“This regulation aims to trace the course of tobacco by identifying all products and actors in the chain, from production to delivery to the tobacconist,” says a spokesman for the printer. “This means customs officers can know the routing of each package and detect contraband simply by connecting to a database.”
Each cigarette pack carries an identifier that has been generated by IN Groupe and is valid as an “Authorization for distribution” under European law. Each pack has five different identification markers, one overt and the others visible only with appropriate readers. French customs officials have wide stop-and-search powers, and the new security markings will hopefully put several spanners in the works of organized smuggling gangs.
Swiss savvy meets Italian flair
When your correspondent visited Bobst in Lausanne, Switzerland a few years ago, the talk was all of optimizing packaging equipment for long runs. Asked about digital printing, a senior Bobst manager said, “We’re looking into it.”
Today, and several acquisitions later, the Swiss company is a major force in both cartonboard packaging and labels. This transformation started with the takeover of Nuova Gidue, which took place in 2015. As unlike Bobst as it is possible to be, narrow web flexo press manufacturer Gidue was long on innovation but short on cash. When the cash ran out, the company folded, only to emerge a little later with “Nuova” tacked on to its name and still under the aegis of Federico d’Annunzio.
As befits the nephew of one of Italy’s most famous poets, Federico d’Annunzio is beyond doubt one of the better salesmen in the world’s label business. Those who know him well say he could charm the birds out of the trees (although this was the specialty of another famous Italian). After the acquisition, Bobst wisely kept d’Annunzio on to run the narrow web side of the group’s business. He has intensified the cooperation within REVO, a group of 10 independent manufacturers each contributing its expertise to digitize the flexo process.
If the idea of digitizing everything upstream and downstream of where the ink hits the substrate is no longer new, this is in part due to REVO, which was set up in 2013. Color matching, faster setup and ease of operation are its goals. Recent innovations include the color matching process DigiColor, said to guarantee for a 7-color extended gamut a digitally controlled matching process unaffected by press speed or substrate. Another is the “Ink on Demand” system, which eliminates both ink tray and doctor blade, reduces ink use and makes cleaning faster and easier.
Not content with ratcheting up innovation in flexo, the Bobst group is also steaming into the crowded waters of digital inkjet, through its “Digital printing competence center” Mouvent. The latest Mouvent press with “cluster” printhead technology was on demo at Labelexpo Europe, running at close to 100 m/m and was certainly one of the stars of the 2019 event.
Kindly raise your glasses
With Europe’s economy growing sluggishly or not at all, any good news on the export front is welcome, particularly when it involves the notoriously fickle North American market. So, please drink to the health of that most typical of French drinks: cognac. Distilled only in and around the town of Cognac in Southwestern France, this postprandial spirit is no longer, in France, the normal conclusion to a good dinner. Fortunately, our American cousins are ingesting it with gusto (which is fine) and sometimes with ice (which is sacrilege).
Ice or no ice, the cognac business is booming, with over 200 million bottles sold in 2018, no less than 87 million of them going to the United States. This knocks spots off the second biggest market, Singapore (a measly 27 million bottles, but not bad for a country with just seven million people). Labels for cognac bottles tend to be expensive, exclusive and tamper-proof. Litho-Bru, a label converter based in Cognac, is one of several suppliers to the local distilleries. Making both wet glue and pressure sensitive labels, Litho-Bru is also equipped with a wide range of finishing units including hot-foil, embossing and flash-code security to meet the exacting requirements of labels for cognac, champagne and other luxury goods.
What does Labelexpo 2019 say about world label markets?
After every show in Brussels, your correspondent looks to see from which countries the exhibitors hailed. Comparing this year’s show with 2017, Germany still takes the top slot with 121 exhibitors but closely followed by China, which has shot up the league table.
British exhibitors too increased in number, despite the imminent threat of Brexit. France saw the number of exhibitors up, though still punching way below its weight. Eastern Europe and Scandinavia are still the weak links – and if Poland boasted 16 names on the exhibitor list, closer inspection revealed that eight of these were trade magazines.
…and then Luxe Pack
No sooner has the dust died down in Brussels than the center of attention will move to Monaco for the luxury packaging event, which this year brings together 470 exhibitors and reminds us that times are not too hard – at least not for some. The main theme as in previous years will be on labels and packaging for alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. To replace real leather on some champagnes, the label will be made of 100% vegetable “Pineapple-leather” (which, please note, is not made from pineapples); other bottles will feature a patented system for personalizing the label.
The other theme running through the Luxe Pack show will be sustainability. Entries for the “Luxe Pack in Green” contest will present packaging using a lot of recycled paper, board or glass – there is even one using a material made from recycled jeans – quite appropriate for a Monaco show, just down the road from the Genoa, the city after which jeans are named.
For those who can’t visit the Monaco event, there will be another Luxe Pack next February in Los Angeles, then in May 2020 in New York.
From bottle to bottle – a new internet platform
Germany ranks as one of the most environment-conscious countries in Europe. So, it is no surprise that a German start-up is aiming to provide an online marketplace for buyers and sellers of recyclable plastics. Called Cirplus, its aim is to build up a global marketplace for recycled plastics.
Says Cirplus founder Christian Schiller, “Our vision is to make plastics 100% circular, so as to massively reduce the environmental footprint of plastics overall.”
So far, no labelstock producers are involved in Cirplus, but these are early days yet. Providing an efficient online market place for plastic recycling is important, but for many products recyclability has to be addressed further upstream, at the design stage. This particularly concerns labels, which should either be wash-off or compatible with the associated packaging for recycling.
The German Packaging Register (Zentrale Stelle Verpackungsregister, or ZSVR) has published the first minimum standard for assessing packaging designed for recycling. The plan is to reward high-quality recyclability. Says Gunda Rachut, who heads up the ZSVR, “These financial incentives create a strong motivation for companies planning new waste lines to implement their responsibility for their products’ packaging faster and more thoroughly.”