In the first part of this article, our editor examined the overarching market data for the packaging printing industry, the numbers from major press manufacturers and touched on the first of three major trends, emerging markets.
The second part of the article focusses on two other trends and continues the industry analysis.
This article about package printing trends was written by Rebecca Watson and appeared in its original form in the 2016-1 issue of Flexo Gravure Global. This version includes updates.
Sustainability has also become an increasingly prominent issue in packaging printing, according to the Smithers Pira report. One needs to look no further than drupa to see that – there is an entire area dedicated to green printing and printers’ corporate responsibility. One of the main packaging developments in recent years has been the increased incorporation of bio-based PET into brands’ packaging supply chain. This issue enhances the focus and presence of lightweighting, which is also an issue in corrugated board markets. A common trend for packaging printers and converters has been to reduce the weight of their products in order to reduce costs associated with transportation, reduce CO2 emissions and to help create a more sustainable supply chain. The report states that in the last 20 years, the weight of an average 50cl (17oz) plastic bottle has been reduced by about 50%. Another report by Tetra Pak said millennials, the generation with increasing purchasing power and a global reach in the market, prefer their packaging to be environmentally friendly and will pay more for it.
With each passing year, more and more companies grow a sustainability branch in their mission or adopt it into their value system. As Bobst states, the pressure that consumers, regulatory bodies and brand owners put onto packaging manufacturers to improve sustainability is inevitably passed on to their equipment suppliers. Windmöller & Hölscher has its Greenovation, which according to its CEO, Dr Jürgen Vutz, not only concentrates on efficient use of energy, but also in the prevention of production waste and emissions reduction. From the adoption of energy-saving processes and infrastructure to the energy efficient technology used in its machines to the emission controls, it is clear that sustainability is a big part of its brand. Dr Falco Paepenmüller, general manager of extrusion equipment said in relation to its future plans, “We will introduce new concepts to optimise the flexibility and sustainability of film production. We are working on several significant technological advances.”
Uteco simply states it complies with all environmental regulations, although one of its big goals for 2016 is to optimize its processes, which most often results in more effective use of resources. It also plans to showcase its newest Onyx 4.0 Evolution flexo printer at drupa this year in its state-of-the-art form, with an emphasis on environmental impact. Bobst’s sustainability program looks similar to that of Windmöller & Hölscher. It looks for opportunities to develop and help technologies and applications evolve, like minimizing waste, ink loss during washing, reduction in energy consumption and improved management of lubrication oils to reduce environmental risks in case of intensive use of its machines. In addition, the company works to reduce its own energy consumption as well as the carbon footprint related to the transport of components used in its assembly lines. Bobst is also working towards trying to remove chemicals and hazardous processes to create a safe work environment.
As producers of consumer packaged goods look to make their packaging printing more personal, regional and seasonal, shorter runs are becoming more the norm than the exception. Windmöller & Hölscher said in order to meet those demands, it is always looking for new ways to improve waste minimisation and achieve faster job changeovers in its technology and applications. In early 2015, the company expanded its product range with the Miraflex S, which is designed for smaller packaging, short runs, quick changeovers, minimal ink and substrate waste and lower plate costs. Uteco Group announced one of its newest models, Onyx XS 4.0 Evolution, a compact, eight-colour press for printing repeats up to 650 mm (26”), is ideal for short runs and small repeats.
Digital printing may also be part of the solution for printers. One study by Mintel said that one in five USA millennials seek out personalized products, and campaigns like Coco-Cola’s Share a Coke or Nutella’s Your Nutella, which allowed consumers to personalize their label, show how that fact is being exploited by marketing departments. To keep up with that type of personalization, some manufacturers are investing in digital printing as a complementary technology to enhance their portfolios.
Working with Stream Inkjet Technology supplied by Kodak, Bobst said it produced a digital solution for industrial scale corrugated box printing earlier in 2015. There are several beta sites for the machine at this point, and the company said it offers both personalization and speed on short-run and high-volume work, bridging the gap between high-volume flexo printing and the lower capacity digital systems available up until now. Bobst estimates that the press will be available for the commercial market 2017. Uteco has also been working with Kodak to achieve results in the use of digital printing technology integrated with flexo presses. The Prosper S20 Imprinting Systems can add variable content at high speeds to package designs on flexible films. Look for an overview of digital printing news in our special drupa coverage as well as an upcoming article about corrugated digital printing presses out in September.
Trends aren’t inevitable
If all of these trends seem less like fads and more just the simple state of things to come, it doesn’t mean there aren’t some challenges to consider. Customer demand and environmental concerns have made sustainability a focus and created a culture of corporate responsibility in many parts of the world. However, if emerging markets continue to grow as the trends suggest, that market culture may shift. While one may argue a company can never be too environmentally friendly, for many there may come a saturation point, where most of what can be done, and what makes sense for the bottom line, has been done.
Emerging markets bring an appealing possibility for growth, but they aren’t without real risks that must be approached with a large amount of caution and pragmatism. It would seem if anything, the trend that we can say is here to stay is the demand for personalised packaging and shorter runs, which isn’t such a bad thing as it’s one aspect manufacturers can seemingly control through research, development and innovation. Regardless, the global packaging industry is an interesting and dynamic market, making it an exciting time to be printing.