For the innovative converter, the packaging segment provides a host of opportunity. In fact, according to data garnered by industry consultants and associations, the packaging segment—which includes flexible packaging, tags and labels, folding carton, and corrugated boxes—it is a top growth area...
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For the innovative converter, the packaging segment provides a host of opportunity. In fact, according to data garnered by industry consultants and associations, the packaging segment—which includes flexible packaging, tags and labels, folding carton, and corrugated boxes—it is a top growth area within the graphic communications industry over the next several years.
At least for the near future, packaging—unlike magazines or sales collateral, for example—can't be digitized. The segment has its challenges, of course, as packagers looked to keep pace with advances in technology and market trends.
And the Customer Is...
The retail environment is changing. Major supermarket chains are more involved in brand building, stocking those already crowed grocery store shelves with their own private labels. In Europe, private labels account for 50 percent of the label market; in the US it is currently at 20 percent and growing.
"The key today is that retailers have the leverage; 15 to 20 years ago, it was the CGP companies that had the leverage," says Stuart Brownell, Kodak Global Packaging Market Segment Manager. "In the future, we believe it will be the consumer. They will have so much control, with things like QR codes, which allows them to check pricing and availability anywhere, anytime."
Brands, looking to stand out among the crowd, are looking for new and innovative packaging. Shrink sleeves labels—with their ability to image bold graphics on a full 360 degrees of the label real estate, while adhering to nearly any shape or size container—are gaining traction, with growth estimates reaching seven percent annually, as compared with less than four percent for the overall label market.
Packaging Graphics in Pawtucket, RI has come up with its own program to trigger consumer response. Teaming up with SCENTISPHERE of Carmel, NY, it is offering the Rub’nSmell scent application for use on packaging, as well as catalogs, direct mail and coupons. Packaging Graphics can embed a combination of 60 distinct smells during the print process.
“Using sharp scents is not new, but the method we offer is a new-and-improved version. The technology available now can make an immediate impression with a unique, distinct scent that is very critical to consumers purchasing habits,” says Nick Carafa, Executive VP – Sales, Packaging Graphics.
Packagers are serious about implementing technology that streamline efforts and make continuous, measurable improvements within the facility. "Color management along with process controls is making headway among flexo printers. Also, we have seen a 50 percent increase in adoption of our Studio Tools technology and a huge adoption of web-based collaboration tools for virtual communication of the visual image," says Larry Moore, Esko director of software services in North America. "Packagers are looking to adopt more automated methods of producing work. The economy is encouraging people to seek out the most cost-effective methods to get the job done."
These tools are a necessity, as CPGs and retailers look to use specialty inks, metallic inks, holographic—all of the special effects," notes Jayson Hazelbaker, Production Manager, Digital Media Group, Inc., a Cincinnati-based global 3D image creator for brands.
Ramping Up the Quality
This preference for the "WOW" factor helps explain why flexography is king among packaging printing. Flexography, which until fairly recently had a bad rep for producing low quality work, has fully come of age, especially with front-end technology, such as Esko's HD Flexo and Kodak's Flexcel NX, helping to pump up the quality levels to gravure standards at a fraction of the cost and considerably faster makeready.
"Flexo has always offered the high speed and wide webs; whether it could offer the quality level was the question," says Brownell. "In the last several years, the quality has improved exponentially."