Donald E. Stephens Convention Center
9291 Bryn Mawr Ave,
Chicago, IL 60018

Label and packaging industry reunites at Label Congress

By Greg Hrinya, Editor | 10.02.21

Networking, conference sessions, and product demonstrations took place in Rosemont, IL, USA, from September 29-30.

More than 50 exhibitors were on-hand at Label Congress to run product demonstrations and highlight their newest products. The event, which signaled a return to an in-person tradeshow, took place in Rosemont, IL, USA, from September 29-30.

Following the first day of the event, Avery Dennison and Flint Group sponsored a Label Reunion in the heart of Rosemont at Joe’s Live. The Label Reunion provided an opportunity for attendees to catch up after spending more than 18 months apart, conducting much of their business virtually. For many of the attendees to Label Congress, the TLMI Converter Meeting in March of 2020 represented the last in-person gathering.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the event took the place of Labelexpo Americas. Wider aisles in the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center were complemented by an abundance of sanitizing stations and an indoor mask mandate at the show.

While there was no equipment at the show, companies found other ways to bring their information to attendees. For example, Xeikon and Screen Americas bussed visitors to their nearby facilities to see their digital printing presses in action. Meanwhile, Epson showed live demonstrations taking place in California via a remote network. Material suppliers also provided guests with samples and brochures. The event featured a wide range of product experts at each booth, as well.

In addition to the networking and product information, Label Congress featured a robust conference schedule. The event opened with an informative look at the state of the label industry. AWA Alexander Watson Associates president Corey Reardon and TLMI president Linnea Keen gave an overview of the latest trends, as well as the impact of sustainability and mergers and acquisitions in our industry.

“It’s awesome to be at an in-person event after 18 months,” exclaimed Reardon.

Reardon analyzed the labeling and product decoration market during the session titled Introduction: Global Market Overview. Globally, 68.3 million square meters of label materials were printed last year, and pressure sensitive represents the largest labeling format of total material volume at 40%.

“We’ve seen a recent change driven by Covid where VIP categories have been growing at a slightly faster rate than prime labeling – for logistics, transport and shipping labels,” said Reardon. “It’s important to note that VIP doesn’t have competing categories like shrink sleeve, in-mold, and so on. The pandemic, with home delivery, has really accelerated the growth of VIP labels.”

According to AWA, there has been a little more erosion for pressure sensitive – despite being the leading labeling format – due to shrink sleeves as compared to 5-10 years ago. Overall, the labels market is seeing 3.4% growth across the globe, with North America accounting for 2.5%. Asia leads this category at 4.7% growth.

Keen stated that TLMI “has a positive outlook for the future,” with pressure sensitive labeling formats growing in North America. Keen added that supply chain disruptions, M&A activity, and the continued quest for sustainability will be key topics in the future.

In a recent AWA survey, more than half of respondents (61%) are running a backlog of three weeks or more for materials. This is the fourth consecutive quarter with over 40% reporting a backlog of three weeks or more.

“Sustainability continued to be, pre-covid, and will continue to be, post-covid, an important topic for our industry,” noted Reardon. “Liner and matrix are byproducts. I recommend learning more about associations like CELAB from TLMI. CELAB is companies coming together to create solutions for matrix and liner waste in a very proactive and important way, with the real objective to keep labeling products out of the landfill.

“Digital printing today isn’t a technology that is niche,” added Reardon, identifying other mega trends. “It’s a mainstream technology today competing with flexo, not augmenting it like in years past. A lot is also happening in workflow management, quality control systems, and automated functions within organizations making companies more competitive to do a lot more with a lot less. Automation becomes a way to streamline the workforce, and it’s true all over the world. Once we get the materials, we don’t have the manpower to run the machines.”

Another major trend is M&A activity. According to Mazzone & Associates, there were 39 acquisitions in 2020. There have been 25 acquisitions so far YTD in 2021, and that number is expected to grow. These moves involve strategics and consolidation.

“This is a dynamic part of the industry, which we continue to see grow,” commented Reardon.

“Labels represent a very strong market and strong industry, with high demand,” added Keen. “This leads to a desire to be in this space.”