As this edition of Converting Today went to press, the official visitor figures for Labelexpo Europe 2011 were not confirmed, but it is believed the numbers were not disappointing. The Brussels show was positively buzzing, with many exhibitors jubilant over the signing of substantial orders – a refreshing experience considering the cloud of economic gloom hanging over most industries.
A number of key trends were prevalent around the show – the most significant being the introduction of new technologies that could greatly improve the environmental impact of labels and labelling, and the continued growth of digital printing, which is eating more and more into conventional markets. There’s no doubt digital is fulfilling market demands for on-demand print, increased customisation, as well as lean manufacturing. Another growth opportunity that exhibitors were reporting is in the food sector and, with it, the need to comply with food safety regulations. Indeed, recent scares surrounding food packaging migration have resulted in pack withdrawals from supermarket shelves. In this month’s Last Word, Sun Chemical Europe’s Dr Bernhard Fritz discusses the importance of low migration print technology.
At Labelexpo, UPM Raflatac president Jussi Vanhanen presented the key findings from a recent market survey commissioned by the company. According to Vanhanen, growth in self-adhesive label demand will continue in Western Europe and North America at a slower pace than in the previous decade, while demand will increase especially in the emerging markets.
In the developed markets of Europe and North America, the consumption of self-adhesive labels will follow the growth of packaged products. Self-adhesive labels will take marginally more market share from other labelling methods. Therefore, the growth rates for the industry will most likely remain at around 1-2% a year. The highest growth rates will be enjoyed in the food and beverage end-use segments, where the penetration of the self-adhesive label is rather low, he said. Nevertheless, on the global level, he predicted that self-adhesive labelling will see robust growth of around 4-5% a year, with about 80% of this coming from emerging markets, which reflects the shift in global economic power towards the Asian and Latin American countries.
But the industry will need to work hard for new business opportunities, particularly in the developed markets, by producing solutions for ever more specialised applications. Self-adhesive is the most versatile labelling method, and all participants in the value chain need to continue to promote and develop products that make use of its strengths, said Vanhanen. This was echoed by a number of exhibitors at Labelexpo who told me that they saw self-adhesive, along with shrink labelling, as a key area for growth.
Another challenge to be addressed by the industry is the continuing rise in raw material prices. According to Vanhanen, and many others I spoke to at Labelexpo, the way to combat this is for substrate suppliers and printers to develop and commercialise thinner, fit-for-purpose material constructions and leverage the fast-developing recycling opportunities.