Despite this uncertainty, there are hopeful predictions for those involved in labeling, says author Nigel Theobald. Label usage patterns in the countries surveyed (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Norway and the UK) show a weighted total increase of 2.1 percent.
The downside is that European converters must adapt to shorter lead times and smaller run lengths in the face of widespread destocking and true “just in-time” work patterns. Theobald forecasts a strong trend toward same-day delivery of labels to certain packing plants. This presupposes even closer cooperation between suppliers and customers based upon absolute trust and guaranteed supply dates. The call, therefore, is for moves to increase efficiency and minimize lead times, perhaps through modified work methods.
In the meantime, over-capacity and keen pricing remain big problems, while small label converters struggle to keep up with a fast-changing technology. Reflecting a packaging background, the author is strong on end-use markets and the various economic and social factors that influence label requirements and volumes. He examines food and drink, cosmetics and toiletries, pharmaceuticals and industrial applications, supplemented by nine supply-chain management case studies involving label converters.
The effects of globalization on brand identity, with its consequent demand for sophisticated labelling, is covered at length. Unified brand names point toward standardization, but a label’s text must reflect local language needs. Globalization might mean shorter run lengths in some markets, with text printed in multiple languages as needed. Legislation has raised the demand for information on labels, which could favor leaflet or multi-part labels as an alternative to multiple print runs for different countries.
In the market forecasts section, 90 percent of respondents interviewed said short runs were very or fairly important, while 78 percent applied the same criteria to on-demand printing. Given the considerably higher costs per label on short runs it could be more advantageous for packagers to look at in-house, on-demand printing using plain labels.
Of course, the ideal medium for short-run, on-demand printing is digital printing, and 71 percent of respondents said this was fairly or very important. (Interestingly, ink jet printing came slightly ahead in the “importance” stakes.) Elsewhere, Theobald claims evidence of increased demand for digitally-printed labels: “Printers waiting to see what happens in the market may be overtaken by events. With minimum prepress, it is possible to go from receipt of artwork to delivery in 24 hours. Design changes, individual labels, sequential or random numbering are all areas where the digital press is master.” While it accounts for only 2 percent of the label market, digital printing could reach between 10 and 20 percent by 2005, he claims.
Increasing attention to logistics chains highlights the ability to track items in transit or in-store to reduce stockholdings and move products into markets more quickly. Logistics have therefore become the latest hot topic for converters in the shape of RFID labels, magnetic tracking and bar coding.
Web-activated ordering complete with artwork adds a new dimension to the industry. The author predicts that more customers will buy labels through auctions on the Internet, and that suppliers will need to react quickly to such trade influences.
As for label types, self-adhesive labels will predictably retain top spot, with an expected three-year increase of 5.8 percent. They currently account for 56 percent of the European market. In-mold, shrink sleeves and film wraps will grow by about 6.4 percent during the 2000-2003 period, helped by the introduction of new packaging materials and packaging shapes. Glue-applied labels, accounting for around a third of the market share, will continue to decline with a predicted fall of 3.6 percent over three years.
The bottom line is that changing patterns of label usage in key markets will require greater co-operation between suppliers and end-users. Converters will need to exercise particular care in handling these changes, while being aware of overall economic and social influences in their individual markets.
The Future of Labels and Labelling for the European Market costs $3,750. Contact Shelagh Paterson of Pira International at 44-1372-802071, or visit www.piranet.com for more details.