Digital print technology has brought considerable change to label converting, as it has to all other print arenas. The international label industry association, FINAT, which mentors the complex supply chain that a ‘label’ represents today, recently decided that the time had come to establish some real metrics. As a result, the way in which digital print has manifested itself in the European label industry has now been profiled through an in-depth study of current status, anticipated market sizing and growth to 2022, converter benchmark data, and production trends. The results are revealing.
European market value
As a percentage of the European printed label market in 2016, the study showed, digital represented 9.7% of market value – a percentage higher than the overall global figure. While this is a small percentage of the European printed label industry’s total value – in excess of €16 billion – it is evidence of significant acceptance of the robust and innovative technological capabilities of digital print.
The research also identified digital press marketshare by primary format – inkjet and toner. Of the 2000 digital label presses installed in Europe, 76% are toner-based systems and 24% are inkjet/hybrid. However, the growth curve to 2022 shows inkjet press installation growth expanding at a higher year-over-year rate than toner-based press systems.
Converters were also asked to define the challenges they are experiencing with their current digital presses. While cost of ownership came in at the top, press downtime due to service issues was in second place and, interestingly, the challenge of finding enough business to fill the available digital capacity came next. However, another problem – printing high-opacity whites – was added to the list for toner-based presses, and finishing requirements and colour matching were also noted by inkjet press owners.
Some end users request combination-printed labels – probably for label multi-versioning – but the survey showed that they are not yet generally specifying toner or inkjet – or, indeed, digital label print. However, end users are now increasingly insisting that their label converters avail themselves of digital print technology. The survey confirmed that this is, indeed, a major change in direction for the label industry.
The team reports its findings
At the core of this project was LPC (USA), who provides professional market research and who has worked extensively in the label and packaging converting industries across the various disciplines for more than 20 years. LPC principals Jennifer Dochstader and David Walsh conducted the formal FINAT Digital Label Study 2017, and delivered their preliminary report to FINAT members at the association’s European Label Forum in June.
‘A voyage of discovery’
FINAT Managing Director Jules Lejeune is very happy with the end result. The FINAT Digital Label Study 2017 is, he says, ‘a detailed portrait of an industry, and its end-use markets, embarking on a voyage of discovery that is definitely going to find new worlds. In common with other packaging formats, labels are already enjoying greater flexibility in the pressroom; wider customer interaction; and a much-enhanced portfolio of product offerings to attract brand owners around the world.’