Print+Promo 2018 State of the Industry Report: Let’s talk about labels
For Print+Promo’s 2018 State of the Industry report, we dug deep to uncover printing industry trends, learn more about the Trump effect on print and find answers to questions, like: Where is the printing industry going?
As part of our investigation, we reached out to experts in various market segments: printed forms, labels, promotional products and direct mail. Below is an excerpt from my conversation with Troy Barnes, president of Label Works, New Concord, North Mankato, Minn. Find out what he had to say about the current state of labels, the benefits of digital print and how labels can create social buzz.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the label sector?
Troy Barnes: I feel very positive about the label sector overall. Our industry has been on a steady growth trend in terms of demand, the selling price continues to match up to the value labels can deliver in virtually every use sector and there’s been innovation throughout the supply chain, which has brought new technologies, new products and new features and benefits to pass for our customers. Overall, the label industry will continue to outpace gross domestic product, and these areas will continue to drive this growth trend:
- Personalization is going to continue to gain traction, especially for the food and beverage sector—a significant rate of labeling consumption comes from this arena; almost two-thirds of all printed packaging (in terms of area) is for food and drink applications. Combine this with the pull of personalized promotions, [and] you get the ability to give brands access to more powerful marketing tools. In 2018, I think that we will see even more food and beverage brands running personalization promotions via labeling based on regional or demographic drivers. Label Works has the capability and capacity to take on limitless variability in jobs like this and has enjoyed many collaborative efforts with our channel partners where we’ve done exactly this.
- Variability of packages and labels to deliver shelf appeal through the use of varying substrates, laser die-cutting into unique one-off designs, as well as unique textures and coatings will drive value-add opportunities for further growth. When manufacturers bring new elements to the table and can enable the sales teams, you’ve got a win-win. Those who simply want to just process work will be left behind. I’m proud of our team for stepping it up and leading in this arena. When a partner comes to us with a customer request, we’ll move mountains to meet the demand, as any good supplier would, but where we really shine is in the collaborative space where we bring the opportunities to our channel partners and work with them to develop those for mutual benefit.
- Hiring qualified operators will continue to be a challenge, so we will drive to automate our equipment with more touch-screen devices that will meet the needs of a younger workforce. There will be web connectivity for production data from the equipment so that we can track employee throughput. SKUs will increase and time-to-market will become shorter; supply-chain traceability will increase as more stringent regulations will come in which could drive further RFID development and usage.
- Sustainability will continue to be driven to the forefront—brands that are looking to achieve a successful sustainability program will need to ensure that sustainable practices and technology are implemented in every step in their supply chains. By using fewer resources and achieving greater efficiency, they can reduce the carbon footprint of their manufacturing, helping to achieve their sustainability goals. To this end, we will see a continued push for LED curing and a movement away from the traditional UV devices that are costly and more harmful to the environment.
With digital technology having advanced to a competitive level with offset and flexo, how can distributors use this technique to provide brands with not only something of significant value, but also a “wow” factor? Are there any limitations with digital that they should know upfront?
TB: I’m so glad you brought this up. The term “digital” has long been a buzz in our market. Digital is fantastic and has brought tremendous capabilities to the label market—we’ve done jobs and enable such amazing promotions through the utilization of digital technology on the press side of our business. It has been a game changer, for sure. Now we’re seeing the long hybrid presses come into the limelight. They haven’t been through as many paces, and they haven’t been the darling of many articles or expos, but they do deserve some time and attention now. It’s so exciting because now we have even more potential—with traditional technologies (which, by the way, are also enjoying innovation and advancement of their own), we have digital and hybrid technology, so now the sky is the limit for designers and brand owners to create very unique and customized labels. In the retail sector, we all know how important shelf appeal is and that consumers will purchase not based on the product inside but more about the outer packaging look and feel—that label has to carry a brand message like never before (and with shrinking label real estate, too, thanks to growing regulation and mandatory labeling requirements). Hybrid presses give you the ability to create those unique labels in one-pass printing, and, at short runs, that makes it cost-effective for a brand owner to test and try new products. We find challenges like this to be among the most exciting work we get to do and welcome the opportunity to work with our channel partners and bring the solutions their customers need in order to enable additional sales.
Because consumers are skewing younger, it’s no surprise that they want labels that they can interact with via their smartphones. What kind of innovation are you seeing in the digitalized makeover of labels for consumer products?
TB: You’ve seen the augmented reality labels, right? It’s so powerful when it strikes the right audience. And it’s not just this level of interaction—it’s the entire social platform driven interaction, as well. Consumers are driving a brand’s message as much (if not more) than the brand managers themselves. Great labeling enables great social buzz, and young consumers primarily drive that. It’s fun!
Related story: Print+Promo's 2018 State of the Industry Report