One Step Ahead

Consumer brands and products are launched on an almost daily basis. It's a vivid demonstration of the constant, exponential growth in the label and narrow web industry.

The companies that will win this business are the ones that can meet the expectations of today's discriminating customers. As new items pop up on store shelves at an astounding pace, it becomes increasingly difficult to catch a customer's eye in a supermarket or big-box store. Some of the tools that brand owners use to stand out in the retail environment include compelling graphics printed on attractive substrates, new package shapes, and attention-getting devices such as hang tags and pull-off coupons.

Business growth for label converters requires understanding what their customers will need tomorrow, as well as the challenges they face one, two, or ten years down the road. The better we know our customers and the trends in their markets, the more effective we'll be in providing the service and support they need in the highly competitive retail space.

Faster Time to Market

Speed and agility are two defining characteristics of successful products in the 21st century. Business moves at a faster pace than ever, while consumer preferences constantly change. Brand owners recognize that being first to market with a product and having the flexibility to change that product quickly based on the needs of the market are essential in today's 24/7 world.

Introducing a new brand or a line extension means the customer will develop new product packaging. Package design and testing must move quickly to meet the aggressive timelines set by the product development team.

Continually shortening the length of time required to prototype and market test packaging helps customers beat their competitors to market with a new idea. Fortunately, a range of workflow solutions and other digital tools are available that allow printers to provide faster services. Investing in the latest prepress and printing technologies enables label converters to offer new capabilities, automate processes, and improve turnaround times.

Counterfeit Protection Is Crucial

Counterfeiting represents a growing challenge for many types of products, especially high-end brands. The wine market, for example, has been hit hard by this criminal activity. It's often nearly impossible for a consumer to tell the difference between an authentic vintage from a top winery and a brilliantly executed fake — until the buyer opens the bottle.

One Canadian vintner reported to Forbes recently that his sales of ice wine have dropped by 95% in China because so many counterfeit bottles bearing his winery's label are in circulation there. This fakery extends to the food industry, cosmetics, and computer software products, as well as luxury items such as watches and jewelry.

The narrow web printing industry can help customers reduce the risk of counterfeiting by providing a way to prove and protect the authenticity of products. Specialty inks and papers created specifically to foil counterfeiters can help reduce the effects of fake products.

Safety has become as prevalent an issue as security, and many countries now require tamper-evident packaging on food and medical products. At the same time, new regulations address multilayered packaging and its effect on global sustainability. Package developers must find ways to respect and adhere to these regulations while maintaining the appearance of customers' products on store shelves.

Global Marketplace

National, regional, and even local brands are expanding and doing business on a global scale. Brands that were once known only in America have become icons around the world, and their corporate colors and logos break through international language barriers.

In the global marketplace, it's critical to match and maintain a brand's unique colors and appearance on packaging across products and continents. Additionally, the customization of the message and imagery for many different local markets is required.

Printers offering consistent color, fast turnaround times, and the flexibility to handle many different versions of the same job will have a competitive edge with global brand owners.

Dynamic Future

A strong period of growth lies ahead as customers step up production of new brands, the industry invents new packaging schemes, and consumers continue to make purchasing decisions — in large measure — by their affinity to a brand. This is an exciting era for label converters. As brand owners turn to labeling and packaging as an important way to differentiate their products, the opportunities to produce great work — and increase revenues — are better than ever.

Vic Stalam is VP, marketing segments and packaging, for Kodak's Graphic Communications Group, Rochester, NY. He holds a B.S. degree in electrical engineering from Osmania Univ., India, an M.S. degree in industrial engineering from the Illinois Inst. of Technology, and an MBA degree in marketing from the Rochester Inst. of Technology. He can be reached at 585-724-4672 or by e-mail to vic.stalam@kodak.com.

Supplier Info

Emphasis on Sustainability

Becoming a “green” supplier is more than a demonstration of social responsibility — we increasingly see customers requesting (or, in some cases, mandating) their printing suppliers move toward a sustainable way of doing business. Recycling paper waste, using water-based inks, reducing solvents, and offering recycled or responsibly harvested paper products are a few ways to implement sustainability practices.

A good starting point for label converters that have made the decision to “go green” is to gather as much information as possible on trends and best practices in sustainability. These resources, combined with a converter's specific capabilities and services, will help identify the business and operational implications of developing a sustainability program.


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