If another successful DRUPA and Label Expo are any indication, 2017 will be a banner year for the label and package printing industry. The one word which sums it up best is change.
Developments in Production and Innovation will Continue
Today, print runs are decreasing in length, and customers are demanding more variations and versions of products. As well, the number of available label solutions has increased as the time to market has decreased. This is all thanks to advances in printing press types, digital printing technology, colour management and digitised pre-press, as well as an increase in the availability of finishing line solutions.
Of course, all of this innovation will mean added pressure to keep costs down and profitability up, not only with product production, but also with the demands of supply chain traceability, environmental friendliness and stricter food labelling requirements. This increased pressure may well cause printers to increase the amount of automation of their production and administration, as well as increased use of management information systems which integrate printing technology with specialised inspection for the least amount of errors as possible.
Continued Evolution in the Face of Increased Consumer Demand
Technology continues to change the shopping process of consumers, allowing them to conduct research over the internet on products before they buy. This has only served to make competition for the consumer dollar more intense. As well, convenience is king, with consumers choosing multi-trip shopping over single trips to big box stores. This is placing pressure on label and packaging to stand out even further.
One way companies are accomplishing this to offer value-added products, such as personalisation and the ability to customise. Another way is to offer customers products in a range of graduated levels, which promotes exclusivity as well as inspires customer loyalty.
Labels Doing More Than Ever
Today’s labels not only help consumers identify the products they buy. Digital trends have also expanded a label’s ability to hold regulatory information, brand identity and special coding, which provides consumers with more product information. This is currently being done via the use of colour-changing and tactile label features, as well as QR codes and label personalisation.
These innovations have also extended to security labels, increasing the sophistication of product identification features with the use of various in-label security measures, including holograms and computer chips.
Of course, along with these increased features are refinements in the digital technology used to create them. Some of the refinements expected in the near future include those made to hybrid digital/analogue presses, advanced inks with special features and new substrates to carry them.
More Centralised Packaging Procurement
As competition increases, so too does the challenge continue for label converters to find new ways to add value to their products. One way that many label converters are doing this is to make their procurement of printed packaging more centralised. In the past, new vendors might have had to deal with the research and development, marketing and package engineering themselves. Today, these channels are closing, and vendors are now being directed to deal with only the sourcing and procurement departments. This has led to label converters developing new strategies for business development and marketing to woo new customers, as they ensure their production meets existing customer needs.
The bottom line for 2017 is that the industry continues to march quickly and confidently into the future. However, the pace at which it is doing so is accelerating, revealing many opportunities for growth. Label converters and packaging companies who ensure they’re up to speed on current technologies and processes will be the ones who stand out from the crowd.