Label Summit Latin America

By Steve Katz | May 13, 2008

Long considered to be an emerging market for labels, Latin America is proving itself

The "Angel de la Independencia" monument
Mexico City is a vibrant place, rich in culture, history and tradition. Also, Mexico's capital is one of the world's largest cities, boasting a population in excess of 20 million people. It's a place teeming with energy and in mid-April, this bustling metropolis was the setting for the 2008 Label Summit Latin America, a Labelexpo Global series event. This year marked the third time the city has hosted the event. The summit took place April 15-16 at the Sheraton Maria Isabel Hotel, situated along the famous Paseo de Reforma, shadowing the "Angel de la Independencia" monument.

Mexico City's famous Zocalo plaza
Mejor. Mas Rápido. Mas Fuerte. These Spanish language terms served as themes for the summit's program and they translate to mean: Better. Faster. Stronger. Issues addressed by the summit's delegates, attendees and exhibitioners included globalization, the environment and the greening of the industry, digitalization, consolidation, and technology driven features such as RFID, smart labels, and brand protection. The conference portion of the summit consisted of a mix of speakers and panel discussions, while the exhibition area contained over 70 booths offering a broad range of products and services from companies and vendors around the world.

Roger Pellow, Labelexpo managing director, provided a welcome statement to open Day One. He estimated that "There are now 25,000 label printers globally," emphasizing the "huge growth in emerging and developing markets." Certainly, Latin America is a region of the globe that is just that, emerging and developing.

Andy Thomas, group managing editor of Labels & Labeling magazine, led many of the summit's panel discussions. He also spoke of industry trends taking place globally and in Latin America. Thomas said that according to survey results compiled over the last four years, the following have emerged as main trends: Globalization, consolidation, and digitalization are happening, and the environment has become a major issue. Thomas also talked about the survey's findings specific to Latin America. In the Latin American market, he says, flexo is now dominant, UV flexo has grown rapidly, letterpress is in decline, the use of foil is growing, and there has been an increase in the use of offset for narrow web converting.

John Wurzburger, vice president and general manager for Fasson Roll North America, spoke specifically about growth and opportunity in Latin America and Mexico. He suggested that growth is related to risk, and socio-economic stability is a factor which drives growth. "The globalization trend will continue, there is no question about," Wurzburger said. "US companies are looking to Latin America for growth investment opportunities. This is an exciting time for this region." In particular, he talked about the food and beverage label markets in Mexico as an example of a category with tremendous growth potential. "Wine and beer exports are skyrocketing and with that, there is also a demand for different looks," Wurzburger said, pointing out Mexico's large production of direct to container labeling, citing Corona and Coca-Cola as examples.

Fasson representatives at the exhibition
He mentioned what Fasson's customers in the region are asking for. "The beer category has lots of growth potential for self-adhesive. We are getting a lot of demand for film in this region as well. I expect that trend to continue. In Mexico, there has been a move toward thinner gauge film materials and PET release liners. We've also seen a 15 to 20 percent increase in shrink. There's been a move toward increased levels of costability and greater demand for specialty materials."

Mexico wasn't the only country in the region whose potential Wurzburger talked about. During his presentation, he displayed charts and graphs depicting growth in the PSA market in Latin America. He stated, "The PSA market is growing all over Latin America, most notably in Peru and Argentina." Brazil was mentioned as well in regard to automobile labels, as the nation was the world's sixth largest auto manufacturer in 2008.

The bilingual panel discussions featured a variety of participants. Marty Vavra, label product manager for Wal-Mart, talked about how Wal-Mart's approach to tackling environmental issues has shifted in recent years. "In 2003, our company found that we as buyers did not understand the product and their nature," Vavra said, referring to the environmental waste and footprint created by converting materials. "In 2004, we hired experts – a separate committee to determine what the specifications were for labels. We learned to allow experts to tell us what to do in regard to becoming greener. We've changed our mentality."

Vavra spoke candidly about Wal-Mart's dedication to being open to environmental experts and outside sources when it comes to greening up its products. "We're finding that claiming to be environmentally friendly is not enough. This is why we hire expert chemists to determine for us if a company's product is environmentally friendly or not," Vavra said. He also talked about Wal-Mart's thinking it terms of selecting suppliers. "We ask, 'What research has been done?' We deal with a lot of small label converters that are very educated about the environment. We lean on our suppliers to help guide us. It's something we're working on."

Digital printing was another topic discussed in depth during a panel discussion. Thomas stated that more than 14 percent of narrow web press sales are now digital, adding that digital prepress is now widely used around the globe. Joseph Soler, managing director of corporate strategy for Rotatek, thinks digital printing use could be advanced further. He feels that users aren't as educated on the subject as they could be. "I think digital needs to be better explained to its potential. Digital printing can offer your business unique advantages, and this needs to be explained. Digital allows you to create a new kind of business where you take control of the service you offer customers."


The exhibition area provided a forum for refreshment, networking and information gathering.
Coffee breaks were allotted throughout the conference sessions. It was during these periods, as well as throughout the summit, where networking and information gathering took place in the exhibition area, which was spread out over two rooms containing a mix of 70-plus vendors. Some vendors used the summit as an opportunity to promote what they considered new products, or products that are a good fit for the Latin American sector of the industry.

Eduardo Gonzalez, release coatings segment manager for Evonik Goldschimdt Corporation, Hopewell, VA, USA, was excited about utilizing the summit as an opportunity to talk about the company's UV siliconizing release systems, a product that compliments the process of greening up the converting process. Gonzalez explains: "Our UV technology is a good match for siliconizing thinner plastic substrates like BOPP (biaxially oriented polypropylene). The concept is very European since it uses glassine paper as compared with the SCK paper used in the states. There's also savings potential in terms of material costs and energy."

Fujifilm Sericol, Kansas City, KS, USA, also used the summit as an opportunity to promote its UVivid Supernova White printing ink. Bruce Sexton, segment sales manager for narrow web and packaging, talked about the product being a great fit for the summit being that the region is rapidly growing in its use of UV flexo printing. "Supernova White has been developed primarily as a UV flexo base coat white to enable the high production speeds associated with the flexo process to be maintained without compromising the high opacity needed when printing clear film substrates." As far as his thoughts on the summit, Sexton said, "I think it's a valuable event. It's been great to meet the customers, as well as the co-suppliers. Latin America is certainly a growing marketplace, and we want to be a part of that growth."

Francisco Soto, Latin American account executive for Rotoflex International, a supplier of inspection, material finishing, diecutting, and security and digital finishing equipment, also spoke about the region's growth and its impact on Rotoflex. "In the last calendar year, our sales in Latin America have continued to increase by double digits. I think the current economic situation in the US is providing tremendous opportunities for Mexico and Latin America. We have hundreds of customers in Mexico and our brand awareness seems to grow every year throughout the region, particularly in Mexico. This event always generates lots of opportunities," said Soto.

Mariana Trejo Duran of Sun Digital and Mike Johnson of Sericol
In the exhibition area, there were three times as many suppliers of used presses and equipment than at the last summit. This speaks to the area's growth and the number of label companies that are starting up in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America. "Within the last two years, our sales within the Latin Market has grown over 80 percent," said Ab Coronado, Latin American sales representative for HCMiller Press, Green Bay, WI, USA. He added, "We're now seeing a lot of opportunity in startup companies, and their first option is definitely to go with used equipment. So that's certainly a plus for us. I'd say 40 percent of our sales in Mexico are startups."

Styers Equipment Company, Overland Park, KS, USA, was another company in the exhibition that sells used press machinery. "The Latin American market, as far as the flexo side of the industry is concerned, is growing quite a bit, even more so than in the US," said Billy Ibarra, VP sales and marketing. "There are a lot more buyers in this region than in the US, and we're doing more and more business in Latin America." However, Ibarra spoke of the "borderline recession" being experienced in the US as having somewhat of a carryover effect into Mexico. "I think anybody would agree that your best invested dollar is in used equipment, as long as its in good shape and maintained properly. Something new would be pretty difficult to afford in some places within the region with the way the economy is," Ibarra added.

A mariachi band providing entertainment during the summit
The globalization of the industry was thematic of the entire event, from the delegates participating in the conferences, to the exhibitors on the floor. And it doesn't look as if this theme is going anywhere anytime soon. It appears that converters are looking to tackle emerging markets on the opposite side of the globe. The next label summit is slated to take place in December, later this year, in India, and some people were already excitedly talking about it. Jakob Landberg, sales and marketing director for Nilpeter, the Danish press manufacturer, said, "At the Label Summit in India, in December, Nilpeter is going to show the first Indian built Nilpeter flexo machine to the Indian market."

It doesn't appear as if the globalization theme is going anywhere, except maybe to the Asian subcontinent.
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