FINAT Market trends sub-committee: Labels. Opportunities (Part 3)

Film-based labels: where decoration technologies meet in narrow webspace

However, it is in the realms of film that self-adhesive labels today see their greatest competition.  As stated, film-based shrink sleeve labels, stretch and wrap-around sleeves, and in-mould labels are today enjoying faster growth rates. However, these technologies are opportunities as well as threats, and self-adhesive label converters today are embracing the concept of ‘one-stop shopping’ – offering their customers not only the self-adhesive path, but also the non-adhesive technologies which can be profitably and ably printed on their narrow-web presses.

Broadening the agenda

Label converters today are, indeed, at the centre of an intermingling of technologies in the packaging chain, offering both web-fed self-adhesive labels and sheet-fed wet glue labels, as well as flexible packaging and tube laminate.   They are also experiencing, in the M&A arena, buyouts by flexible packaging copmpanies wishing to expand their offering, and also mainstream packaging companies purchasing self-adhesive label converters to develop their capability to provide perosnalised packaging.

Digital: shorter runs, higher break-even point

The narrow-web presses that characterise self-adhesive label production have in recent years mostly employed the flexographic print process, most recently coupled with speedy UV curing. However, the fast-developing narrow-web digital colour print options – particularly the HP Indigo and Xeikon – are dramatically changing the face of label print today. As brand owners and retailers opt for shorter production runs of their products, delivered more often, as well as multi-versioning of products using the same basic packaging, so the speed, flexibility, and shorter-run capability of digital print is proving itself.

Tarsus report that there were 75 different digital label printing machines exhibited at Labelexpo Europe last year – for ‘standalone’ use in the print room, or for use in combination, in-line, with ‘traditional’ label presses. They also expect to see 40% of the installed base in narrow-web printing presses to be in digital by 2020.

Linerless: a revival of interest for special applications

Linerless self-adhesive labels – which briefly enjoyed popularity in the 1980s – are enjoying a resurgence of interest; and technology advances have made them a real success currently for supermarket catchweigh food pre-packs in particular. Limitations on label shape have held this format back, but developments are ongoing and this is an area to watch.

Technology advances: enhancing the brand experience

On-press trends include an ever-broader toolcase of special finishes for labels, such as photochromic and high-gloss metallic inks; time-temperature indicators; holograms; and tactile varnishes.   Designed to enhance the consumer’s experience of a product’s packaging and create shelf ‘stand-out’, they partner highly-engineered permanent and removable adhesives to deliver the perfect performance for the brand owner’s needs.

(to be continued)