Watching trends in the printing industry I cannot help but notice there is significant ongoing confidence and growth in the packaging sector. Seemingly born from retail market forces, demographics, changing lifestyle choices and increased consumer consumption this growth is stimulating hope within the print community which has to be good news. The food and beverage markets in particular are huge and driving brand owners to compete for shelf impact and the latest designs. This in turn is pushing equipment suppliers to develop new materials and machinery pushing the boundaries of possibilities for packaging design and eye catching effects.
At the recent EFIA Awards (EFIA is the UK trade association for the Flexographic Industry) - around 450 suppliers, printers and their customers, the brand owners and designers cheered on the winners. The significant rise in technological advances and quality of flexo print on packaging is making these awards especially competitive. The software and pre-press side of the process has advanced to amazing levels. Print on packaging is reaching photographic quality standards on all types of substrates from labels to flexible pouches through to tissue paper and corrugated board and simi-rigid plastics. Also, on the night we were shown a virtual supermarket on the large screen behind the stage with the EFIA prizes flying off of a virtual shelf.
At the Packaging Innovations Show a few weeks ago there was a buzz in the air and instead of spending a morning, I decided to stay over and filled two days comfortably with a mixture of learn-shops, debates, research and networking in the two halls at the NEC. Attended by analysts, print title editors, publishers and their ad execs, the printing community were there to find out ‘the latest’ and join the party. This year the Great Packaging Debate was followed on the second day of the show by a Great Print Debate! The subject heading was a take on the Benny Landa quote ‘What can go digital will go digital’ - or will it? This provoked lively comments on digital print in packaging and turned into a well informed and thorough discussion on raising the bar for packaging print and the role of the brand owner and his expectation. Unilever’s Matt Daniels and Karen Grayley from Waitrose both gave strong signals of their company’s clear intent to achieve the highest standards of packaging in quality and sustainability. Jo Francis chaired the debate with her usual panache and understanding.
Run by EasyFairs, the Packaging Innovations show has grown over the last few years and has become increasingly popular. There are two shows a year - the Feb event at the NEC in Birmingham and the October event at the Business Design Centre in London. This year EasyFairs MD, Matt Benyon is quoted as saying that the huge interest from the print community and the subsequent print side of the show reflects the industry analysts’ forecasts and strong support from the associations. What I also find interesting is that we are seeing a visible demise in the world of trade shows suffering from economic forces, tight business controls and uncertainty – but here we see a show which is growing in popularity and positivism.
Packaging in whatever form it presents itself will continue to be indispensable. Supermarkets, High Street Stores, Brand Outlets, Pharmacies, Fast Food and Coffee Shops and importantly online ordering – all have to deal with how they package their products. What is great for the consumer is the competition which stimulates creative, exciting and colourful packs. Fresh food to deep frozen, from gifts to clothes and shoes, from toiletries to medicines and heavier containers to transport the packs all use cartons, corrugated boxes, flexible pouches, glass or plastic containers – and they all need to be printed! Printers have been printing packaging for many years but the difference we are seeing now is in the sophistication as the competition grows in this market to achieve effective, functional and sustainable packaging.
It’s all good stuff for the printing industry – does anyone really want to bring back the brown paper bag!
by Annie Hotton