accounting for 25 percent of sales. How might this affect the label sector? If you cannot see the label on the product when purchasing, will you really want expensive embellishments such as silkscreen and foil? Brands may switch their spend from more elaborate packaging to online marketing. Digital printing will also benefit as more focus moves towards streamlined supply chains. 


Luca Goldoni, Cartes

‘Don't worry about what anybody else is going to do. The best way to predict the future is to invent it,’ said Alan Key.

A wave of transformation is hitting all types of industries, including printing, and that is why it is so difficult to make predictions.  

People are adopting modern techniques to expand their business and capabilities. They are looking for new technologies to cope with the competitive and fast-changing market. With the adoption of the Internet of Things, the printing industry is looking for more advanced devices targeting the easier overall workflow and use. We expect the request for multifunction printing and embellishing machine to grow with a booming demand for an all-in-one machine.

The days when the market wanted traditional flat and featureless prints are gone. It seems that a simple clear image with a stylish look and feel is preferred to a complicated and graphical image. However, the client (printers) would still need, and the end user (buyers) are still expecting something which can be a bit iconic in the designs.

It is important to go one step further, mixing new substrates, new inks, new ideas and new technology for achieving what will make you say ‘wow’. Fulfilling these demands will allow us to start trends, not just follow them. 


Geert Van Damme, Cerm

Everybody in the label industry has been talking for years about decreasing order quantities and increasing numbers of orders. In recent years we have observed an increasing complexity in products (flexible packaging, piggyback labels, booklet labels) and in production equipment (hybrid presses, finishing machines that can print some extra colors), alongside an increase in environmental and safety rules. On top of this, customers contact you in many ways and are no longer ashamed to call you in your private time on your mobile phone. So, your employees will need to be flexible and able to adapt to continuous change, even when we see that youngsters are looking for a better work-life balance. For some printing companies this will require a shift in the kind of people they hire. From craftsmen, we will move to computer operators; from specialists to flexible all-rounders. The human resources of the printing industry will have to be prepared.


Ajay Mehta, SMI Coated Products

2020 is likely to be a year which will begin with some circumspection. The economies worldwide are not encouraging. Politics has always affected businesses, but never more so than today. The world watches and reacts to trade tariffs imposed by different countries either unilaterally or in response. The US presidential elections will be watched with keen interest. Major investments are on hold as financial turmoil is expected in 2020. In today’s world of WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, social media is bringing about change in attitude and contributing to decision-making like never before. 

The current situation of economic slowdown in India is expected to continue for a couple of months, if not more. All this brings about a negative atmosphere with regard to investment. On the positive side, a number of converters have started exporting and this is helping them. While local orders have slowed, they are well occupied due to export orders.

Innovative label solutions will come up in 2020 with the increasing number of digital presses being procured. This will bring about innovative label solutions. As of now, new entrants have slowed down and this is a welcome thing for the health of the industry. It would lead to more mature competition among existing players.

We have full faith in the Indian economy. Fundamentally we are a consuming economy, and we expect it to bounce back in full force soon. 2020 may start with circumspection but as it will progress we expect a fantastic year ahead. 


Gary Seward, Pulse Roll Label Products

2019 has been a tough year for the industry in terms of changing regulations and the reclassification of many raw materials for printing inks. It’s probably been the most challenging year in terms of ink reformulation changes and every printing ink company is in the same position. That challenge, with the choice of raw materials reducing, is ongoing and over the next few years we expect to see this continue. As an ink company, we are committed to following EuPIA’s guidelines and ensuring we comply with the latest industry standards and regulatory requirements. Not just for the benefit of our customers and end-users but, crucially, to safeguard the welfare of our staff who are involved in the manufacture of inks, varnishes and coatings. 

Printing press, plate, ink and anilox technology continues to evolve at a great pace. The quality of flexo printing has advanced dramatically over the past two decades. Today, brand owners expect tight color tolerances and standardization on a global scale and this trend will undoubtedly continue in the year ahead. Converters recognize the true value of digital pre-press control for accurate color – this is key for label printers who want to future-proof their businesses. 

With more and more converters investing in digital printing to complement their conventional flexo printing business, there is also a need to ensure that brand colors are consistent irrespective of the printing process. By matching digital devices to flexo presses, short runs can be completed on digital presses, with mid-longer runs using the flexo process, ensuring an accurate color match across the different technologies, wherever you are in the world. We certainly expect to see label printers continue to invest in digital technology to complement their traditional flexo printing businesses – but there is definitely a place for both conventional and digital print.  

No matter where you are in the supply chain, it is the consumer that drives the market and will continue to determine the trends. The focus on the end user will continue, evidenced by the recent shift to include brand owners in key industry events, bringing together the whole supply chain – converters, manufacturers and brand owners.


Nick Coombes, Publicity Studio and L&L contributor 

Trends to look out for include the growth of digital technology in the package print sector. Already well established in the narrow web sector (labels), the wider and faster presses will make inroads into flexible packaging, folding cartons and corrugated. Watch out for more digital finishing/converting options too, and the migration of narrow web flexo into mid web widths for extended product capability such as sleeves, pouches and other flexible packaging.

The adoption of LED technology for curing inks and lacquers – initially an expensive option because of limited demand for the systems and availability of suitable inks and lacquers, falling costs will show its true benefit in terms of production savings, reliability and improved curing.

The increased use of sophisticated new filmic substrates – developed for a variety of reasons from better visual effect to improved performance to recyclability, the new materials will require significant investment in new technology, including plasma coating, to maximize their potential.


Jimit Mittal, Monotech Systems

The perception of label converters in India towards digital printing has changed: they are seriously evaluating the addition of digital printing capabilities in-house. The industry will see an increase in the number of digital press installations. Previously, digital was placed for just short run jobs to complement flexo on the production floor, but now it’s being seen as value addition and being considered as a faster way to grow in business. 

We believe 2020 will see at least 25 to 30 digital press installations in India, which will pave the way for further growth opportunities in the market. 

Converters are also looking at hybrid digital presses that will enable them to do all finishing and converting along with printing in one go. This will help reduce waste and quicken turnaround time at minimum costs. Another trend is that of mid web presses, which opens up yet another segment for label printers. 


Alex Cruz, Yupo

Packaging and sustainability will continue to be key for brand owners, manufacturers and consumers in 2020. In Japan, for example, brands continue to decrease the amount of food content and the size of the packages are becoming smaller, thus an increase in total number of packages. All of which results in an increase in the total number of labels produced. In addition to seeing this trend spreading to other regions, there will be a focus for these products to be sustainable and 100 percent recyclable by the end of the product’s life cycle if possible.  

Yupo’s customers are looking at ways of reducing plastic in their packaging by eliminating virgin plastic whenever possible. The trend is to move to 100 percent recycled plastic containers and within a targeted time frame. We all know that plastic will not go away. We cannot just produce 100 percent plastic free packaging across the entire packaging industry; ‘better plastic’ is needed. In-mold labels are the ideal alternative for brands that are looking to address environmental concerns. Unlike pressure-sensitive labels which create tons of waste with removable liners, in-mold labels are 100 percent recyclable and offer lower waste at all levels of the supply chain. 


Doug Niemeyer, Teklynx International

Globalization continues to rise with labeling in multi-site, multi-language environments, with the need to adhere to labeling requirement standards that vary by location. IoT, blockchain, and cloud technologies are growing in demand, as is the need of a single, unified solution managing supply chain labeling, integrating with ERP and other business systems.

On-demand color labeling and incorporation of artwork is becoming more prominent for manufacturers as industry standards and government regulations that require the use of color on labels increase. The ability to leverage hi-resolution artwork on labels and product packaging with a secure label approval process provides organizations with a faster and more efficient time to market. 

Good labor is difficult to find. Automation becomes more of a need to account for a decreasing operational headcount and organizations are looking to label printing automation and full business system integration to streamline barcode label production. Organizations are finding that this digital transformation of labeling is producing additional ROI on their existing systems and processes.  

Lean and continuous improvement is 24/7/365, meaning the reduction of manual errors and waste of all kinds is paramount. Manufacturers are shifting to a more secure and efficient supply chain labeling process of enabling user permissions and automated label approvals with eSignatures, resulting in a ‘lean labeling’ process.


Ranesh Bajaj, Vinsak

While the label industry continues to grow at a healthy CAGR, there have been a few hiccups in 2019. Especially in India, 2019 saw a slowdown in the growth of the economy which in turn impacted the capital good purchases and hence equipment sales were deeply impacted. As the industry matures and the economy starts to grow faster again, we hope 2020 will see robust capacity growth again. The stressed automobile and telecom sectors in India are impacting the label industry severely, and we need to create new use cases for labels to grow the business. 

On the technology front, two key pillars will be functionality and sustainability. More than the print and aesthetics, functionality of labels is becoming the key differentiator as brand owners look for the label to do more than just convey the details of the content and meet regulatory needs. Hangar labels, multi-layer, booklets, tamper-evident labels, among others, all are growing at a rate twice the standard CAGR, if not more. 

The other growth area is sustainability. More eco-friendly materials, linerless labels, IML labels without using release liners, are increasingly being used. Brands are now asking for measurable features which they can show to their customers to portray their company as being a responsible corporate citizen and promoting sustainability. Organic foods packaged in brown kraft are now considered the most premium over the colorful packaging that was all the rage in the early 2000s.


Mark Day, Armor

As we move in to 2020, thermal transfer continues to be a proven, highly reliable and cost-effective technology for printing variable information, in real-time, in accordance with the ever-increasing industry demands for full traceability throughout a product’s life-cycle.

This will be the decade that industry must take a greater responsibility for its impact on the environment through the implementation of initiatives that deliver tangible benefits for all. So, in 2020, Armor will continue its commitment to be the most environmentally conscious provider of thermal transfer ribbons, with a wider rollout of SolFree, the only TTR products worldwide to be manufactured with zero solvent in the production process (even for the backcoat).  

The ability to recycle products will progressively become a prerequisite that will require industry to invest in collection initiatives that will cost-effectively enable used thermal transfer ribbons to be recycled. For many years Armor has operated a ‘zero landfill’ policy and currently recycles all production waste as Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF). 2020 will see this initiative extended to major users that place a value on corporate social responsibility.

Efficiency in logistics, supply chain and delivery times will continue to be a key focus due to an increasing need to deliver products more quickly, with enhanced traceability and often directly to the end-user. 


Ken Moir, NiceLabel

As we look ahead to 2020 and beyond, it is clear that the labeling market is being driven by the broader IT trends of digitalization and modernization. In enterprise resource planning (ERP), for example, this combination is transforming systems, with SAP software in use today rapidly migrating from SAP ECC into the new business suite of SAP S/4HANA.

That’s just one example but it is important because it is part of a wider IT modernization trend that ultimately impacts on labeling. When large enterprises update ERP, one of the natural consequences is that they will subsequently modernize their labeling systems and often migrate to or implement a new standardized global labeling solution.

In other words, the impact on labeling is part of a wider chain of events driving IT modernization. And that chain is accelerating as new technology comes on stream. That is why we are seeing a pipeline of new opportunities for global labeling solutions or label management systems today across the industry that is larger than we have witnessed for many years. And we expect to see these trends speed up not just during 2020 but increasingly throughout the decade.        

That chain of events is also increasingly leading to a modernization of hardware systems – something we again expect to see happening more and more throughout 2020 and beyond. As Windows mobile computers reach end-of-life, organizations are changing them to Android mobile computers. The next link in the chain is that businesses start to standardize their printer estate. Instead of having multiple brands and models in place, they standardize on one brand and even one model. That reduces costs and the administrative burden as operations become more efficient and there is less need for support, even around basic tasks like loading media and changing printer settings, less operator training, fewer spare parts to stock and less unplanned downtime. It is a classic example of less is more. That, in a sense, is what is happening in the industry today and what we see accelerating in the future. But we are also witnessing a raft of newer trends coming into play that are set to impact the industry over the coming years. Take the migration to cloud, for example. This is already underway – and cloud labeling solutions are already up and running. Often though, some elements are still on-premise. Printer drivers that generate the printer command languages are still often located on local servers. Even they will move to the cloud over time. 

In fact, driven by the latest evolution of the Internet of Things, the printers themselves will increasingly become connected. The technological capability has been in place before but the rest of the market has not been advanced enough to take advantage. Over the next decade, the advent of driverless printers in the cloud will be a key benefit for businesses as the migration to the cloud gathers pace.

In line with this, we will also see higher levels of cloud-to-cloud integration both of business systems generally and also of label management systems. The move to the cloud will reduce the complexity of the process for businesses and make label management simpler and more efficient.

Another trend we see accelerating is the convergence of labeling and marking. Most label printing in the past has been traditional thermal printing. Direct marking typically comprises continuous inkjet printing and laser etching. Historically, the two areas have been separate when it comes to management but they are now coming together, with users increasingly saying they want to use one system for both technologies.

Regulation across the sector has become more stringent in recent years and we only see that increasing in 2020 and beyond. The rules around labeling of allergens have been tightened in recent times and it is key that businesses ensure their labelling is 100 percent accurate in this area, not only for compliance but also in terms of public trust.

Moreover, the EU is to introduce a new medical device regulation (MDR) in May 2020. It is important that businesses operating in this area work with label management system providers that enable them to maintain a validated, compliant labeling solution. Added to this, we are seeing Russia introduce serialization requirements on everything from alcohol to pharmaceuticals to fur. And as a result, large international businesses who trade with Russia are having to customize their labeling in order to comply.

The final area to cover here is RFID. We are seeing rapid adoption of this technology in the apparel and garment sector in particular – and there is nothing to indicate this trend is going to go away during 2020. In fact, we would expect other industries to adopt it in the future. 


Mette Laursen, Flexo Wash 

Sustainability has always been a big part of the Flexo Wash way of thinking and of designing our products. In 2019 we made the commitment that our products in the future will have an even lower impact on the environment and we will work even more on that in 2020. It is now part of our mission and we have made a set of values for the company going forward. It is important for us to contribute to a greener and healthier printing industry without compromising the cleaning quality.

Next year we will continue the optimization of our products, so they consume even less water and solution. The development of filtration units and sedimentation tanks to reduce consumption of liquid and recirculation units to reduce water consumption will be developed even further.

Also the cleaning liquids that are used in our systems will be developed even further. More liquids that are biodegradable and liquids that are certified as food compliant will be produced.


Josh Roffman, Loftware

As today’s business leaders look to the future, they are searching for ways to create new efficiencies and cost savings in the wake of increased competition and globalization. That’s why as we move into 2020 these leaders are identifying new ways to optimize business processes to remove human error and avoid supply chain disruption. Forward-thinking companies are gaining a competitive advantage by investing in end-to-end labeling and packaging artwork solutions which enable them to create, manage and print complex labeling and packaging artwork and scale across their global operations.

There are a range of customer demands and regulatory requirements which must be considered both when managing packaging artwork and printing supply chain labels. All labels, whether on the product or packaging, require specific content to meet these demands or risk non-compliance, customer dissatisfaction and even patient safety. Also, both vehicles face challenges around content review and approval as organizations look to streamline processes. Additionally, maintaining different systems for labeling and artwork management can be costly and inefficient and can limit growth. This is why the labeling and packaging artwork space offers a clear example of how companies can benefit from a more streamlined approach. By taking a holistic view and managing both labeling and packaging artwork simultaneously, companies can significantly improve time to market, improve operations and shorten lengthy approval cycles while reducing overlap, waste and redundant costs.  

Also, it seems clear that there are many common requirements with labeling and packaging artwork which is why companies are continuing to look for providers to address these combined needs. Frequently the content on a label mirrors that included on product packaging. As a matter of fact, it’s quite common that Enterprise Labeling and Artwork Management utilize the same content, images, warnings, translations and phrases. Why then would companies want to manage two separate processes and solutions? Certainly, maintaining multiple, which require access to the same content creates issues around accuracy and consistency and results in more work, more time and more errors. But the duplicative nature doesn’t end here. There are common stakeholders involved in supply chain labeling and product packaging that are looking to manage the same content – whether it’s regulatory, brand, regional or customer information. In both cases, it’s important to enable these stakeholders to manage labeling and product packaging smarter, faster and more efficiently with a configurable workflow framework. A combined solution eliminates redundancies and offers new levels of visibility, control and collaboration in managing both labels and artwork.  

In 2020 companies will continue to look to take advantage of end-to-end labeling and packaging artwork solutions which can meet the full scope of their requirements for bringing products to market and doing so quickly, efficiently and more competitively. By deploying a single solution, companies can manage and source content centrally to guarantee accuracy and consistency, mitigate risk, increase agility, optimize costs and continue efforts to expand globally. This of course has become even more important as companies look to launch and move products faster while complying with regional and regulatory requirements. However, a combined approach offers the flexibility for organizations to choose from a full range of capabilities, whether related to labeling, artwork management or both. Now businesses can be more competitive through a comprehensive digital platform that provides internal and external teams with a more collaborative, unified way of creating, reviewing, approving, managing and printing labels and artwork through an integrated, cloud-based platform. Most importantly, this end-to-end approach increases agility and reduces costs for companies looking to deal with customer, product, regulatory and regional complexities that impact both labeling and artwork management.  

By understanding the important role that labeling and packaging plays, companies can create new efficiencies and cost savings to keep pace with a new consumer driven marketplace and for today’s multi-faceted, dynamic supply chain landscape. Leaders who embrace innovation and new labeling methodologies will optimize costs and gain a competitive advantage in their markets.


Ralph Giammarco, S-One Labels & Packaging

In 2020, we’re going to see the wave toward sustainability reach the next level. This year, at Labelexpo, Pack Expo and elsewhere, we all felt the dramatically increasing demand for sustainable packaging from both brands and consumers.

As large CPGs are digging deeper into their commitment to full sustainability by 2025, the industry needs to respond with fully integrated, reliable and scalable solutions. Accomplishing this will require excelling at one overriding behavior: collaboration.

We need collaboration between manufacturers of various materials who are open to helping to develop complementary products and solutions. Even among competitors, we need to agree on testing standards and definitions and terms we use, so we can be sure we’re all using the same language.

You will see tighter collaboration between manufacturers and converters, propelling R&D and discovering what works and what doesn’t in terms of materials, workflow and finished applications.  And not only will we collaborate on developing solutions, we need to work together on educating the market.

Collaboration in all parts of the value chain, from resins to the finished package, is probably the most critical factor. In the short run, resin shortages and R&D investment will put only greater pressure on already high costs. Innovation and increasing success will create demand and hopefully begin to turn that tide by year’s end. Efficient collaboration throughout this value chain will allow us to plan product development and prepare for increasing capacity so we can reduce costs and improve the functionality of sustainable packaging.

As this wave grows, those who are willing to problem solve and collaborate are the ones who are going to move the industry forward, and they’ll be the ones who will be the most successful.


Harveer Sahni, Weldon Celloplast

Flexo, with constantly improving pre-press available, is still the major technology of preference for new investments even though digital has definitely started to attract attention. The high cost of branded digital presses and higher cost of inks or printheads is a deterrent in attaining a higher level of growth in this segment, yet we now see regular reports of digital press installations. It will not be long before the trend picks up pace. Most leading printers across the country are implementing better production techniques to achieve efficiency and MIS systems to enhance their savings from reduced down times and wastages.

Sustainability and waste management is fast becoming an imperative with the country facing a gigantic pollution and environmental problem. The pollution control departments are now very active. Gone are the times when investment in waste management equipment was not even considered. Many companies have started to implement green factory initiatives and it is good to see the responsible trends in label industry. 


Edoardo Cotichini, Konica Minolta Business Solutions Europe

There is a seismic change in the industry towards shorter runs, just-in-time production and customization where label converters need the highest quality printing. These trends will continue to shape the labels market going forward.

Brands continue to drive change by making short-run printing mandatory; increasingly they are making the ability to print digital labels a vendor requirement. Research from Finat Radar shows that 73 percent buy digital labels because they know that for some applications it’s the best match. Converters are gaining skills at digital printing and selling digital printing. Other main market drivers include more targeted marketing, lean manufacturing, sustainability and variable data printing. All contribute to the overall growth rise of the colour digital label printing market. The introduction of new cost-effective production presses, such as our own AccurioLabel 230, also drives growth. 

Whereas our customers use their machines primarily for label production, we see folding carton and flexible packaging increasingly becoming a second focus. An additional benefit – both in labels and in packaging – is that brands increasingly want to add value through innovative decorative and tactile elements within the printed piece, which is where the inherent nature of digital print brings distinct advantages.

In this regard, technology such as the digital embellishment systems of our strategic partner MGI is a ready-made opportunity for label converters to offer highly creative services and win new business. 

Forecasts by Keypoint Intelligence / InfoTrends show that color digital label and packaging printer revenues across the world will go up by over 65 percent to virtually 800 million USD in a five-year period to 2021. The same source predicts that the printer value of print by application will soar by 175 percent in the same period.