Last week 426 label industry professionals gathered at the Westin Grand Munich hotel in Munich, Germany for the FINAT Congress, the annual meeting of the European label association. This year’s event, which took place June 12-15, was jointly organized by FINAT and Vske, the German label association. With the theme of “Label Your Future,” speakers at the conference focused on where the industry, as well as society in general, is headed.
“We are not talking about the crisis, and we are not talking about the problems we are having – we are talking about our future. It is a wonderful theme,” said Marc Buttgenbach, director of labels and consumables for Bizerba, and also the Congress moderator.
Leading off the diverse speaker lineup was a presentation by Horst Opaschowski, a “futurologist” and author who has the aliases “Mr. Future,” and “The pope of the future.” Through his analysis of the mood and behaviors of the German people, he discussed his thoughts on impending changes in the economy and society.
Among the several trends Opaschowski touched on was the globalization of the working world, where he introduced a new term – “Glocalization.” Ultimately, he said, globalization means the distribution of the available volume of work around the globe. “But credibility can only be earned at the local level. Talent needs to be immigrated into the country, and these people need to be received in a positive way,” he said.
Opaschowski predicts a performance explosion from the young generation, and from women in particular. “A baby boom will be developing but will require time. And our working world will become more female,” he explained. “In Germany, women are entering the workforce with higher education and higher university degrees. Women will catch up and may even pass their male colleagues, and will be just as recognized in society. Men will find themselves losing career opportunities to women, and, of course, this will not go without conflict. Managing family life will be an issue.”
In the future, there will be a significant emphasis on health, Opaschowski predicts. He said, “Health will be the mega market of the future. It will be viewed like a religion, and the health sector will be like a church. It will be all about feeling well in your own body.”
In summary, Opaschowski emphasized that society and politicians will have to deal with new social problems. He stated, “There will be a big change – people will be poorer, but not less happy.”
The German Label Market, Labelstock Statistics
Robert Magerlein, president of Vske, and managing partner of Eurodruck, a German converter that employs more than 300 people, presented at the Congress a concise overview of Germany’s label market. According to Magerlein, in Germany there are 450 companies that manufacture labels, and these businesses employ 19,000 people. Their combined sales total is $2.4 billion euro.
In Germany, small to medium-sized businesses dominate the label printing landscape. Magerlein pointed out that 40% of the country’s label converters employ between 10 and 50 people, and 38.5% have less than 10. Germany’s label converters, he said, are a robust and resilient lot. “During the crisis, very few converters gave up. During the recovery, growth has been positive. This is due to the growing packaging market and positive economic development in Germany. We are quite fortunate.”
Following Magerlein, Jules Lejeune, FINAT’s managing director, shared current statistical data pertinent to the industry. He said that in 2012, total labelstock consumption in Europe was nearly 6 billion square meters, an increase of 1.7%. Remarkably, Lejeune said, the label industry has doubled its business in just two decades.
Lejeune pointed out that a major source of the growth is tied to the profliferation of filmic labels, which now represent more than 25% of total demand in Europe. He also noted that while Germany, the UK, Spain, France and Italy make up over 60% of Europe’s label market, it is Eastern Europe that is really driving the growth.
Lejeune concluded that with the market’s significant growth there is now more at stake, and the label industry shoulders more responsibility. He said, “Self adhesive is now a dominant force in mature markets, which thus makes it more volatile and sensitive to consumer behavior. We are not just printers, but solutions providers and a key part of the supply chain.”
The Future of the Label Industry – A Global Perspective
Day One of the business program concluded with presentations from representatives of the label industry’s leading labelstock suppliers. Jussi Vanhanen, president, UPM Raflatac (Finland), and Angelo Depietri, president, materials group, Avery Dennison, each gave presentations and then sat down with moderator Marc Buttgenbach to answer audience questions.
Both Vanhanen and Depietri focused on the label industry’s dominant trends: decreasing run sizes and margins, digital print, thinner substrates for sustainability and recycling, product safety and security, consolidation, and changes in the retail environment.
“The European retail market will continue to consolidate,” Vanhanen said. “This means more concentrated power in decision making, which will have an impact on our businesses.”
Vanhanen also emphasized the importance of partnering with “A” brands and private label. “Don’t get stuck with just the ‘B’ and ‘C’ brands,” he said, adding that the emergence of internet retail has implications for the label industry. “Typically, when people buy online, they buy established and trusted brands. So, again, this works in favor of ‘A ‘brands and private label.”
Depietri, presented many of Avery Dennison’s sustainability endeavors, and emphasized that the best way to reduce a product’s eco-footprint is to look at the entire product lifecycle. Avery Dennison’s Global MDO film labels, he said, produce 40% less waste, while using 26% less energy and 62% less water than conventional materials.
As digital printing becomes increasingly widespread in Europe, Depietri noted that it also presents challenges to the supplier as well as opportunities. “Worldwide, digital equipment accounted for 20% of new press sales, and 25% in Europe. While sales have been mostly HP and Xeikon, inkjet is coming on strong. The challenge for the supplier is to continue to develop products for an increasing number of print processes,” he said.