The conference was introduced by association president Chris Ellison, of OPM Labels & Packaging (UK), who highlighted the key challenges today: economic uncertainty in Europe, and, in the face of an aging population and changing skill sets, the need for initiatives to reach out to, and engage, the next generation of talented business leaders, engineers and designers for the label industry. He outlined the relevant pathways FINAT is working on to help members solve these issues.
Frederik Krause of TickoTryk A/S (DK) welcomed delegates to the beautiful city of Copenhagen. The president of the Danish Label Association said, "All our members are very, very active." He subsequently outlined the association’s efforts to attract young participants to the industry.
Looking for a breakthrough
"If you want a breakthrough, look outside your current environment," challenged Hamish Taylor (UK) in his opening keynote address to the delegates.
Taylor's business career path has spanned such top brands as Procter & Gamble, Price Waterhouse, British Airways, Eurostar, and Sainsbury’s Bank. He stood back from his varied experience base to create a thought-provoking presentation on how to change the way we think, learn, and understand the needs and wants of our customers.
A theme common theme of the event: "Everyone is a customer." Everyone in this complex supply chain, said Hamish Taylor, is a customer – including colleagues in the company in which you work.
The key to success, he underlined, is to act like a master thief – to "steal ideas" from one situation and apply them in a totally different one. It is a proven, major winning strategy, he himself has proved for brand success. His wake-up call was that you need to show you really care about your customers’ business, and to get closer to them than anyone else. After all, he said, in the world of labels and packaging, you "spend your time painting the face of the world’s leading brands."
The Nordic label market
Lars Ole Nauta (DK), CEO of Flexoprint AS and vice president of the Danish Label Association, and Leif Persson (SE), senior vice president and managing director of Sweden’s StrongPoint organization, drew an interesting portrait of trends in the Nordic label market. In the self- adhesive label market, Lars Ole Nauta predicted that consolidation, environmental concerns, leadtimes, and – again – the need to attract young industry participants as they exit from university education will be ongoing concerns. The latter is already an active platform in Sweden, as Persson demonstrated.
He also highlighted local business issues, with the changing focus of a printed label – in terms of word content (due to legislation, food safety, and other issues) rather than simply branding.
FINAT market update
It was then the turn of Jules Lejeune, FINAT managing director, to report on European market statistics, trends, and developments. In terms of label substrates, non-paper rolls increased their market share to 27% of total demand in 2018, and sheet label consumption declined again by over 2%. He said that the top five label market countries in Europe – Germany, UK, France, Italy, and Spain – account for almost 60% of the total, with Russia and Poland now "knocking on the door."
Only two countries in the broader European market – UK and Turkey – evidenced any market decline in 2018 over prior year.
The industry profile, he showed, exhibits a remarkable shift in end-use markets over 2017, with only pharmaceuticals, personal care, and household chemicals exceeding growth rates of the prior year. While 2017 was the year of "non-prime" (variable information) growth, 2018 showed stronger performance of the "prime" labeling sectors.
Converters surveyed in FINAT’s research projected that their purchases of conventional analog presses would outnumber those of digital presses in 2019 and 2020.
In the sustainability arena, recycling of all spent release liner is now actioned by around 1/5 of label converters surveyed, with a further 11% recycling some, and a further 33% engaged in planning a system setup in the next year. With short-run digital print and the current focus on innovative decoration aspects, the label market’s prospects are still promising, Lejeune noted.
Assessing the global market
Corey Reardon, president and CEO of Alexander Watson Associates, analyzed the broader global labeling and product decoration market. By technology, he said self-adhesive labels still enjoy the majority share, at 40%, with glue- applied labels in second place at 35%. Sleeve labeling technologies are now in third place at 19%.
While self-adhesive labels continued to grow by over 5% in 2018, thanks to their flexibility, variety, and efficiency, sleeve labeling grew faster, and in-mold labeling also grew at above 4%. Industrial/variable information print label applications still represent the majority end-use shareholding, at 45%, but primary product labels are now just 1% behind them in terms of global volumes.
Asia is the largest regional market – and also the fastest-growing for all labeling formats – but the label market enjoyed growth globally in 2018 at over 4%. Reardon’s analysis spanned digital packaging and label print, direct-to-container print, merger and acquisition activity and industry consolidation, and of course, the industry’s recyclability issues – which, he said, are "not just a problem for pressure sensitive technology" in terms of release liner and matrix waste, but also for shrink films in sleeving applications.