Stamp of Approval

Bonnie Howard April 29, 2014

With the rising demand for retail goods, packaging and labelling is becoming a key influencer in any consumer’s purchasing decision. Food and beverage, household and personal products, as well as healthcare goods are all demanding a greater quality of packaging and labelling, which is fuelling a growth in label printing.

According to research *, consumers take just seven seconds to decide to purchase a product. Therefore, label and package printing is becoming a necessary front-line marketing tool; one that manufacturers and brand owners are looking to differentiate their products. And this focus is good news for the label printers.

A study into the global flexible packaging market by Smithers Pira forecasts a growth in this sector to reach US $820 billion by 2016, with food and drink, cosmetics and healthcare packaging forming the largest end users. Likewise, label printing has also become a global industry worth around US $73 billion, with some 30,000 label printers and converters worldwide producing 42 billion sq.m of label stock every year**.


There are many influencers impacting the development of label printing, ranging from printing techniques and technologies, to brand owners, manufacturers and of course, consumers.

Domino’s N610i in inkjet action.

Domino’s N610i in inkjet action.

Brand owners and manufacturers are looking for consistent quality, creative and high-impact product labelling to secure the purchasing decision. At the same time they are also interested in ‘just-in-time’ production, localisation, and environmental credentials as well as a greater degree of product identification, all in the most cost efficient way. In addition, the rise of private labels has significantly raised the bar in terms of the need for product differentiation.

Product identification, or ‘product passports’ are also becoming increasingly influential in label production, providing product traceability and quality control throughout the supply chain while helping to combat the rise in counterfeiting – worth around US $600 billion annually.

Consumers alike are becoming more demanding, actively seeking additional information about a product’s ingredients and origins, paving the way for a rise in ‘smart labels’ such as QR codes.

These stakeholders’ increasing requirements have inevitably played a fundamental role in the developing trends in label production. Traditionally, dominated by offset and flexo, interest in shorter runs and personalisation has shifted production towards digital technologies which are starting to gain ground over analogue methods. Not only does digital deliver quality imagery, clear text and coding, it also enables label users to access custom printed and multi-designed labels without the need for producing plates. And, when time equals money, any opportunity to reduce downtime, de-skill, eliminate waste and introduce greater automation is proving extremely attractive.


Within the range of digital technologies, the key growth area is expected to come from inkjet technology. Ten years ago, UV curable inkjet label solutions had yet to demonstrate their full potential due to a lack of quality, reliability and productivity. Today, advances in jetting assemblies has significantly improved ink flow, addressing any previous shortfalls resulting in the highest quality print and productivity, significantly out performing other technologies. High-end solutions such as the Domino K600i and N610i digital inkjet label presses for example now reach production speeds of up to 75m per minute and resolutions of
600dpi for a wide range of substrates. The colour gamut of these higher-end inkjet solutions also offers greater colour matching than many of the conventional six or eight colour flexo or offset presses.

Domino  N610i Labels2As the quality of digital inkjet advances, label manufacturers can provide additional value by introducing automated finishing, potentially sparking a trend towards complete inline label print and finishing, such as die-cutting, for even greater efficiencies and cost savings.

While production efficiencies are influencing this growth, marketing applications will play an increasing role through the growing use of smart labels, variable QR codes and increased personalisation.

The flexibility of digital UV-curable inkjet technology is, without doubt, setting the trend for label production, and is expected to become the dominant technology as it progresses in terms of improving print quality, reliability and productivity. Its ability to address all the demands from the various stakeholders, such as short-run inline printing and converting, variable data capabilities, increased product identification and traceability solutions within a cost effective and efficient process, offers tremendous potential for future retail labelling and packaging.



**‘Global Label Markets…’ a presentation by Tarsus Group