By Steve Katz, Editor | July 21, 2014

Label & Narrow Web has always prided itself as being “the most targeted magazine in the industry,” targeting, as our name suggests, the label industry specifically. While we have no plans to change the name of this publication, there is something to be said for the attention that flexible packaging has been getting.

L&NW has not “jumped the shark.” If you’re not familiar with the idiom, “jumping the shark” refers to the moment when an established entity changes in a significant manner in an attempt to stay fresh. The expression originates from the “Happy Days” episode where Fonzie, on water skis, literally jumps over a shark. While the phrase comes from discussions of popular TV shows, it’s fun to apply to just about anything else.

Labels will always be our primary focus, but flexible packaging has become a hot topic, to the point where it’s getting major coverage at conferences and events. Driving the trend is the idea of a label converter being able to offer customers more, transforming a label company into a packaging supplier. Press manufacturers have taken note. I recently attended the MPS Flexpack Tech Tour in New Jersey, where a team of suppliers, led by MPS, presented information on the technologies and materials needed to enter the flexible packaging market. HP recently launched its HP Indigo 20000 digital press. With a 30-inch web width, it can produce a diverse set of products – labels, shrink sleeves and flexible packaging. At this year’s Labelexpo in Chicago, a large portion of the conference program is dedicated to package printing and how to transform your business to go beyond labels.

Is flexible packaging just the latest fad – something different to talk about – or will it actually change our industry? When I first started at L&NW in 2008, it was environmental sustainability that dominated the conference programs. Interestingly, that subject is absent from the program in September.

At the MPS event, Cindy Collins, flexible packaging business development manager at Avery Dennison, said that of about 2,000 label converters in the US, only 10% are doing flexible packaging. “And of those, only 5% are really focusing on it. There is plenty of room, and now is a good time to get into it,” she said.

It will be interesting to see how those numbers change in the near future. I think diversification is a good thing, so long as the quality of your core products and services don’t suffer.

While on the topic of diversifying, I’d just like to take a moment to mention the expansion of the Katz family. On June 30, we added a new family member, our beautiful daughter, Grace Eden. A welcome change for my side of the family, as Grace is the first girl after a run of seven boys. And a change like this can never be considered a case of jumping the shark.

Steve Katz, Editor
Twitter: @LabelSteve