Joe Webb, Mark Hanley and keynote presenter Jeffrey Hayzlett touched upon the changing market dynamic, and a panel discussion featuring Catie Manning, Accu-Label, Ramon Fernandez, Pro Label, and Shawn Desmarchais, Produlith, discussed the benefits of producing labels with Xeikon digital presses.
“Digital does tend to create new customers in new markets,” said Hanley. “Since Flint Group bought Xeikon, there’s a great deal more coherence in my eyes. And they’re going up in the market.”
Hanley pointed to recent market data that illustrates digital’s marketing share. As of 2016, percentage of digital revenue penetration in labels was 16.63% (as a percentage of analog pressure sensitive labels). By 2025, that number is expected to increase to 25.77%.
“There were a lot of pros and cons to going digital,” said Manning. “We were looking for speed of press, color quality, efficiencies, and the kind of technical solutions that would fit us. We knew that digital was a pivot point mark of our business model and that it wasn’t going away.”
Accu-Label runs jobs for food, industrial and non-profit labels, and food labels require ever-changing regulations. With a need for just-in-time labeling, Manning added that Accu-Label has successfully been able to build its business with digital, while she wasn’t sure the same could be said if printing with conventional presses.
Produlith, meanwhile, has noticed better quality control and innovation since investing in Xeikon’s digital technology in 2012. “We’ve invested and looked into digital packaging as a great offer to our customers,” said Desmarchais. “We’ve decided to go after the small runs, and our digital experience with Xeikon has been fabulous with the support that we got.”
All three converters cited better speed to market, reduced inventory, SKU proliferation and durability with their digital presses. In addition, they have been able to create labels that provide a wow effect on the shelf.
The industry will very much trend toward smart printing. The consumer internet took hold in 1998 while social media exploded in 2008. By 2018, the Internet of Things and the quest for immediate information relevance and actionability will lead to changes in consumer purchasing. Labels and packaging will have to follow suit.
Pro Label’s Fernandez is already performing work with anti-counterfeiting features. Pro Label has relied on its Xeikon digital press, as well as Esko and Label Traxx software, to help implement this burgeoning technology. Fernandez sold his company’s last flexo press in 2014 and said he’ll never look back. Pro Label has experienced a net 15% growth rate by switching to digital.
“You’ve got to study your business and what fits in your world,” Fernandez said. “There are a lot of players out there and you need to understand your business model. You have to look down the road a bit. There’s no point in having a space shuttle if you can’t drive it, so the operator is key.”
There will be lower computer costs and connectivity, changes in shopping habits, and greater efficiencies in shipping and transportation. According to Webb, there has been an increase in population, lifespans and households, which has resulted in an increased demand for packaging. Rising incomes and rising populations will also contribute to this trend.
Brands were also a focus of Xeikon Café North America. A panel that included Vicki Strull, Vicki Strull Design; Barb Pellow, InfoTrends; and Brian Soifer, Dolphin Creative, explained what brands are looking for in the labels and packaging space.
Brands are looking to improve the user experience within the retail environment, mainly by targeting omni channels. There is an opportunity to tap into new markets with e-commerce. Personalization is important, especially as those technologies are becoming more prevalent in the printing industry.
“We’re in the business of giving brands life,” said Strull, who added that 20% of millennials expect a 1-to-1 experience with their brand.
In many cases, data is driving creative decisions, which can lead to more advanced customer segmentation and increased product sophistication.
“As consumers become more specific about what they want, we can customize packaging to match that, and that leads to SKU fragmentation,” explained Strull. “We now have that ability with digital printing, and we can prototype something and test it, and get it to market very fast.”
Press manufacturers will continue to get more sophisticated, too. According to Gert Geens, business development manager, folding carton, Xeikon, his company is focused on offering a total solution to converters. Not only will Xeikon offer UV inkjet for self-adhesive labels and dry toner for self-adhesive, wet glue, IML and heat transfer labels, the company is dedicated to developing its pre- and post-press equipment, as well as its X-800 workflow.
Consumables, print media and customer services are also highlights of the Xeikon Suite. “One of the benefits of Xeikon is you can upgrade to grow with your business,” said Geens. “You can easily upgrade your machine and then provide more labels to the industry.”