From where I sit, drupa and Labelexpo attendees, and even those that hit the “North American drupa” last month in San Antonio (see Association News, page 28) are not the proverbial “tire kickers.” Presses and finishing equipment demonstrated at trade shows more often than not get adorned with the “Sold to ABC Label Company” type of sign before the event’s conclusion. It’s a testament to the health of the label industry that major capital investments are commonplace. What’s also telling is the list of the 2016 drupa exhibitors. There are nearly 250 exhibitors targeting the packaging sector in one way or another, and about 30 companies will be first time drupa exhibitors.
Market research firm Smithers Pira predicts growth in the packaging sector to rise 4% annually to $975 billion by 2018. In an interview with WhatTheyThink?, Sabine Geldermann, director of drupa, pointed out that the packaging sector is to a large extent recession-proof and has maintained profitability. She said, “In the packaging sector, technology and innovation have already altered expectations with evolving developments in flexographic plate technology and the adoption of a variety of digital processes to add value to the finished product...It is now widely accepted that packaging and label printers can achieve the lead times of flexo with gravure quality.”
Geldermann also noted the label market’s “hybrid” technology trend that combines analog and digital production, as well as new inkjet technologies making an impact. I’ve heard it said that the 2016 drupa, with the marketing theme of “Touch the Future,” is going to be a “digital show,” and there is evidence to support this. Historically, it has been Heidelberg with the largest presence in Dusseldorf, even taking up the space of two entire halls. This year, the company is not even occupying an entire hall itself, with “Heidelberg Hall” being shared with partner suppliers.
In 2016, HP is overtaking Heidelberg as the largest single exhibitor at drupa, and there will be a tremendous focus on its digital label and packaging presses. (For more on the label industry’s presence at drupa, turn to page 62.) This is all very telling as to the state of the printing industry. What’s also telling: Since the last drupa, Heidelberg acquired Gallus and Bobst acquired Nuova Gidue – two global press giants recognizing the value and profitability in serving the label market. Speaking to the digital and hybrid presence, Gallus will be showcasing its Labelfire 340, a press that combines both analog and digital processes. Word is, the first North American Labelfire installation is coming this summer.
It’s a great time to be in the label industry, and those that aren’t, want in.
Steve Katz, Editor