It's not just start-up brands that love digital printing. Major retailers are tuning in to the fact that digital printing lets them quickly launch new brands, get special offers on shelves or trial seasonal products. Emma-Jane Batey speaks to decision makers across the value chain to see how digital delivers.
It's easy to see why digital printing is a friend to start-up brands – no big commitment, no significant tooling costs and no high volumes to pay for before you've broken even. But what about the advantages of digital printing for bigger brands? With the ever increasing consumer trends for customisation and seasonality showing that people want to buy products that are more relevant and targeted, brands of all sizes are getting in on the digital act.
Bristol-based custom-label printing house Sticky Things is dedicated to digital. Having identified a market for high-quality, short-run digital label printing, Sticky Things has quickly built up an excellent reputation for providing ‘high-end printing services at low-end costs’, making it a great partner for start-ups as well as larger names wanting to add customisable stickers or labels to their packaging.
Everyone loves digital
Sticky Things owner Matt Staines explains how the company delivers fast value for its customers: “We are proud to help span the gap between the entrepreneur working on a shoestring and the corporate giants with their large annual budgets. Sticky Things helps our customers to save money on small to medium label and sticker print runs without sacrificing on quality. We are continually investing in new printing technology and quality materials so that our product offer is totally reliable – customers of any size need to be able to rely on us.”
That ongoing investment at Sticky Things is what has seen the company, founded in 2013, grow to become a market leader in short to medium sticker and label print runs and gain over 4,000 new customers each year. Staines continues, “We’ve invested in the latest digital equipment as well as traditional equipment. Our newest addition is the Konica Minolta digital press along with our Roland DG digital inkjet presses, which we bought in 2015. [That] we have the ability to letterpress, digitally print or even screen print and resin-dome labels and stickers in-house means we have complete control over every aspect of our work, helping us to be quick, flexible and totally reliable. Digital certainly helps us as we have all the latest software, totally up-to-date, and artwork can be supplied in any file version. We’re very nimble.”
One of Sticky Things' customers is the Cornish Seaweed Bath Company. A good fit, the two companies have developed a mutually beneficial relationship that has coincided with excellent growth on both sides. Natural skincare and beauty products brand Cornish Seaweed Bath Company was co-founded by Richard Doggett, who says, “Digital printing gives us the flexibility to create our own designs in-house for new products we’re developing or for changing the look of our existing products. Our best-selling facial oil underwent its own rejuvenating makeover recently with new labelling from Sticky Things. They are quick, really helpful and friendly.”
Doggett continues, “As we are a small, growing business, when we launch a new product, it is important for us to be able to test the water, so being able to create a smaller number of the new products is really helpful. We try as much as possible to keep it local but it does sometimes have to come down to the harsh realities of time and money – thankfully Sticky Things means we don't have to choose. As a growing company, we are constantly developing new products and packaging designs, as well as designing effective, affordable point-of-sale information for our stockists, so having the ease and flexibility of digital printing is essential for us as it allows us to access markets that may otherwise be out of reach.”
Space for old and new
FESPA, the global federation of 37 national associations for the screen printing, digital printing and textile printing communities, is a big supporter and champion of the benefits of digital printing. According to FESPA UK director Peter Kiddel, the association is clearly seeing increasing understanding of the advantages of digital printing among its members, which includes many of the industry's leading names.
Kiddel explains, “We recently held a very successful summit for digital printing for the corrugated packaging industry and it certainly highlighted that this is an area of positive development in two respects; firstly, for converters and secondly, for the point-of-sale sector. For the converters, the traditional makers of corrugated using analogue technology, digital means that they can meet new demands. Where they previously used analogue equipment, large-format digital machines and cutting tables opens up new opportunities. And for the point-of-sale sector, the people who have the digital machines already, they can enter the short-run packaging printing market quickly and effectively.
“These are very important growth areas, supported by OEMs like HP, OFI, Durst and plenty of others. The market is recognising the advantages of digital and all those machines and investments. The packaging and converting industries are seriously adopting digital as an extension to their current capabilities and it's exciting. Retailers, whether it's online or on the high street, all want to have more individualised packaging for their various customer groups, and they can easily achieve this with digital. The digital printing sector is increasing but that doesn't mean other sectors are declining – screen printing is not dead; it offers different advantages. As technology is improving, customers can achieve whatever they want when they find the right printing partner.”
Invest and expand
As the UK's leading trade supplier of specialist printed packaging and point-of-sale displays, Staffordshire-based Swanline is perfectly positioned to comment on the growth in digital printing across the packaging value chain. Offering a ‘pick-and-mix’ service from lamination-only to complete point-of-sale units, Swanline delivers complete solutions that exploit its ‘unique machine capabilities’.
Swanline's CEO Nick Kirby states, “Our commitment to creating new market opportunities for our customers is unwavering and has seen us constantly invest in superior large-format manufacturing technologies. We have recently invested in brand new digital print technology with our acquisition of the market's very first HP Scitex FB10000 industrial press, demonstrating our keen eye for innovation.
“Swanline carried out a market analysis to [decide] between an offset litho press investment and digital investment. Digital was chosen as it best suited the trade service business model of Swanline and the perceived market changes. We were the world's first adopter of HP's High Dynamic Range printing technology with the FB10000. We've also been able to switch some traditional work from analogue or offset to digital, which delivers benefits to our customers, including shorter lead times, less inventory, multiple print versions without detriment to cost and a design advantage due to the large format size of 1600x3200mm.”
Showing no signs of slowing down, digital printing provides solutions to increasing demands. With the converting industry's customers responding to consumers' hunger for personalised, regionalised products, digital printing allows for faster, more targeted print runs that can be efficiently changed to meet whatever language, information or promotional content is required.