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Fearing migration

January 23, 2013

Many European countries, most notably Germany and Britain, seem to have an almost pathological fear of migration. Not the kind that has boat people landing in quiet creeks (though lots of people are afraid of that too), but the migration of nasty chemicals into our favorite foods. The latest culprit is recycled paper. This is a difficult one for ecology purists, because recycling paper is obviously a good thing, but nasties in food are clearly a very bad thing. To understand the latest hoo-ha, you need to know that in Germany, Advent Calendars contain a chocolate concealed behind each of the little windows, and the chocolate is – you’ve guessed it – in direct contact with the paper or board. A German product-testing institute examined 24 different makes of Advent Calendar and pronounced that they contained trace elements of mineral oil “as a result of contact with the paper board which was made from recycled fibers.” This news hit the front page of the newspapers and the sales of the calendars. The damage done was reason enough for the Paper Testing Research Institute of Darmstadt University to swing into action, testing the same 24 calendars. Twenty-three were found to contain no recycled fibers at all. The trace elements found in the chocolate most probably came from the food processing itself, concluded research scientists Hans-Joachim Putz and Samuel Schabel in a statement, which – predictably – did not make front-page news.

Schreiner in China
Germany-based Schreiner Group, well known for imaginative labeling solutions, has just announced another great leap forward – this time to Shanghai, where the group has just opened a commercial office.

Roland Schreiner, who recently took over from his father as CEO, commented that Schreiner Group would continue to internationalize its operations during 2013, and hoped to start a production unit in Shanghai in 2014 making high-tech labels for international OEMs. With annual sales of around $160 million and 800 employees worldwide, Schreiner Group is one of the biggest Europe-based companies in the label field.

Another European company aiming to capture a share of the Chinese market is Italy’s Nuova Gidue. “China represents a huge market for us,” says company founder and CEO Federico d’Annunzio. Steven Fan, Gidue’s Man in China, comments: “Right now the label market is so huge, and there are so many opportunities. Thanks to the physical presence of a Gidue China sales representative and service point in the territory, Gidue has the chance to fully understand and respond to China’s label and packaging industry needs.”

More than just surviving in harsh conditions
One of Europe’s medium-sized press manufacturers seems to be punching above its weight: Edale, based in Southern England, currently exports 80% of its production. Recently the company has installed machines in the Middle East, Nepal and South Africa as well as in a number of European countries. The secret to Edale’s success, according to Marketing Communications Manager Jessica Gong, is that Edale is constantly updating its current range and introducing new models. “Edale has always had a strong focus on quality design, engineering and customer service – we listen to what the market is saying; and more importantly listen to what our customers need and work with them to provide a first class solution – backed up with well supported and reliable personal service,” she says.

Asked which part of the world has the most growth potential for the label machinery business, Ms. Gong opts not for China or for any of the other BRICS, but for the Middle East, which is “a relatively steady market today, but definitely an area of interest for the medium term, say 4-5 years.”

While Edale is looking to world export markets, other label press manufacturers are doing good business in the UK, despite the harsh economic conditions. An example is MPS, based in the Netherlands, which in recent months has clocked up three press sales to UK converters. What’s more, two of these sales have been repeat orders from converters already using MPS equipment. Reflex Labels and Hamilton labels have installed respectively 10- and 8-color flexo presses. The Dutch company’s exports are by no means limited to the UK, and this year MPS has exhibited successfully at several shows including Labelexpo Americas and Labelexpo India. Where next? “I’m learning Chinese,” says CEO Eric Hoendervangers. He’s not joking either.

Recycling used liner
David only had to face one Goliath (which he did very successfully, as we know). When it comes to used liner recycling in Europe, all the giants among the labelstock manufacturers are anxious to prove their ecological credentials. Avery and UPM in particular (as reported in last month’s Europe News) are sponsoring collection and recycling projects. Reacting to a recent statement in Narrow Web Europe News, UPM’s Erkki Nyberg points out that UPM currently recycles over four million tons of paper per year, so the logistics and the networks are already in place, and that the recycling is done responsibly and sustainably in-house within UPM. “We are utilizing the UPM ecosystem to facilitate our RafCycle labelstock waste recycling concept,” he says.  The used liner recycling facility at UPM’s plant in Germany is important, he says, but UPM also recycles all types of label printing waste into composite products for terrace decking and other applications, and also into fuel for heat and energy, and is reckoned to be a leader in the recycling of labelstock waste and by-products. The group can also recycle PP liners, “so we can offer a wide range of services in labelstock recycling.”

Cycle4Green, based in Austria, is more cut out for the role of little David: it is a dedicated recycling company which, though it does not have the clout of major manufacturers, is promoting awareness of the need to recycle liner efficiently. Working in close cooperation with the paper mill in Lenzing, Austria, which operates a liner recycling unit, Cycle4Green recently received the support of another Austria-based specialty paper manufacturer Delfort Group, which now recycles waste liner at several of its five production sites worldwide. Another Cycle4Green partner is Austria’s Ulrich Etiketten, which collects the liner waste from its label customers, compacts it into bales and ships it to Lenzing. To encourage recycling, Ulrich has recently agreed to reduce the minimum lot size it will collect from its Austrian customers. Says Cycle4Green’s Petri Tani: “It is a long, slow process involving a lot of persuasion and a lot of detailed work on the logistics, but public opinion is at last swinging our way.”

Golfers and non-golfers unite
In the UK, as in some other countries, the business world is divided into golfophiles and golfophobes. Recognizing this cultural divide, the UK label association has broken with tradition by combining its Annual Meeting, not with a golf competition, but with a visit to the publicly-funded Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), where a standard Nilpeter press is being used to experiment various kinds of smart packaging and labeling. Association chairman John Bambery points out that “a considerable amount of government money has been invested with CPI in exploring new markets for the label sector.” The amount of government money is of the order of $3 million, which should give enterprising UK label converters a chance to reduce their handicap when it comes to exploiting smart label technology. The other activities of the UK label association during 2013 will include two golf days, but both will be combined with seminars and networking dinners, which should provide scope for golfers and non-golfers alike.

Doctor Blade, I presume
It is a long time since Stanley met Livingstone in the heart of what was then called the Dark Continent. Although almost everything has changed in Africa over the past century, it still remains a dark spot on the radar of most companies in the label business (try counting how many press releases or reports you have ever read relating to label business in Africa).

West Africa is where to find Nigeria, the richest and most populous country in the region, but it is in East Africa that the potential for growth is possibly greatest. Resource-rich Mozambique has long ago recovered from its civil war and Marxist heritage, and former British colonies like Kenya and Tanzania have a rising urban middle class with the same aspirations as their counterparts in Europe or the US.  This trend has not escaped the attention of Dupont Packaging Graphics, which, in cooperation with Esko and other equipment manufacturers, held a flexo printing seminar in Nairobi, Kenya. 250 delegates from Kenya and neighboring countries attended. Hans-Peter Hormann, business development manager for DuPont Cyrel, said:  “Eastern Africa is one of the fastest growing regions in the world where there is a significant increase in demand for sustainable packaging and label solutions, and a higher expectation of quality.”  The region is also being caught up in the global trend away from glue-applied labels, and the biggest beer label converter in Tanzania is about to install a narrow web press to meet, or possibly anticipate, the shift to pressure sensitive labels both for beverages and for locally-produced foods.

Talking Turkey at Emballage 2012
The Paris packaging show Emballage 2012 has come and gone, with results that generally exceeded the rather cautious expectations. Visitor numbers at 85,600 were satisfactory, and a straw poll carried out by your correspondent seemed to indicate that most of the 1,300 exhibitors felt their time and money had been well spent. The organizers reported that one third of the visitors came from foreign countries, but the hubbub of voices in the halls seemed to be very largely French.  Twenty-two US companies exhibited directly (a modest increase over the previous show in 2010), and many more were present via their French associates or distributors.Avery Labeling Systems used the show for the European launch of their linerless “Lightsmart,” a label face material coated with a special adhesive which remains totally inert at ambient temperature. Designed for industrial/logistics labels, the material is passed through a special printer/applicator, which heats the substrate just before it is applied. If this idea catches on it could reduce sales of classic pressure sensitive labelstock, so it should perhaps be seen as one way in which a leading labelstock producer can hedge its bets.

US digital label press maker Primera used Emballage 2012 to present its range of low-cost printing and converting lines, including its new CX1000e/FX1000e which took an award at the Pack Innovation competition held during the show. The French label association UNFEA held its “Grand Prix de l’Etiquette Adhésive,” judging a record 67 entries, many of them, surprise, surprise, being wine or champagne labels.

Among leading European converters, CCL, Reynders and Stratus all had booths at the show, Multi-Color was present but only via its Italian subsidiary Collotype Spa, and French market leader Autajon was nowhere to be seen. The show was held from November 19-22, which meant that Thanksgiving in the US coincided with the last day of the show. By a nice coincidence, the rather large Turkish national booth was adorned with banners reading: “Turkey is Ready.” Bon appétit.