Take a look at your immediate surroundings. How many paper products are within view?
Don’t be surprised if the answer is higher than you first thought. From education to communication, information to technology, food to hygiene, paper enters and affects nearly every aspect of our lives.
Despite the rise of digital technology, print remains—in stacks. It continues to change, expand and create anew, as do the paper products that consumers receive. Use information about the current state of the paper industry not to focus on how to use paper products, but how to use paper products well.
PRINT ISN’T DEAD
It’s true: We live in a digital world where people are never too far from their smartphones, laptops or tablets. “The paper industry continues to be challenged with product substitution,” Jeff Luehring, business team leader—specialty papers for Appleton, Wisconsin-based Appvion Inc., conceded, noting these substitutions are typically electronic, and affect products, including magazine papers, newsprint, forms bond and checks.
But the paper industry is up for the challenge—especially in light of a May 2015 survey by Two Sides, a global organization that promotes responsible production, use and sustainability of print and paper, that shows U.S. consumers prefer to get their information from paper-based communications.
According to the survey, 81 percent of respondents prefer to read print on paper, compared to 39 percent for screens, laptops and PCs; 30 percent for e-readers; and 22 percent for mobiles and smartphones. In the same vein, 88 percent retain or use information better when read as print on paper; 71 percent are more relaxed and receptive when reading a newspaper in print, 75 percent when reading a magazine in print; and 80 percent prefer reading complicated materials in print.
“Consumers are rediscovering the importance and meaning of carefully crafted, tangible objects,” said Chris Harrold, vice president of business development and creative director for Cohoes, New York-based Mohawk. While consumers are inundated with countless emails, tweets and other digital communication daily, Harrold sees print and paper as a way to “curate content and deliver it with impact and permanence.”
Harrold believes new advances in technology “will continue to enhance the relevancy of print, making it more exciting than ever.” In fact, Mohawk already works under the concept that print and technology enhance one another. The company released Mohawk Live, a mobile app powered by HP’s Aurasma technology, in 2013. “The app provides seamless integration of print with dynamic, interactive content, transforming a one-dimensional image to a multidimensional experience featuring 3-D images, videos, photos, infographics and animations,” explained Harrold.
SUBSTRATES ON THE RISE
With so many types of paper readily available, some have risen to the top of the stack. “For the market as a whole, uncoated free sheet substrates for printing are very popular, [and] there is sizable volume for offset and toner-based digital printing equipment,” said Luehring, pointing to direct thermal, carbonless, security, colored bond and inkjet papers as Appvion Inc.’s most popular.
Fine paper is also enjoying a surge of popularity, according to Harrold. “There’s a market—and increasing demand to support—for high quality, monthly and quarterly specialty magazines and print publications. We’re seeing a trend in premium magazine titles using high-end paper for covers and feature editorial,” said Harrold. “The fine paper stands out among other titles, attracting a more discriminating reader.”
Listing Tiffany, Herman Miller, Aveda, Honda, Bergdof Goodman and Bloomingdales as brands that have utilized Mohawk Superfine for high-end packaging, communications, envelopes and stationery, Harrold explained that many companies are taking advantage of fine paper to “enhance a brand, elevate a printed project or amplify a message.”
But markets aren’t the only aspect that determines popularity. While certain markets may not be growing, explained Luehring, the technology shift has led to increased success for paper companies, citing a particular type of fine paper as an example. “Inkjet papers are enjoying growth due to production print methods, in some cases moving away from offset or toner-based digital to inkjet.”
Inkjet paper is something Appvion Inc. knows a good deal about, having developed and launched a line of inkjet papers for the transactional, direct mail and book publishing markets this past year. “Inkjet gives users the prospect of cost effective color, short runs and customization,” said Luehring. “In many instances a higher value-added inkjet paper is replacing a commodity paper.”