The past twenty years of NarrowWebTech – A comment by Anthony White

Tony White, editorial consultant for NarrowWebTech since the beginning in 1998, during the Global Industry Label Awards ceremony in 2017 (Source: G&K TechMedia, Rosina Obermayer)

I have worked with G& K TechMedia for almost 24 years and in that time have seen many changes in the current magazine format and the label industry in general.
NarrowWebTech’s editorial consultant Tony White takes a look back.

In the beginning the label industry was provided with information via the Flexo & Gravure magazine which commenced publication in 1994. Initially the odd article here and there was included hidden in the pages of Flexo & Gravure. Later a special label section was included within the magazine consisting of about 15 – 20 pages with its own header page.


Then in 1998 it was decided that there was enough news to sustain a standalone journal dedicated to the narrow web industry. It was important that enough revenue from advertising could be found to support this new publication. The main competition was from the Tarsus group Labels and Labelling which had been in existence since 1979. NarrowWebTech have for some years been a media sponsor of the Global Awards competition organised by Tarsus.

I have been privileged to work in the background on all the G&K English publications from the beginning as Consultant editor responsible for checking the accuracy of the published English language and from time to time representing G&K TechMedia at various industry functions and reporting on them, also writing an article here and there.

Changes in almost every sector

During that time I have witnessed many changes in the label industry in almost every sector from technical developments to changes in company ownerships and the actual use of labels from the consumers’ point of view. Legislation in many forms has had a dramatic impact on the way in which the label industry has progressed from sustainability of the label and its production consequences for the environment. The way in which labels are purchased has changed moving from the mass production of labels for a well known brand to the production of labels to meet an immediate demand using JIT (Just in time) applications.

Tony White, editorial consultant for NarrowWebTech since the beginning in 1998, during the Global Industry Label Awards ceremony in 2017 (Source: G&K TechMedia, Rosina Obermayer)


When NarrowWebTech first came into being digital was in its comparative infancy with printers cautiously testing the water and digital printing was regarded as an additional process. How this has changed with, in many cases, it now becoming a “must have” technology and running as a separate production line.

In my role as chair of the World Label Association and FINAT label competitions [Editorial comment: the Label Awards 2018 were just announced at FINAT ELF 2018] I have witnessed how the presentation of labels has changed with more colours being used, more intricate die-cutting profiles shaping labels for unusual shaped containers and innovative ways to produce interesting labels for a wide range of applications from smart labels to reactive labels.

Full use is still made of the traditional printing processes including flexo, litho and screen and even these have progressed to impressive technical highlights with regard to inks, plates, press automation etc.

One thing is certain in the past twenty years the demand for labels and narrow web flexible packaging has remained buoyant around the world with the demand for hybrid presses becoming greater enabling printers to offer a wider range of products to their customers merely by programming the different technologies without the expense of purchasing a new press.

As NarrowWebTech has grown over the years it has always been at the forefront of reporting new technological advances almost as they happen with new products featuring in every issue. The quality of the technical articles is second to none with some very sound advice for converters appearing in every edition. NarrowWebTech has and is supporting the label and narrow web packaging industries by acting as media partners with some of the most prestigious events including the Labelexpo exhibitions and the Tarsus Global awards competition

Label production in 20 years?

I believe that the next twenty years will see even greater technical progress. Digital presses will become faster, the flexo process will continue to evolve with more environmentally acceptable inks, hybrid label presses will be the norm and laser technology will feature even more in the finishing process. Long may the label industry grow and prosper.

This personal review by Anthony White is part of our special “20 years NarrowWebTech – twenty years label printing and converting”, which is also available as free download in our online shop. Find more details here: “New eDossier: 20 years NarrowWebTech – The history of label printing”

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