Is there an expanding Flexo market in Southeast Asia?

When we think about Asia and its markets, there is a certain buzz around the region and its ever-growing population and economies. For a while China and India where the growing stars in the East but it is not only these countries which are economically prospering and surprising the old economies in the west with growth, invention and rapid developments. Even though the ASEAN-countries are not structured like the democracies in the West, their economic growth and with it investments from international companies are soaring high.

by Paula Landes

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Asian packaging markets

Gravure has long been the dominant technology so far in Asia and is well known and widely available. SEA printers prefer to manufacture their packaging products with the gravure process, mainly due to the large volumes that the print buyers need.

Research shows, that over the past ten years, flexible packaging has been one of the fastest growing packaging sectors, especially as developing economies continue to expand. According to the Smithers Pira report “Future of Global Flexible Packaging to 2022”, the total market for consumer and industrial flexible packaging is projected to grow at an annual rate of 4.3% until 2022. The whole market is valued at USD 230 billion in 2017 and is projected to reach USD 283 billion in 2022. With Asia being the largest regional market with 40% of global packaging market volume, this region is projected to be the fastest growing market for consumer flexible packaging.

“Although the main share of flexible packaging printing in Southeast Asia is produced by the rotogravure process today, we see a growing number of printers turning to flexo. This is mainly driven by new product ideas and substrates that are difficult to handle in gravure. With a growing installed base of flexo presses at Southeast-Asian printers, brand owners will carry flexographic printing forward as a commercially viable alternative.” says Arthit Prommopakarn, Senior Sales Manager, Windmöller & Hölscher Asia.

Market insights: Thailand and Vietnam

Every year from 2011 to 2016 Vietnam has increased its export rate by 15%, mainly in high tech devices and components, such as broadcasting equipment and integrated circuits. Also, Thailand exports mostly technology like computers and telephones. Flexo industry experts in the markets agree that the market for flexo printing is growing in Thailand as well as in Vietnam. Reasons are changing shopping habits, the increasing per capita income and the growing amount of locally produced goods that are not imported. This is connected to a change in consumption habits in recent years: more supermarkets and smaller packer sizes are spreading as shopping becomes easier and more organized with malls and shopping centres replacing local markets and street vendors.

 

Along with this growth comes a new set of challenges for packaging printers, one of which is the increase in demand for shorter runs which are increasingly required due to market demands and fast turnover for product launches. Here the older techniques are not competitive anymore and flexo printing offers great solutions. With huge improvements in the development of the flexo industry in the last 15 years like new prepress systems, new generation of photopolymer plates and seven colour extended colour gamut (ECG) approach, which involves a fixed colour palette consisting of CMYK combined with green, orange and blue or violet. This now means that flexo can now print images and gradients as well, when previously it was used primarily for text. While improving the outcome these technologies have also made flexo cheaper and perfectly suitable for short print runs, thus arriving just in time to meet the demands of the Asian markets for high quality printing.

Local particularities and demands

Super brands especially, are diversifying their printing processes to further suit different product packaging demands, such as the need to regionalize products to cater to specific local holidays or events. Many Asian countries celebrate more than one religion thus special needs for packaging not only arise around Christmas and Easter, but also around Diwali, Eid, Magha Puja and others. Also, the huge variety of regional languages requires different layouts, design and presentation formats.

What to expect in SEA?

We expect that the current growth rates are only the beginning and foresee a bright future for the emerging markets in South East Asia. Currently flexography in South East Asia is still a new technology that is entering the market at high speed: Flexible packaging is one of the fastest growing market segments in Asia with an annual growth rate of up to 5 percent. With changing lifestyles in a world that gets ever more connected, where brands and quality are also a sign of individual prosperity the Asian tigers are at a moving at a high pace and embrace modern technologies and their impacts on their lives. So as more and more local products are being printed in Southeast Asia together with the latest advancements in technology, flexography will become the preferred printing method in Asia. With investments in the latest technologies the results will easily surpass established products and set new standards for the international market.

About the author:

Paula Landes is a consultant for PR, social media and a freelance journalist from Frankfurt, Germany. She puts startups and companies on the international digital stage. For more information please check mocialsedia.de

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