A report on the annual FINAT European Label Forum in Berlin appears elsewhere in this issue of L&NW, but does not include the annual statistical survey, which FINAT’s managing director Jules Lejeune always manages to make sound like fun. The fun factor was easier this year, as Lejeune announced a 5% volume increase in European PS label materials for the year 2016. This brings the total rise over the past six years to an impressive 25%. Total production continues to mirror GDP growth, with Eastern Europe’s label business still growing slightly faster than the European average. Turkey showed up well on the FINAT 2016 statistics, but Turkish label converters present at the Forum confided in your correspondent that political and economic uncertainty, to say nothing of 13% unemployment, were clouding their horizon. FINAT’s “Radar” provides members with very detailed statistical tools to guide them in business decisions. These include, for example, quarterly tracking of digital run lengths, productivity per employee, and profitability. Feedback from members, said Lejeune, points to falling margins and inability to recruit qualified staff as the two biggest headaches of Europe’s label converters.
Food for thought
In France people treat food with the kind of awe that in America is reserved for baseball or the Constitution. For several years, nanoparticles in food have been used to create “new tastes, textures and sensations,” without the consumer having to know anything about it. Not any longer, at least not in France. While the European Commission is currently “looking into the use of nanomaterials in foods,” the French government decreed on May 10 that all foodstuffs that contain nanoparticles must henceforth indicate this fact on the label, displaying the name of the ingredient and the reference “nano.” Scientists disagree on whether nanoparticles can be harmful to humans, but let’s face it, you are less likely to buy a product when the label states clearly that it contains, in the nano state, such delights as titanium oxide or silicic acid. Bon appétit.
No pay, no play
Readers of this column may remember the story of a canny label press manufacturer who, instead of taking a booth at drupa 2016, arranged to ferry potential customers from Dusseldorf to its factory just over the border in the Netherlands. The show organizers fumed but could not put their fingers on anything illegal. But when Benny Landa tried the same wheeze at Pacprint Australia, he seemed to have run into more robust opposition. Ahead of the show, Landa’s website had announced “Michael Mogridge, director of sales, Asia Pacific & Japan, will be visiting PacPrint, meeting with customers, brands and partners interested in hearing more about Landa’s digital printing solutions. To schedule a time to meet with Michael, please click on the button below.” The exhibition organizers, who plainly do not beat about the Australian bush, promptly declared the gentleman persona non grata, extending the same ban to any of his colleagues who might be tempted to slip in when the security people had their backs turned. “We will not allow guerilla or ambush or suitcase marketing,” commented PacPrint president Adrian Fleming. Labelexpo non-exhibitors, please note.
When French security specialist Advanced Track & Trace (ATT) gets together with the Syndicat Général des Vignerons de Champagne, you don’t need to guess what they are talking about. Bogus champagne bottles, often counterfeiting leading brands, are a perpetual headache to the men and women who make the bubbly stuff. Now ATT’s multiple security systems promise to throw a spanner into the counterfeiters’ works. Called Cloé (pronounced to rhyme with no-way), it starts on the crown of the bottle, where a serialized data matrix code, visible only under UV light, serves as a traceability tool for use by brand owners. The crown is integrated into the coiffe, which is the (usually) gold or silver colored closure covering the neck of the bottle. The coiffe contains a holographic feature, which combines optical security with ATT’s Seal Vector high-resolution, proprietary matrix code. This motif, according to ATT, can carry about 1,000 different Seal Vector codes per square inch (the codes can be as small as 1mm but are able to carry a significant amount of product and manufacturing data). They can be incorporated in the artwork for a digitally originated hologram to create a matrix overlay within the hologram’s microstructure. This fiendishly subtle protection is obviously not designed for protecting run-of-the-mill champagnes. It also requires a special app and an add-on lens before the code can be read using a smartphone. If that sounds just a tad complicated, remember that many buyers of top-notch champagne will just get their butler to check the authenticity of each bottle before sending it up. Meanwhile, for those unfortunate enough not to have their own butler, the ATT system also provides more basic anti-counterfeit protection with two overt QR codes, one for use by customs authorities to ensure traceability, and the other which is revealed only when the coiffe is removed. The customer can then automatically access the website of the brand in question and verify its authenticity. After that, butler or no butler, there’s nothing else to do but drink it.
Short-run digital labels get longer
In May of this year, following in the steps of Coca-Cola and others, it was the turn of Nutella, a chocolate spread loved by children and hated by nutritionists, to take to digitally printed labels. A “limited series” of just 2.6 million pots, every one with a different label, started appearing in Europe’s supermarkets. “The search for uniqueness and singularity, while still sharing our common values, are a sure way of differentiating Nutella’s image,” said Karima Nana, Nutella brand director with manufacturer Ferrero. The digitally printed labels are being produced on presses from HP Indigo.
Acquisition activity around Constantia Flexibles continues to make investment bankers salivate. Acquired by French-based equity investor Wendel in 2015, Constantia has itself gone on a buying spree, acquiring Italy’s Lamp San Prospero and Alucap, and Oai Hung in Vietnam. Now rumors are flying that bankers are preparing around $900 million of debt financing to back a potential sale of the Labels Division of Constantia. A first round of bids was held at the end of May, but no news of a possible purchaser had leaked out at the time of writing this article. Multi-Color, CCL and other top converters are said to have been approached, as were several private equity investors. An acquisition by a major converter would seriously tilt the balance of power in world label markets; Constantia Labels posted a 2016 EBITDA of $112 million (on sales of $680 million), and its business plan projects EBITDA growth to $190 million by 2021. A tempting morsel for anyone’s portfolio. Small investors need not apply.
Label software saves elephants
With just 400,000 left, African elephants are a threatened species, and Amarula, a South African liquor brand, is playing its part to raise awareness. In partnership with label converter SA Litho, Amarula produced 400,000 unique “elephant” labels (see photo) using only two base designs but giving each elephant a name and personalized coloring. The labels were produced using HP Indigo and SmartStream Mosaic software technology, which through random rotation and scaling, can generate millions of unique labels from just a few base designs. This campaign symbolizes a global first for the software itself – Amarula is the first alcohol brand to launch a global campaign using Mosaic.
These limited edition bottles are available in South Africa but also in Europe and the US. So next time you’re in your local liquor store or airport outlet – remember to put an elephant in your trunk.