Part 2: Interview with Corey Reardon from AWA about release liner: “For the label printer recycling and sustainability will be a big issue”

The market for release liner is growing worldwide, with Asia on the forefront (Source: AWA Alexander Watson Associates)

How is the release liner market developing? NarrowWebTech asked Corey M Reardon President and CEO AWA Alexander Watson Associates (AWA) about the current status of the release liner industry, the challenges companies are facing and how to meet these challenging developments. Read the second part of the interview!

 By Rosina Obermayer


 You want to read first Part 1 of this interview? Take a look in this post!

How is the market developing in overall terms?

Corey Reardon: The release liner market today represents about 50 billion square metres worldwide of which 39% is produced in the Asian-Pacific Region, 27% in Europe, 27% in North America. The release liner market is growing by 5% globally. Asia has the greatest growth and is growing about 6.3% vs the 5% global growth rate, so North America and Europe are growing by about 4 / 4.5% respectively

The market for release liner is growing worldwide, with Asia on the forefront (Source: AWA Alexander Watson Associates)

Should European or North American companies consider entering the Asian market?

Corey Reardon: Most of the larger companies within the industry even the medium-sized companies are mostly global anyway. They may not be producing in each region, but they are certainly serving the demand in every region worldwide. So, it is quite a global industry already. Anyway, Europe and North America are also growing, just not as much as Asia. So currently there is an unprecedented growth across the industry geographically and across each application segment.

Unprecedented growth?

Corey Reardon: Unprecedented, because from 2008 to 2010 there was a recession. For sure, companies have been coming out of the recession. But now not only Europe is growing strongly economically but also North America, Asia and South America. For the first time in decades the worldwide market is showing growth.

Are there topics which might have an impact on these growths?

Corey Reardon: From a micro perspective there is always the risk for disruption of alternative technologies. But from a marco standpoint, there are decisions made by governments which could affect the industry.

Which alternative technologies?

Corey Reardon: Well, the other segments, for example the second largest segment for release liners, the tape segment is growing because pressure-sensitive tapes are actually replacing mechanical forms of bonding. In the label segment there are actually more threats through direct printing and direct-to-container print, like shrink sleeves and other labelling technologies.

How big is this threat for the label market in your opinion?

Corey Reardon: We have seen some replacement of pressure-sensitive products through other technologies. But we also see other technologies going back to pressure -sensitive. There is also the issue of container technology, so we are seeing the growth of flexible packaging which is direct printed replacing rigid containers normally having a label on it. There is a lot of potential substitutions within the label and packaging sector.

Regarding release liners, how much is paper-based, how much film based?

Corey Reardon: Yes, 80% is paper-based and 20% is filmic-based across the whole market and applications within the label market. Roughly half of the label market is primary product labelling and the other half is VIP labelling. In the primary product label market about 40% is film liner because filmic liner has some advantages, but not for all applications. VIP labelling, such as address labelling, logistics and transport labelling, re-tape and price marking and retail labelling, uses almost 100% paper-based release liners.

 Regarding waste, how can we avoid having this “highly engineered piece of trash”?

Corey Reardon: The whole issue around waste is a challenging one. A speaker in the conference made the analogy that release liner after it is used to carry an adhesive or a process component is thrown away. But every product produced ultimately becomes waste. An automobile, for example, after twenty or thirty years, eventually becomes waste. Thus, everything is ultimately waste at some point or another, release liners are no different.

Sustainability will be a growing topic but only a quarter of label printers and converters are active in release liner recycling. How do they fit together?

Corey Reardon: Release liner recycling is a complex topic. I think it is because the need and expectations are continuing to grow. I also think, they will follow, over time, as necessary and possible. Sometimes research costs are required and many companies are following not leading. So, leaders like Avery Dennison will be pioneers and lead the way and others will follow in their footsteps.

Corey M Reardon President and CEO AWA Alexander Watson Associates (AWA) discussed with NarrowWebTech the current status of the release liner industry (Source: Gerry Mayer-Rohrmoster)


Do you think the industry needs external regulations?

Corey Reardon: Often regulation is imposed and so helps to drive change faster, but it is better to be proactive and be responsible for your own destiny. I think it is a combination of being proactive and having external change from customers and from the environment.

Regarding release liner and the label market is there a development or a topic that label printers and converters should have in mind?

Corey Reardon: For the label printer recycling and sustainability will be a big issue. For other applications flexibility and the need to innovate are critical success factors. Anyway, I really think it depends on the industry segments and the applications you are referring to and what the main driver will be. [Editorial comment: more details to our 20th anniversary please find here. ]

20 years of NWT – try to take a look back, what is the biggest development regarding label segment

Corey Reardon: Regarding the label printing segment, I guess in the last twenty years it is digital printing. From the release liner stand point it is the development of filmic PET liners for labelling. Also from the liner side I think over the twenty years down gauging of the liner, so thinner liners, has been a tremendous change.

 How is the release liner industry currently meeting the challenges?

Corey Reardon: In general, I think the release liner industry is very strong. A lot of opportunities are available to work together in order to create solutions – whether it is around sustainability, innovation or cost optimization. In my opinion the release liner industry is in a good position to be a strong example of how this can be achieved.

Do you want to read an detailed review of the AWA Global Release Liner Conference & Exhibition 2018 and see pictures and a video statement by Corey Reardon to the event? Take a look in this post:

This interview was first published as shorter version in the March issue (1-2018) of NarrowWebTech, available as download in our online shop:

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