European Label Forum

The second European Label Forum, convened by the international label association FINAT, focused strongly on two topics that can create differentiation in this age of multiple product decoration, packaging and presentation techniques: value creation and innovation. The event, held for the second year in Amsterdam, attracted industry business leaders from all aspects of the value chain to brainstorm, network and gain inspiration from a programme designed to put the label industry on a fast track to a successful future.

FINAT Managing Director Jules Lejeune identified continuing buoyant growth in the industry since 2012, annually in excess of 5% on average, and well above GDP. In 2015, demand for labelstocks reached 6.77 billion sqm, with the top ten EU label markets accounting for 75% of the total – a strong indication that there is still huge growth potential in those countries which are below the European average. Print run lengths are reducing – a reflection of the requirement for just-in-time delivery; and research shows that a significant percentage of label printers are now active in, or seriously looking at, technologies other than traditional label print, including sleeving, flexible packaging and in-mould labels. In terms of end-use markets, pharmaceuticals, health and beauty, and food were the strongest performers in 2015. Lejeune concluded by reiterating FINAT’s commitment to its key role – maintaining an up-to-the-minute knowledge base on critical technical, legislative, and end-use market topics, and encouraging ongoing interaction and collaboration across the value chain.

Since the European Label Forum took place only days after drupa closed its doors, it was apposite that the programme should include an expert session on ‘highlights’ of interest in the context of label and packaging print. Herbert Knott, representing the German label association VskE, took on this particular challenge, describing his paper as ‘technology takeaways’ from the event. He gave a remarkably comprehensive, expert assessment of advances in every aspect of printing, from analogue, hybrid, and digital printing presses to web cleaning, printing plates, doctor blades, LED and UV drying, software, inks, and print substrates. Commenting on the amazing variety of digital technologies on show, he predicted: ‘Liquid toner, dry toner, and inkjet systems will determine the future. The printing industry is changing to a “colour sprayer” industry!’

The European Label Forum’s closing keynote featured lessons from the world of Formula One racing – but, said speaker Mark Gallagher, ‘my storytelling is not going to be about F1 racing.’ It’s about growth through innovation in an incredibly competitive environment.’ With many years in the F1 arena, in a variety of senior executive positions in such teams as Jordan and Red Bull, Mark Gallagher was, indeed, well-placed to provide enlightening insights into what it takes to build winning teams, compete at a world level and keep ahead of the competition in terms of innovation.

The changing face of the F1 scene – where the main revenue source and business model has been moved from team sponsorship by tobacco companies, to global sports event organisation and management – demonstrates significant parallels with the label industry today. The two sectors share the same priorities: safety, quality, compliance, and innovation; and, like the label supply chain, said Mr Gallagher, ‘we don’t do everything in-house’; and, in Formula One, he said, ‘one thing we don’t want with suppliers is a transactional relationship. We want our suppliers to say “we can help you innovate!”’ He showed impressive examples of how such collaboration and partnership have contributed to key F1 improvements.

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