Packaging and Label Trends

Yesterday we looked at Offset printing trends and today we look at trends in the packaging and label markets. Have a look and as always we love comments.

The Trends in Packaging and Labels

An intrinsic part of branding is ensuring the labels, tickets, tags and other point-of-sale materials are helping to convey the story. And with today’s highly-competitive retail environment, choosing the right stock for the job is just as important as the design itself. Print service providers (PSPs) play an important role in that selection, helping to steer clients toward the stocks that will best capture exactly what the brand wants say to its potential customers.

“In the next 5-10 years we expect continued diversification and innovation of the packaging and label markets as brand owners make their products’ packaging work harder,” said Ellen Bliske, the senior brand manager for Neenah Packaging. “It has been demonstrated in various studies that the label and package contribute both to the perceived value of the product and the buying decision. Unique substrates, structures and designs will continue to be developed for labels to stand out on shelf and tell the brand story.”

Labels, in particular, are subject to changing trends as brands seek to capture what the market is demanding today, and tries to predict what it will want tomorrow. One big trend currently impacting the market is more natural stocks, especially for beverages.

“One area we see continued growth is the natural look with uncoated textured papers especially for craft beverages and foods,” noted Bliske. “This trend is mirroring the growth in both the organic and local movements. Designs on these logos are often one color using raw typography or illustration.”

The sustainability factor, in particular, is driving stock choice for labels in many industries. “The proliferation of sustainability targets and scorecards has resulted in major packaging materials changes,” said David Collins, marketing director, specialty, Avery Dennison Label and Packaging Materials—North America. “To improve scorecard numbers, brand owners strive for thinner, lower weight, sustainable label options to reduce their environmental footprints, and the label industry is complying. Thinner facestocks and recyclable polyester liners are gaining in use. Flexible packaging is also strong in the area of sustainability. Studies show flexible packaging production uses fewer natural resources, and requires less transportation and landfill space. In fact, one truckload of unfilled flexible packages is equal to 26 trucks of unfilled glass containers. Statistics like this are driving a packaging changes from a labeled bottles or jars to a flexible packaging solutions.”

But sustainability isn’t the only major trend driving changes in the market. Shorter runs, more customized packaging and the need to go further to help products stand out are all impacting the stock choices as well.

“As with a lot of industries, the label industry is experiencing an increase demand for variable content and customization,” noted Amy Swaile, associate marketing manager, Distribution Products, MACtac. “Couple this with a focus on economy and requests for shorter runs, and you see a growing shift from traditional offset printing to narrow format digital technologies. These demands are also the driving force behind increased efforts to design digital compatible print materials and quality label options.”

And that trend isn’t going to ease off any time soon. Swaile predicts the move toward more digital, short run labels is only going to pick up. “The trend towards narrow format digital printing is going to continue to see growth for the at least the next 5 to 10 years,” she said. “Customers that need labels are going to continue to expect more and more customization at shorter and shorter runs—a demand that offset printing simply can’t meet. Over the next 10 years expect to see an influx of truly exceptional presses and digitally optimized label options to run on them.”

“Consumers have become increasingly savvy, with a growing appreciation of—and demand for—packaging aesthetics,” agreed Collins. “Product shelf appeal is a must-have, and consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies worldwide realize that shelf power equates to brand power. The need to succeed at the shelf has encouraged packaging designers to innovate materials. Many are combining technological innovations with interactivity to attract consumer attention.”

Collins went on to note that, beyond moving to digital print options over offset, other technologies will continue to have a major impact on the label and packaging stocks brands are demanding. “Technology is everywhere today, and people embrace and expect tech-enhanced experiences, and that includes labeling and packaging. RFID is one way that’s happening,” he said. “As evolving RFID technology is integrated into labels, new functionality brings greater benefits for brand owners at all levels of operation. RFID chips in labels provide integrated solutions from source to consumer that increase speed, accuracy, visibility, productivity and margins.

Taking Action

PSPs shouldn’t be sitting idly by as the packaging and label trends move around them, however. First and foremost, the clients themselves are an excellent source of information on what the trends are today, and what they might be looking for in their label and packaging stocks tomorrow.

“A first step is to talk to existing clients about their label and packaging needs,” said Bliske. “There may be opportunities to provide additional components for clients while ensuring consistency in the print quality between the current jobs and the label or packaging jobs for the same customer. We are seeing more requests for stocks that coordinate to tell a complete brand story. For instance, a label stock that matches a gift card or gift card sleeve. PSPs should understand the customer’s branding and desired image. Work with the packaging designer to select the stocks that convey the right brand story for each product.”

“The best avenue is to know your customers’ business,” said Collins. “What products are they offering? Who is their target audience? How do they want to be positioned on shelf and in the consumer’s mind? With those details you’ll be able to match these trends to what they need for brand or application success.” He went on to point out, “It is imperative you first consider the product being labeled, this includes the type of substrate and the shape of the product. Secondly, what type of facestock is required? Is it a film or paper, and what variety of film or paper? Next items to consider are related to printing and converting. You must take into account the type of press the material is being run on and if there are any post-converting material requirements like die cutting and roll finishing. Following, you need to ask yourself, what type of adhesive is needed and if there are any environmental conditions related to the labels performance? Finally, how will the label material be applied?”

Bliske also noted that paying attention to what’s on the shelves is a good way to stay on point. “One way to watch the trends is to take note of what you see on store shelves. Notice the labels on products with the best shelf placement compared to those in the clearance bin. Look at different print techniques and notice which types of products use those techniques most suited to your capabilities. That will allow you to focus more specifically on a vertical market that fits your niche.”

One way to help clients understand what is out there and possible for their labels, Swaile said the best thing PSPs can do is actually show them. “Being a visual industry, try printing sample labels to share with new clients, giving them a live example of how labeling can help their brand,” she stressed. She also noted the importance of ensuring the offerings will live up to client expectations. “It’s always important to remember that a label ultimately goes into part of a customer’s product or reflects their brand. It’s critical that a PSP chooses label stocks with both quality and a proven track record for performance.”

Unlike many other print niches, packaging and labels requires PSPs to be knowledgeable about current trends, and be more willing to jump onto cutting edge ideas as brands seek to be “first” and make their products truly stand out on the shelf. Those shops being proactive with suggestions and samples of what could be possible are going to find far more success than those sticking to the “safe” stocks and options. The stock vendors themselves, such as Neenah, Mactac and Avery Dennison, are a great resource to start with. They are constantly innovating, and want to partner with printers to help give brands the look, feel and performance they are looking for.

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