With a modest GDP growth and unemployment almost down to 20%, Greece is making a comeback. Tourists, worried about security in other sun-drenched climes, are returning to the isles of Greece. For label converters, the last few years have not been as bad as you might expect because the country invested in packing and bottling equipment for its olive oils, wines and other agricultural products, which used to be exported in bulk. Gallus is one of several press manufacturers to benefit from this upturn. In 2017, the Greek label printer ETPA Packaging installed a Gallus ECS 340 at its production site in Komotini, a provincial town up near the Turkish and Bulgarian frontiers This machine consists of nine flexo printing stations and four screen printing modules and is further equipped with a cold foil unit. This is the first time EPTA, which employs 120 people at several production sites in Greece, has invested in a Gallus press.
Wine labels? No thanks!
The Pink Rosé Festival gets less publicity than the Film Festival although both are held in the town of Cannes. This year, the lesser-known Cannes Festival, devoted as its name implies to promoting rosé wines, held a nasty shock for label converters worldwide. To choose the festival’s design awards, 126 jurors from 16 countries voted to select the most aesthetic bottle. So far, so good. Not so good was the outcome of the vote: of the eight top-scoring bottles, six had no conventional front label. The winning bottle, a Château Sainte Roseline, had the name molded into the glass of the bottle. It did however have a clear-on-clear white-printed back label, which is more than can be said for the runners up. Second and third places went to rosé bottles with direct screen-printing for both back and front. If this is a sign of the times it’s enough to drive a label converter to drink.
Alimentary, my dear Watson
Plastics from non-petroleum sources are nothing new. Corn-based ethanol is one of the most used feedstocks (Your correspondent recently visited a small handicrafts museum in Wales that claims to show paper made from sheep’s droppings, but this may be a joke to fool gullible tourists). There is nothing fake, however, in a new packaging material developed by Constantia Flexibles, for which the raw material is grass (the kind you mow, not the kind some people smoke). Stefan Grote, VP of the company’s food packing division, explains, “This material is 40% dried grass and 60% FSC-certified cellulose, to which we just add a barrier coating suitable for different types of food packaging.” According to Constantia, the new material contains no bleach or other chemicals and can be run on existing presses in the same way as any “normal” paper. “It looks and feels like any natural paper,” says Grote, “and can be recycled in the same way.”
Eat up your plate
Readers of L&NW will certainly have seen press reports of a plastic-eating enzyme, which might, at a gulp, devour all the plastic waste in our oceans and landfill dumps. Not to be outdone, some makers of packaging are looking to substitute edible materials for the more usual cellulose-based ones. A well-known chocolate-maker in Liège, Belgium, now sells boxes of chocolates where all the separations instead of being paper, are very thin chocolate foils. Only the outer box is still carton (and they’re working on that). Pollution in the Mediterranean is the subject of much concern and even more learned investigations. The latest has determined that of all the plastic pollution in the Med, 6% comes from synthetic drinking straws. But Europeans can now benefit from an American invention, the edible straw. Made from seaweed and flavored with mango, caramel or chocolate, it is said to “taste delicious.” Those who gag at eating seaweed can throw these straws away safe in the knowledge that within 60 days they dissolve in soil or water, leaving not a wrack behind. The Polish company Biotrem takes it one stage further (but without the seaweed). They make plates, knives and other assorted tableware out of a mixture of wheat and water. As anyone knows who has tried it, this is not as easy as it sounds, but Biotrem claims that if not eaten, these products decompose within just 30 days.
Ban the bag
In Germany, zero-packaging retail food stores are a regular feature of many high streets. But to get a measure of people’s double standards, a survey of 1,000 citizens revealed that 71% thought zero packaging was a good idea, but only 8% had ever set foot in a zero-packaging store! Since January of this year, French retailers are required by law to charge customers for plastic bags. This being France, some do and some don’t. (In all fairness, do you really want to carry your fresh fish home in a paper bag?). Supermarkets generally play it by the book, charging customers the equivalent of 15 to 50 cents depending on the size of the bag, and a low-sample, non-scientific study carried out by your correspondent indicated that two out of three shoppers now bring their own bags. A rather more rigorous study in Germany shows that only 4.5% of shoppers buy a bag, with 80.4% bringing their own. What the remaining 15.1% do is not revealed. Germany is probably the most environmentally proactive country in Europe, and packaging recycling issues figure strongly on television, newspapers and social media. The same study shows that only 12.6% of Germans support plastic waste incineration and that exporting packaging waste to other countries meets with less than 5% approval. Under the circumstances it is no problem to the other 95+ % that China has banned imports of used packaging, but it still leaves policy makers with a problem. Roll on the plastic-eating enzyme.
Nazareth is home to St-Luc Labels & Packaging, which has just acquired the Dutch label converter Pharmalabel (in case you were wondering, Nazareth is – also – a town in Belgium). Cross-border acquisitions within the EU are nothing exceptional, but St-Luc, a medium-sized family-run converter, has successfully pulled off several takeovers, and now has plants in France, Belgium and the Netherlands making PS labels, sleeves, leaflets and folding cartons. Fanny Dhondt, managing director of St-Luc Labels & Packaging, gives a down-to-earth explanation of the company’s success, saying, “We are 100% a family business, a true SME where, through hard work and reinvesting our profits, we have succeeded in building a state-of-the-art machine park, employing the best people and taking the time to give young people a chance.”
Success in Nigeria
There is a story, possibly true, of a man who landed at Lagos airport and was asked the purpose of his visit. “Tourism,” he replied, and was promptly arrested on the grounds that a visitor posing as a tourist in Lagos must be up to no good. Anyone who has been there will testify to that city’s obstacles to becoming a tourist venue: traffic jams, crime, corruption, to say nothing of the combination of high temperatures, high humidity and high probability of an electricity blackout. In fairness, it is getting better, but slowly. All this has not prevented UK press maker Edale from developing its business with Lagos-based Masterstroke Packaging. This converter of labels and packaging also specializes in high-security jobs like scratch-off telephone recharge cards. With several Edale presses already installed, Masterstroke has just bought an Edale FL5 570mm, 8-color flexo press with both hot air and UV drying. It comes with motorized print impression and cross register control as standard and according to Edale’s MD James Boughton, it will “come with the option to upgrade to Edale’s Autonomous Inking Impression, registration and 100% inspection systems, ensuring that Masterstroke’s investment is future-proof.”
If Nigeria, despite its problems, is a future-proof market for label equipment suppliers, it’s not hard to see why. For a few days in 2014 it became Africa’s biggest economy; then government statisticians admitted they had done their sums wrong. That said, it is still the continent’s number two (after South Africa), and with crude oil markets on the rise, Nigeria has money to spend. It imports nearly everything it consumes, including – incredibly – kerosene. So if you’re looking for a good market to export to, look no further. Just don’t say you’re a tourist.