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Labels vs flexible packaging?

Should label printers see flexible packaging as an opportunity or a threat? Which printing technology or technologies will be used in the future? Jakob Landberg, sales & marketing director at Nilpeter, talks to NarrowWebTech about the current printing technologies including flexible packaging and its relevance for label printers and converters.

Labels and flexible packaging cannot be explicitly separated anymore. Lines with widths of 220 mm (8.66”) to 340 mm (13.38”) or 430 mm (17”) up to 560 mm (22”) or even 850 mm (33.46”) are available. However, label printers and converters have to deal with flexible packaging whether to enlargen their portfolio or to perform sucessfully on the market.

Flexible packaging and labels are often mentioned in the same breath despite several differences – how do these two applications fit together, in your opinion?
Jakob Landberg: Both are a way of providing decoration and appeal as well as adding information about a product. Both are printed mainly roll to roll so the technical is less of a leap from labels to traditional packaging.

Nilpeter has recently introduced a 22” (560 mm) flexo press, which is not now considered a mainstream printing width for label printers. Why should narrow web printers consider this line and for what reasons?
Jakob Landberg: Actually most of our 22” (560 mm) flexo presses are built to handle both labels and flexible packaging – to give maximum flexibility for the printer. Specifically for flexible packaging the aim is to enable the printer to offer short run, value-added flexible packaging to their customers – or even in numerous cases offer flexible packaging printers geared for large runs the business opportunity to team up with a label printer who is able to handle shorter runs.

Do you think label printers should see flexible packaging as an opportunity or more as a competitive type of packaging to labels?
Jakob Landberg: I see more opportunities for label printers to offer flexible packaging than vice versa. Short runs are a challenge that label printers are used to – they have done it for decades.

Will there be a printing technology which will increase its impact?
Jakob Landberg: When UV flexo obtains a more food safe image this will increase the volume – but also the combination of gravure, flexo, foiling and lamination inline will boost the business opportunities.

What other trends do you think will be relevant for label printers during the next few years?
Jakob Landberg: The combination of digital and analogue printing will increase, as well as multifunctional labels that contain more information and improve communication to consumers.

Nilpeter is a manufacturer of printing presses for the global markets, which regions will become increasingly important? Will for example flexible packaging in Asia play a larger role? If so, how should label printers react to this development?
Jakob Landberg: There are still many areas of the world were the consumption of labels is lower than 1 sqm or even the average 10 sqm per capita that we see in EU and USA – so there is a large potential. But not all label printers can go global – and even the 6% yearly growth in the EU will keep us busy for years to come. Our success in the label and labelling industry is based on innovation, creativity, and cross industry partnerships – I still think this is a good recipe for being optimistic about the future.

Angela

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