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Inside package printing

With the increasing uptake of digital print by consumer goods companies, package printing is a multi-faceted and complex supply chain that takes raw materials and adds value until a final product at the purchase point. Packaging Today spoke with members of the strategic marketing team in HP Indigo and packaging industry consultant Mike Ferarri to get insight into this dynamic market.

Packaging Today: What does package printing mean to you?

HP: Packaging is an opportunity – part of a long journey. It’s an opportunity to work more closely with brands to bring their messaging more effectively to their customers. And it’s an opportunity to help drive the transformation of an industry. As part of the supply chain, package printing needs to add value while reducing cost and enabling the brand to execute on its marketing strategy. Digital printing helps brands optimise their supply chain through just in time models, cuts time to market and reduces the environmental impact of the print process.

Finally, packaging touches consumers from purchase through usage. It has the opportunity to add value to the consumer and complete the experience ofengagement with a consumer. It is "on" 24/7 and can not be turned off, acting as a permanent platform for communication and branding. In addition, digital printing has and will continue to, open new business models creating relevancy, engagement and interaction with consumers.

PT: What are the leading trends in package printing?

HP: Synchronous trends are occurring in the world between "what’s needed" and "what is possible". Consumers are interested in brands that are tailored for them. On one hand, shopper behaviour is changing as mobile devices are creating a culture of being "on the go" and digitally connected all the time. On the other hand, digital printing allows the possibility to create customised and personalised packages in near "real-time".

There are numerous case studies from around the globe that illustrate brand growth through connecting consumers with what they want through digitally printed packaging. Heineken was a pioneer in this field by offering personalised beer bottles as early as 2009. Pepperidge Farm is doing it today with personalised goldfish crackers. Wing Man Beer is doing it by putting random pick-up lines and
additional content on its bottles, changing the interaction with the beer bottle to be about the label.

The second major trend we are seeing is that printing, like the rest of packaged products, is seeing run lengths get shorter and shorter, and the go-to-market times shrink.

At the same time, the complexity and the market demands for quality are higher than ever. In particular, we see more fragmentation in the types of orders and a need for the ability to change in between different orders, and increased need for flexibility in the supply chain.

For example, L’Oreal chose to meet these challenges head on by choosing digital printing to revitalise its kid shampoobrand. The company chose Disney movies as the theme, and used digital print to provide high quality images that spoke to the audience and change along the year according to the popular movie at the time. By using just-in-time delivery they are able to respond quickly to changing market needs and reduce their supply chain costs.

Lastly, Digital media is influencing the way consumers relate to packaging: from the creation of a digital connection with the use of 2D or 3D codes, to enhanced word of mouth driven by the internet, to the intrinsically connected social media campaigns. We also see increasing marketing campaigns with personalisation and a mass customisation of products.

PT: Where are the major innovations in package printing coming from?

Michael Ferrari: Major packaging innovations are independent of company size or geography. They are coming from marketing leaders who are willing to try new approaches to connect consumers with meaningful new experiences. New packaging approaches connecting the virtual world through packaging in e-commerce and social media have been successfully employed by food, beverage,
confectionery, hair care, spirits and beer brands worldwide.

A recent example of this is the "Share a Coke" campaign in Europe last summer – the connection to consumers was created with mass customisation in different countries. Part of the genius of the concept is the simplicity: a name is something each of us connects to as individuals. It doesn’t get more personal than that. In addition, the "what’s possible" technologically was there to
meet this challenge: the colour capabilities and the supply chain that can meet the demand. Last summer, some 1.2 billion Coke labels were printed as a result of this. The campaign has re-launched for 2014 with more names.

PT: What are the main challenges/opportunities in package printing?

HP: The main challenge for brands has been to see digital printing as a disruptive technology, enabling new businessopportunities.Many brands today are driven by purchases treating print as a commodity and singularly looking for cost savings. These brands miss the big picture: that package printing today opens up new marketing opportunities to grow brands. Global
CPC’s such as L’Oreal, Coca Cola and Heineken have achieved brand success using digital printing.

PT: What steps being taken to address key legislation in 2014?

HP: Packaging legislation is always changing around the world in pharmaceuticals, food, beverage industries that require new labels or packages. Such changes are easiest accomplished when using digital printing, as the changes can be made inline, and can be seamlessly integrated into the packaging process.

PT: How can printing provide support to sustainable development – what are the challenges you see from a package printing perspective?

HP: Sustainability is now a core value in packaging, not a "nice to have". Some of the ways in which printing contributes to this goal
are: to minimise waste associated with printing runs; the ability to redesign packaging instantly; to innovate using variable data or
versioning, not necessarily bigger packaging or more materials. With the use of renewable or sustainable materials increasing, print has become a key supporting tool to ensure quality and colour consistency.

Lastly, as an energy efficient printing process, overall reduction in required energy, particularly when compared with existing legacy
analog systems, helps to reduce waste and improve resource efficiencies and reach sustainability targets.

PT: What can be done in printing to help with sorting, recycling or disposing of packaging?

HP: Even before we get into end-of-life there’s one important fact about digital print and the environment: by definition: it saves the waste associated with the traditional printing of packaging, with long lead times that required large amounts of inventory, warehousing and transportation, and even becoming outdated before it was put into use. By making short runs economically viable, and dramatically shortening time-to-market, digital printing creates supply chain efficiencies that automatically translate into less waste

PT: What central message would you like to communicate to the packaging industry?

HP: There are a few key areas we feel are important in education:

Working together This involves designers, brand managers, production specialists, research and development, procurement, converters – everyone. We need to end up in a co-operation of specialised entities in order for each block to bring its value and knowledge. By working in harmony and balancing our strengths to cancel any weaknesses, the brand, the consumer and ultimately the industry will benefit from significant changes.

Digital packaging understanding
There is still much misunderstanding and lack of knowledge as to what digital printing is and what it can do. It is a disruptive technology that should not be evaluated by legacy metrics such as speed or cost. Instead, brands should look to digital printing as to what new business opportunities can be created to engage consumers to create a "wow factor".

Digital printing should be treated and evaluated as a brand growth opportunity. For example, it allows for small, low risk pilot trials to be conducted before committing to large volumes. Digital package printing presents opportunities for marketing and design departments as well as for branding, procurement, operations, manufacturing and many more. Our message is to broaden the reach or potential for the technology so that it can provide growth in unexpected markets.

Agile supply chains
With automated workflows and digital finishing, the speed with which a job can be taken and fulfilled is increasing, and the supply chain is slimming down and working leaner and more efficiently. Beyond that, in labels, digital printing is now mainstream. It is an accepted technology used by the world’s largest and smallest brands. HP Indigo has been driving that change, and we are now excited to take it to new realms of packaging.