What trends are you seeing in our industry concerning flexible packaging?
Burton: From an ABG perspective we are seeing a lot of traditional label printing companies expanding into new market segments to offer their customers more than just a label. Predominantly, this includes packaging solutions such as stand up pouches and shrink sleeves. Digital printing is helping customers to easily diversify as the press can often print a wide range of substrates. The label printer only needs to invest in different finishing solutions.
Orozco: The main interest in the flexible packaging and the shrink sleeve industry is in finding new materials and products that are more sustainable and recyclable. The environmental point of view is one of the most interesting, and many new proposals will feature it in the future. It is a trend that is growing thanks to the demands on different products, the most prominent being the development of technologies for the heat shrink sleeve market and flexible packaging.
How are Enprom and ABG providing equipment to help flexible packaging producers?
Burton: ABG can offer narrow web solutions for lamination at 350mm wide web, but now with the Enprom acquisition, we can offer the option to go wider and expand and grow our business in the future. We have customers running shrink sleeve on our Digicon and Omega machines today and have had for some time. However, we can now offer seaming, inspection and sheeting for shrink sleeves, thereby providing an end-to-end solution.
Orozco: Enprom has been manufacturing a full range of converting products for flexible packaging since 2012, from standard entry level slitters to the more advanced. We can design and manufacture a complete line adapted to the needs and process of each product or customer. From folding machines to complete multi-process lines and hybrid converting solutions, adding inline processes for circular economy solutions.
Additionally, in conjunction with ABG, we have been developing new solutions for the market, especially to adapt to the digital printing process, such as our thermo-laminating machine, which has been a great step in a rapidly growing market. The machine provides a fast lamination process for flexible packaging products such as pouches or sleeves, perfect for digital printing that requires fast time to market and short runs.
Are there any specific types of flexible packaging you’re seeing more from your customers?
Burton: We are seeing an increase in pouches, shrink and easy open. As stated in the "Market Research Future" study, sleeve label production is increasing and expected to increase to an Annual Composite Growth rate of more than 6% by the end of 2022. Also, short run and fast delivery – digital and thermal lamination for different markets, while long runs continue with traditional processes, again in different markets.
Orozco: We are seeing an increase in value-added products. The traditional market for the sale of flexible packaging has always been in reel format – this in recent times has been changing with the proliferation of pouch and materials with label inserts for better dispensing. In this transformation, Enprom has been offering new processes to meet demand.
What is the learning curve like for label converters looking to expand into these new segments?
Burton: There is a lot to learn, but we have many customers who have made the transition successfully. While the vocabulary, terminology and processes (especially around lamination) are new to label printers, the processes themselves, such as printing, are similar.
Over the last 20 years, the label market has adopted and embraced digital technology, and in some ways this makes it easier for label printers to transition into flexible packaging. However, at the moment digital is still very new to packaging companies. According to the report and analysis made by FINAT, the growth of label procurement among all digital labels and labels is projected to grow 3% and 7.8%, respectively, in 2020.
Orozco: Flexible packaging is an extensive market with a variety of products and processes to learn. For a label producer close to the beverage market, sleeve products complement their product portfolio, which makes it easier to know the demands of this market and with it the learning curve is shorter. The great advantage that we can offer from Enprom, is the ease and repeatability in the sealing process with simple machines to use through the incorporation of technology. The same occurs in the formation of the pouch through our thermo-laminator.
What do you anticipate in the future as more converters expand into new markets like flexible packaging, shrink sleeves?
Burton: We are incredibly confident and excited about the future of the flexible packaging sector and the opportunity for label companies to diversity. Furthermore, with Enprom’s engineering expertise and ability to quickly react to changing consumer demands the future looks good.
Orozco: The new revolution in flexible packaging will come from the materials, looking for more recyclable products and with a clear environmental point of view. We believe that caring for the environment plays and will play a very important role in market demands. Increasingly, more and more customers will not only value that the packaging is attractive and novel, but they prefer and will prefer that it be sustainable. They will be interested in technologies with minimal impact on the environment.