By Steve Katz, Editor | October 14, 2013

I’m fresh back from Brussels, and while our post-show report will wait for our November/December issue, I want to share my take on the 2013 edition of Labelexpo while it’s fresh on my mind.

Especially for those traveling some distance to get there, Labelexpo Europe is an exhausting week. While chatting with an exhibitor on the metro Friday morning, the show’s final day, he summed up what many can relate to. He said, “It’s not so much the show that’s tired me out, it’s the beer after the show.” Amen to that.

Speaking of the show’s final day, I found traffic to be rather lively compared to getaway day in Chicago. I didn’t see anyone breaking down early. Press and machinery demonstrations were taking place right up to the end. It’s a four-day event, and you never know who will show up for the tail end of it. And I think organizers, exhibitors and attendees alike all appreciated the change from ending the show on Friday rather than Saturday.

It was clear from those exhibitors I spoke with that the vibe surpassed the 2011 edition. As the European economy continues to recover from the crisis, Labelexpo visitors this year had more credit, and were willing to spend. One flexo press manufacturer I spoke with reported the bell rang no less than 20 times at his booth.

While I don’t believe there was anything absolutely groundbreaking unveiled, there was plenty of innovation on display. As always, flexo press demonstrations drew huge crowds – Mark Andy, Nilpeter, Omet, Gallus, MPS and Gidue, to name a few, all had huge, high-energy exhibits, revealing that their signature print process is indeed alive and well, despite a stronger-than-ever digital presence, particularly from inkjet – there were 50 digital inkjet machines being showcased. And, of course, HP and Xeikon made their presence felt in a big way.

Meanwhile, on the substrate side, suppliers focused on sustainability. Market leaders Avery Dennison and UPM Raflatac each showed how label converters help their customers go green, without having to pay a premium, something that has befuddled the industry since the onset of the sustainability movement. Ritrama’s new linerless technology also turned a few heads.

There were more than 600 exhibitors at Labelexpo. I’m just a journalist, and trying to get to see everything and everyone was a bit overwhelming. On the last day, I realized there was an entire hall that I hadn’t seen yet. I can imagine it’s a different kind of overwhelming for the Labelexpo visitor tasked with actually buying something like a new label press or piece of converting equipment.
As for my decision-making experience in Brussels, my toughest was trying to decide which beer to drink.

Steve Katz, Editor
Twitter: @LabelSteve