In late 2017 and early 2018, Flexo & Gravure Global asked several package print shops and converters about their opinion on the past year and their estimations on trends and challenges for 2018. In the seventh part of this survey, Arica Drake, gobal marketing manager flexible packaging for Michelman expresses her delight and surprise about the growth of digital printing in flexible packaging in 2017, sustainability and the initiatives around single-use packaging as largest trends in 2018, and the need of the industry to stay on top of new legislation and initiatives around packaging.
As you look back on 2017, were you able to meet your own expectations and what surprised you the most about the printing and packaging industry and markets?
The most surprising in 2017 was the growth of digital printing in flexible packaging. New technologies and equipment are allowing for more options in flexible packaging to utilize digital printing. The combination of improved equipment and technology provides workflow advantages such as higher productivity with the ease of handling large volumes of variable data printing (personalization), shorter set-up times, and cost effective low volume runs.
The push towards more sustainable packaging has made brand owners look towards paper to achieve recyclability. This is surprising because of the cost factors. For many years brand owners utilized plastic because of its affordability, but the multiple layers of polymers in standard flexible packaging makes recyclability more difficult. Recyclability is easier to achieve when utilizing paper for flexible packaging, but when utilizing paper, brand owners are targeting premium product lines that can get the higher resource cost recouped.
As we move forward into 2018, what do you see as the largest trends or megatrends in the industry?
Some of the largest trends in 2018 are focused around sustainability and the initiatives around single-use packaging. Brand owners are continuing to look for packaging solutions that can be recycled or be reused. Single-use initiatives are those that promote secondary use of packaging after the product in the packaging has been consumed. Example of this include packaging that is recyclable such as soft drink bottles made into new bottles, or heavy use plastic or glass jars that can be washed and reused. Even potato chip bags can be reused and burned for fuel, or used to make other plastic products such as playground furniture or park benches.
The other big trend is that online food shopping continues to grow. This provides a conundrum for the packaging industry because food products that are shipped have different needs such a as temperature control and increased product protection. Individuals that order groceries online don’t want their food crushed. It is also important that the consumer has the same experience and confidence of buying the product as they do when purchasing the product off the shelf.
What do you feel the industry should be most prepared for dealing with over the next 12 months?
The industry will need to stay on top of new legislation and initiatives around packaging, especially as it pertains to the EU and local legislation in the US. Brand owners and converters will have to adapt to the Action Plan for the Circular Economy. It sets regulations for recycling, waste reduction and other initiatives.
The industry will also be determining which is better –down gauging & light weighting or recyclability and multiple use. Michelman is proud to contribute to both solutions. We produce water-based functional coatings that can help brand owners achieve flexible packaging that has reduced polymer layers as well as help them replace a polymer layer with a coating layer that can be recyclable.
… to be continued