Gipea 2013 – Italian label industry on the rise

The 26th Gipea technical meeting highlighted how the Italian label industry is continuing to weather the difficult economic climate.

Staged in Milan, speakers at the event discussed the varied innovations on show at Labelexpo 2013 – from in-line printing systems to all kinds of imaginative finishings.

Presenters also spoke about legislation regarding printing food labels, and the latest inkjet printing technologies for producing labels. There was also a discussion about the need for universities and businesses to forge closer links, to help develop technical professionals with the right skills needed for the label printing industry.

At the event the second edition of Gipea Observatory was also presented, which analysed the performance of around 100 Italian label companies between 2008 and 2012.

The analysis revealed that in 2012 self-adhesive label producers consolidated their revenue – total turnover hit 667 million euros, in line with the previous year’s figure.

In terms of the performance of individual label printing companies, results varied considerably. Around a dozen companies registered an operating profit of more than 15% of revenue, while 24 recorded profits of 5% of revenue. Not all results were positive however, with 24 companies unfortunately making a loss. Interestingly, the study found that some companies are leaning increasingly towards exporting, and have seen their revenue increase as a result.

When it comes to comparing the performance of large and small companies, it was the larger companies that registered the best results, in terms of both revenue and growth. However, the smaller companies fared better when it came to value-added revenue, underlining their ability to produce creative, innovative products for niche markets.

So overall the Italian label market is relatively stable – perhaps because despite the downturn people will always buy food and drink, which means there will always be demand for packaging and labels.

And while print runs are decreasing, the use of digital printing is on the rise, as brand owners are realising that special effects on labels and packaging give products greater shelf impact.

Barbara Bernardi


Gipea 2013 – steering the label industry out of the crisis

There were encouraging words for the label industry at the XXV Gipea Congress. Although the event took place some time ago, the market knowledge provided in the presentations is important as we head up to Labelexpo. Domenico Tessera Chiesa, president of the Italian Group of Self-Adhesive Labels Manufacturers, asserted that the industry is continuing to hold firm despite the tough economic climate.  

However, he also highlighted the challenges still facing the label industry. Production capacity excess  set against a backdrop of declining consumption, as well as increased competition driving down selling prices and margins, are real threats to companies’ survival.

And Domenico’s advice? Be ready for change, invest in the latest technology, and acquire the skills for success. Regarding the latter point, he noted that being a smart entrepreneur is not enough on its own – companies are much stronger when they’re members of associations that promote and work towards common goals.

Domenico noted that one of the main roles of an association of entrepreneurs is to offer a vision for the future and provide stimuli to help realise that vision. In doing so, the association can generate enthusiasm and instill confidence among its members, and encourage them to accept a degree of risk and invest in research and development. Ultimately, this will improve expertise throughout the industry and ensure a stronger footing for growth. 

Gipea, with its membership of 84 label manufacturers and 29 suppliers of raw materials and technologies, is doing its bit to stimulate growth. After sending out a questionnaire, the association has identified demand for courses in marketing, management and employee training.

Another highlight of the event was the update on the cancellation of “release paper” from the list of packaging in Annex I of Directive 2004/12 EC. This would have posed serious problems to the industry, as it would have meant companies incurring an unnecessary increase in costs for no environmental benefit.

Also very interesting was the speech on creative packaging by Giovanni Brunazzi from Brunazzi & Associates. He discussed how multi-sensory packaging can play a powerful role in convincing consumers to buy one product over another. 

Finally, at its annual congress GIPEA always includes an update on FINAT activities. FINAT’s main events this year include its annual congress and label awards competition, which took place in Munich last June, as well as its upcoming presence at the Labelexpo and the 2nd FINAT Young Managers Club summit in Warsaw on November 7-8.

Barbara Bernardi


Guest blog - A brave new world for labels

As an industry, we often focus on the challenges facing us. The economic conditions of the last few years have brought with them substantial trading difficulties, and there are other pressures too including the development costs associated with creating ever-more sustainable products.

However, these challenges represent only one side of the picture. The innovations that have continued to take place – both in technology and in business processes and structures – mean that ours is an industry well positioned to continue long into the future. Big opportunities are still out there, and drawing lessons from what has happened in the past is one important way to make the most of those opportunities.   

Resisting commoditization

Label commoditization is a significant issue across the industry. Design and functional packaging trends are impacting label production and leading to a more minimalistic approach – with simpler designs, fewer colors and less sophisticated finishing. When combined with brand owner pressure on label costs, the result can be a very basic approach to labeling and packaging. This can go to the extremes: who could have imagined, for example, the emergence of totally blank packets for cigarettes?

Converters and materials suppliers have to keep a close eye on this trend. My own view is that it presents us with a great opportunity for innovations – for example functional labels and reclosures.  There is an incentive to create products that add value to the printed label, going well beyond its original functions of information, identification and decoration.

One of the most interesting areas where this is evident, and where we are already adding considerable value, is in the evolution of multi-functional labels.  

The potential of smart labels extends far beyond the original tasks of a label. A whole range of smart label materials and converting solutions has been introduced over the past ten years, yet the industry seems to have been slow to exploit the opportunities that are now available to improve food safety, brand marketing, brand protection, traceability and more. So, how can we better meet these customer needs? 

Interactive labels are one example of something that is very interesting to brand owners at the moment.  We are about to see a transformation in the way that brands, through the vehicle of packaging, engage with consumers – linking them directly to brand content via a simple tap with a smartphone. Near Field Communications (NFC) has been around for some time, but is rapidly gaining momentum thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices.  By 2014, 570 million phones will feature NFC technology, effectively changing the retail shelf experience. A typical scenario involves a consumer walking down the aisle of the local market, tapping a food product and instantly generating an e-coupon while also seeing a quick and engaging brand story.  When putting the jar into a shopping cart, suggestions also appear of complementary products from the brand.


This is a brave new world for labels, and brand owners are actively seeking partners in the label industry who can make it all happen. What can at first appear to be a barrier to growth, or even a threat to existing products, can often become a new source of revenue.

Rob Verbruggen

Senior Marketing Communications Manager | Avery Dennison Label & Packaging Materials Europe


How to Label The Future?

Labelling the future is a challenge for the label industry, in the face of the exceptional change that is happening on many fronts. A developing palette of label technologies and alternative options; the ‘cloud’ business environment; the urgent need for succession change in SMEs;  making the decision to stay local, serve a specialty market segment, or go international;   maturing geographical markets versus the emerging economies… 

Technology innovation

Technology innovation is changing the face of the entire print industry;  and as commercial print dwindles in the face of downloadable reading matter, packaging print is growing exponentially. It is the key area where the consumer relies on a product’s physical brand image to confirm its quality, reliability, and desirability. Today’s modular presses make it possible to use multiple ‘traditional’ print processes – UV flexo, screen, foil blocking – in the one machine pass – as well as digital print for personalisation, barcoding, etc. What is more, the new-generation digital label presses deliver high-quality print results too; and today’s sophisticated digital pre-press solutions make design, proofing, and even product prototyping fast and easy – even if the client is thousands of miles away. Short-run work and multi-versioning of generic brand labels are now firmly part of a label converter’s remit. There have never been so many options.

Lean and green

At a time when brand owners are concerned to keep costs as low as possible, optimise profits, and still present a ‘green’ image to the consumer, lean manufacturing and sustainable practices must also be central to the label converter’s activities.  

E-commerce has long been a key to the effective running of the relationship between labelstock supplier and label converter, and today’s ‘back office’ at the label converter can be seamlessly integrated with the front end. Using today’s most up-to-date systems, which match those of the customers, is key.

Where next?

Specialisation is one route: there are successful label printing companies serving specialist industries. Alternatively, companies can look to extend their reach from being a ‘local’ supply base, to cross-border trading and, then, an international presence - achieved either independently or as a result of establishing partnerships and alliances with like-minded companies in other countries. Finally, of course, there are mergers and acquisitions – today an area where we are seeing very strong activity.  

Label – the future?

Whatever is to come, the future will still need a label. The intrinsic function of a label is to identify the contents of a package. We have come a long way from the handwritten ‘label’ on a brown paper bag (probably the first example of direct print – a labelling method that still has currency today!) There are wet-glue labels, self-adhesive labels, shrink and stretch sleeves, in-mould labels… and now we can learn about a product through scanning QR code on its packaging.   But we still have to be able to pick the right product from the retail shelf – and only a physical label of some kind can enable us to do that.

Lut Verschueren

Based on article by FINAT.


How to win awards - labelling

Tony White, Chairman of Judges at FINAT, has 17 years’ experience of judging print competitions around the world. In this guest blog he reveals how to avoid the common pitfalls and submit an impressive award entry.

Time to get serious with label competitions

Winning an award feels fantastic. There’s nothing like experts in your industry confirming you’re doing a great job. It boosts morale, does wonders for your company’s profile and can have a big impact on sales.

So it’s a mystery why many businesses don’t invest sufficient time in submitting a compelling entry.

In my experience of judging dozens of label print competitions around the world, the same mistakes crop up time and again.

And one of the most common mistakes is an entry which doesn’t follow the rules or meet the criteria. Make sure you read the entry requirements at least twice before putting pen to paper. And when your entry is finished, check it thoroughly to make sure you haven’t forgotten or misinterpreted anything.

Next up, be clear about which category you want to enter. Ticking two or more options on the entry form and leaving the judges to decide is a big no-no. It’s your product – you pick the most appropriate category.

Now for the technical part of the form, where you must prove your label is worthy of walking away with the prize. Make sure you include a sample of your best work and go over the label carefully, looking for any flaws (the judges certainly will). You’ll be assessed on the technical processes adopted, the quality of the finish, and the appropriateness of the label’s design for end use.

One area to pay particular attention to is the register. More than half of entries are rejected for poor register – you have been warned!

Finally, most competitions invite you to include additional information. This is a chance to add weight to your entry and sway the judges. You’d be amazed by how many companies ignore this opportunity – make sure you’re not one of them.

Want to get serious about scooping an industry gong? Then read the full article How to win a label print competition. It reveals in detail how to avoid the common pitfalls and submit an impressive entry.

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