As part of Dscoop Dallas, S-One Labels & Packaging delivered a deep dive into the world of flexible packaging. Among the highlights, the company emphasized the benefits for label converters, and how this thriving segment can grow a label printer’s operation.
In a presentation entitled, “Lead the Pack: How to expand your label printing business into flexible packaging printing,” Ralph Giammarco and Tom Hauenstein said that digital printing is perfectly suited for this application. “Flexible packaging is a global phenomenon,” said Giammarco. “It allows you to extend the life of food, it’s easier to handle and has lower weight. You can do more with an HP Indigo press, and what’s happening in flexible packaging is an opportunity. The digital part of it, producing customized packages with accurate content, is growing at a far faster rate than conventional packaging. Digital is taking a stronger part of it.”
Currently, 1-2% of flexible packaging is printed digitally, and that figure is expected to grow by a CAGR of 5.2% to $41.6 billion by 2020. According to Giammarco, the emergence of digital printing has allowed the production time to market to shrink from 42 days to three. Users can upload artwork digitally and offer customs runs. Digital samples allow for the creation of prototypes without the need for flexo plates, and samples and final bags can be printed in the same operation.
Giammarco also defined flexible packaging as “probably the single fastest growing area in printing right now.” Label converters can capitalize on this opportunity, he added, because the technology, relationships and materials all exist to find success in this niche. There is a greater understanding of the flexible packaging process, and optimization is occurring at a fast rate.
When choosing flexible packaging, Hauenstein explained that converters must explore the 5 S’s: Style; source; surface print; shape, fill and seal; and ship. It’s important to understand what product is going in the pouch or bag, and what barrier is needed. In addition, which method would make the most sense? Should zippers or spouts be applied to the package? Like any good label, the packaging must also include a captivating brand story.
After developing a style, converters must decide on the specifics. Primers, pre-laminates, thermal laminates, as well as an OPV/spot coating knowledge, are all considerations. S-One, Hauenstein said, supplies thermal lamination options for ink protection, plus inline or off-line primers. All of the company’s materials are enhanced for HP Indigo digital presses.
“With our particular product line, with pre-laminated substrates, where it’s a sealant and a barrier layer already together and you’re surface printing on there, you’re running a 13” web through your press and surface printing to it. It’s easy. It’s like surface printing to a 3.5 mil white BOPP, which you probably do all day long and twice on Sunday. It’s no different than what you’re used to.”
Hauenstein added that S-One is also offering free consultative conferences to introduce potential clients to the flexible packaging market. The Level 1 Conference provides information on the basics of flexible packaging and a business action plan. The Level 2 Conference offers equipment needs, best practices, risk evaluation, profit opportunities and market evaluation.
“We can take multiple ingredients from different manufacturers and put them together in a way that we know will work,” says Hauenstein. “We want to become the customer of our customer, and better understand what your challenges are.”
When choosing flexible packaging, converters will ultimately need to account for quality and material considerations, as well as food packaging concerns.