Broadening the agenda
Label converters today are, indeed, at the centre of an intermingling of technologies in the packaging chain, offering both web-fed self-adhesive labels and sheet-fed wet glue labels, as well as flexible packaging and tube laminate. They are also experiencing, in the M&A arena, buyouts by flexible packaging companies wishing to expand their offering, and also mainstream packaging companies purchasing self-adhesive label converters to develop their capability to provide perosnalised packaging.
Digital: shorter runs, higher break-even point
The narrow-web presses that characterise self-adhesive label production have in recent years mostly employed the flexographic print process, most recently coupled with speedy UV curing. However, the fast-developing narrow-web digital colour print options – particularly the HP Indigo and Xeikon – are dramatically changing the face of label print today. As brand owners and retailers opt for shorter production runs of their products, delivered more often, as well as multi-versioning of products using the same basic packaging, so the speed, flexibility, and shorter-run capability of digital print is proving itself.
Linerless: a revival of interest for special applications
Linerless self-adhesive labels – which briefly enjoyed popularity in the 1980s – are enjoying a resurgence of interest; and technology advances have made them a real success currently for supermarket catchweigh food pre-packs in particular. Limitations on label shape have held this format back, but developments are ongoing and this is an area to watch.
Technology advances: enhancing the brand experience
On-press trends include an ever-broader toolcase of special finishes for labels, such as photochromic and high-gloss metallic inks; time-temperature indicators; holograms; and tactile varnishes. Designed to enhance the consumer’s experience of a product’s packaging and create shelf ‘stand-out’, they partner highly-engineered permanent and removable adhesives to deliver the perfect performance for the brand owner’s needs.
Connecting the global label industry network
In an increasingly-global label market, there is a real need for a ‘living’ network for the whole base of industry players, sharing information and knowledge, transcending the boundaries of countries and languages. Within less than three years, the L9 – the global collective of label industry associations, of which FINAT is a founder member – has made enormous strides in this direction, sharing knowledge and experience on sustainability and recycling; jointly promoting the label industry’s ‘best-in-class’ at the World Label Awards; introducing benchmarking and standardised best practices; And thus bringing benefits for all members and their end-user customers.
Labels: the interactive medium connecting product and consumer
Label content is becoming increasingly an issue as the requirements of brand owner and retailer are transcended by the requirements of legislation on information and food safety, security and logistics input, and customer-accessible additional information via QR codes and similar devices. As a result of this broader agenda for label content, label size has increased; and leaflet label usage has grown considerably – particularly for pharmaceuticals. In the pharmaceutical field in particular, in the face of growing instances of counterfeiting, the addition of Braille content, and overt and covert security and track-and-trace devices is extensive.
In this context, there are real opportunities for label printers to engage with commercial packaging companies – in cartons, for example – to add value in terms of enhanced customer experience and engagement with a particular brand. Self-adhesive labels can certainly enable mainstream sectors of the packaging industry to benefit from 21st century brand identification strategies, without the need to change their core technology base.
Corporate strategies for the label printer