AWA – Latest overview of the label release liner market Part 1

Global release liner market by Region 2016 by AWA (Source: AWA Alexander Watson Associates)

BELGIUM • Pressure-sensitive labels still claim a 40% share of the total label market, and label release liner – constituting a 49% share of global release liner usage — continues to grow at around 4% per annum. Starting with this overview the annual industry update on release liner for pressure-sensitive labels was given by AWA Alexander Watson Associates this year in Brussels, appropriately co-located with Labelexpo Europe.

Over two afternoon sessions presenters provided, in the first session, a review of market trends and applications (published as part 1); and in the second session an evaluation of sustainability and recycling achievements and challenges (published as part 2).


The label market

AWA’s president and CEO Corey Reardon opened the proceedings with an overview of the world’s label release liner market: Pressure-sensitive labels still claiming a 40% share of the total label market, and label release liner – constituting a 49% share of global release liner usage – growing at around 4% per year. Liner usage for tapes, medical, and industrial applications are, however, growing very much faster. Reardon underlined the fact that pressure-sensitive labels undoubtedly remain a better home for the growing base of intelligent label technologies than other labelling systems, and, conversely, also highlighted some challenges: the growing interest in linerless labelling and in direct-to-container digital print;  and recycling and sustainability.

Release coatings

Next, Kathrin Federkiel, market manager for Wacker Chemie, talked about trends and applications in release coating. Toner and inkjet digital formats now play an active role in printing technology, according to Federkiel. With the transport and logistics/VIP arena representing a key label market sector today, new demands for thermo-sensitivity have driven the development of new silicone systems, she said; and other label market developments have increased the need for faster crosslinkers to meet a wider range of paper surface properties and changes in catalyst usage.

“Read science fiction!”

Sean Duffy, global business manager, Silcolease Release Coatings Elkem Silicones, took a close look on the historical and future perspectives on the release liner and label industry. He compared materials and markets for labels between 2004 and 2016, highlighting rising costs, technology issues, the search for innovation, consolidation, regulatory demands, and the diversification of label converters into formats other than pressure-sensitive. The global megatrends that surround us today have created a different focus in the label arena – “our sticky little world” he said. His final advice to the audience was: “read science fiction!”

Global release liner market by Region 2016 by AWA
(Source: AWA Alexander Watson Associates)


Silicone trends

Next, Alexander Knott, TS&D specialist for Dow Corning, discussed silicone trends in release liner for pressure-sensitive labels. Today’s prime market drivers – sustainability, innovation driven by cost control, and new applications which require release coatings – are directing the industry in a number of  directions, which he detailed. In brief, these are the need for “flat” release liner profiles for faster converting and labeling speeds;

  • reduced platinum dependency
  • materials downgauging and the use of thinner/less-refined papers as release base
  • film liners, growing as a result of clear-on-clear labels and the use of heat-sensitive substrates
  • the adoption of digital label print
  • in parallel, major increases in the use of liners for food/bakery applications in Europe.

In-house hybrid lamination technology

Growing currently at 3.3% globally, linerless technology now has a definable future in food and beverage packaging, consumer durables and logistics, and pharmaceutical supplies. Toine Prudon, international sales manager, and Sjoerd Jansen, technical engineer for Maan Engineering BV, release and adhesive coating equipment manufacturers, turned to the topic of linerless labels, and the benefits of in-house hybrid  lamination technology, which  enables the production of both linerless labels and pressure-sensitive laminate, on just one machine. Linerless technology also offers sustainability advantages. In-house lamination, the presenters showed, offers flexibility coupled with reduced costs:  the ability to coat special laminates for particular applications and high-quality linerless material.

Converter benefits

Isidore Leiser, CEO of Stratus Packaging in Luxembourg, provided an overview of the benefits of release liner for a converter and label user. Pressure-sensitive labels can be applied at 22,000 labels per hour – much faster than in-mould or sleeve labels – and some converters, he said, are even applying liner on non-adhesive products to increase possible application speeds.  While the available choices enable converters to be flexible in label production and quality, “most of our customers only look at cost advantages”, Leiser commented. He added that  end users are also not really interested in the relatively minor problem of coping with spent liner in an environmentally-friendly way, since there are no cost advantages. Liner-based label production today represents a much smaller percentage of Stratus Packaging’s business than it did 35 years ago, but it still offers real added value as “part of the solution for some applications”.

The big issue

Corey Reardon’s closing remark at the end of the seminar’s first session was an apt introduction to the following day’s proceedings. “One day, when their other waste problems are solved, release liner will become an issue for brand owners.”

Read the second (and last) part of the event in this post!

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