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Digital print continues to disrupt the packaging industry

Packaging Solutions

The rapid growth and success of digital print is prompting brands to experiment with marketing – improving approval ratings and brand loyalty from consumers – as well as meeting new regulatory demands and evolving new business models.

According to Smithers’ latest report – ‘The Future of Digital Print for Packaging to 2024’, the total market value of all digital packaging and label printing in 2019 is $18.9 billion, the equivalent of 206 billion A4 prints, and a total of 2.54 million tonnes of production.

The market has more than doubled over the past five years in value and print volume, with tonnage up by 255%, making digital packaging the most dynamic and fastest growing part of the print market as corrugated, flexibles and rigid follow the well established digital label production sector.

Benefits and opportunities for converters, brands and retailers

Digital now represents 6.38% of the printed packaging market, having penetrated into all packaging types, from labels, cartons and corrugated, to rigid plastic, flexible and metal packaging, which explains why it is of great interest to brands, retailers, pack and label converters and equipment and consumable providers.

There are many reasons why companies across the supply chain are investigating digital printing technology. Converters are tapping into changing brand requirements, with many working to grow and develop new experiences for their customers to meet the ever more demanding schedules and version differentiations of brands and retailers.

The power of engagement

Brands are taking advantage of the opportunity to offer more pack versions, with the capability for total variability allowing them to boost performance and engagement through the offer of new customer experiences. There are many creative and innovative examples of brands using digital print to create personalised labels and packs, or versions to appeal to sections of the market. Brands do this to increase their market share in a specific campaign, while generating positive consumer reaction and approval.

The best known series of campaigns, run globally many times, is Coca-Cola’s Share a Coke. The total volume of labels and cans printed now runs into the billions. The cost of each label is significantly higher than the basic flexo or gravure printed wrap-around label, yet Coca-Cola develops new versions tying into family names, holiday destinations and songs. Digital printed labels help sell more Coke, further boosting the perception of the iconic brand among customers.

Retail changes driving the supply chain

E-commerce sells a wide range of branded and bespoke products, with many products delivered in special mailers and transit packaging that may be branded or plain with customer address labels. This is changing as the YouTube phenomenon of sharing unboxing videos grows, and companies add personal messaging to packs to boost engagement.

There are major e-commerce players – particularly Amazon, which has a track record of innovation in developing new retail experience and winning market share through heavy investment. It is not a huge leap of the imagination to see that retailers, such as Amazon, are considering on-demand packaging solutions as part of the huge warehouse floor space.

Whether or not this happens, digital print can fit the e-commerce space very well. Branded and private label brands will still require the same high quality packaging, as will products from new emerging brands which need to impart a professional impression. Digital production systems that provide flexibility and ease of use will be important in grabbing share of this potential market.

As the final consumer is known to the e-commerce retailer, there is the opportunity to provide a tailored pack using print on-demand at the packaging state to improve the user experience and boost loyalty. This could include providing a connection to individual consumers in the cyber world, in competition with brans selling directly; packs can even be made interactive with QR code linking to a website with more information to connect with the consumer.

The industry unites at Digital Print for Packaging Europe

Smithers’ upcoming Digital Print for Packaging Europe Conference will further explore the trends, drivers and updates making waves across the ever evolving digital print for packaging industry today. The event will unite the entire global supply chain in Berlin from 2 to 4 December, with sessions focusing on designing for digital print, production trends in corrugated, cartons, flexible packaging and labels, workflow and colour management, sustainability in digital printing, direct to shape and more.

Delegates will hear from direct from leading brands such as Danone, Mondelez International, Colgate-Palmolive and Mondodelvino as they discuss how they utilise digital print to increase consumer engagement and boost brand awareness, with case studies on smart packaging, brand activation, personalisation, omnichannel packaging and the retail experience.

Earth Island readers can save 10% off their conference ticket with discount code DPP10PS when registering online at

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