There is no place on earth like the Middle East. Populated by diverse and sometimes polarizing cultures, the atmosphere is intense. Religion, politics and economics are always hot topics, and the region perpetually makes headlines. And when it comes to the label industry, the Middle East is emerging, like Latin America and Asia, yet also is somewhat insulated from the Western world. That is a differentiating factor, and perhaps one that fuels growth and protects the region from some of the economic problems that have confounded Europe and North America in recent years.
According to Pira International, a strategic consulting firm for the global paper, packaging, printing and publishing industries, the label business in the Middle East has increased from about $150 million in 2000 to $225 million in 2009, and generally remained stable in the face of the global recession between 2008 and 2009. Regarding the label industry, Pira reports: "Continued growth is anticipated in the sector over the next five years with total expenditure expected to reach almost $340 million in 2015, measured at constant 2009 prices. Saudi Arabia will account for about half of this market."
In general, the firm says that demand for labels in the region is seeing sustained growth, fueled by a number of factors, including an increasingly urbanized population, and growing demand for processed foods. Also, "the ongoing modernization of traditional retailing and a number of government incentives to promote non-oil industries are in turn encouraging growth in the food and FMCG industries," states Pira International.
With the growing label market, there is also an increasing demand for higher quality graphics, the firm reports, which is not only to satisfy more discerning local consumers, but also in export markets where products compete for global shelf space in the world's supermarkets. "In this respect," Pira reports, "traditional print processes such as offset, gravure and flexography currently dominate the higher graphics end of the market, although advances in electrophotographic and inkjet technology will see this dominance eroded over the medium to long term."
Equipment and processes
Some suppliers, and even some of the region's converters, attest that specific areas of growth in the Middle East can be difficult to quantify. However, professionals within the region, as well as abroad, concur that the growth is real, and hard evidence can be found in equipment purchasing.
"The label market has been experiencing year over year growth and equipment sales have soared almost 100 percent," says Diana El Kara, press officer for Dynagraph, a printing equipment supplier headquartered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. She also notes that growth has taken place in countries where it was least expected, namely Jordan and Lebanon. "Dominant players in the Middle East are Mark Andy, Gallus and Nilpeter. Others are present, however, and their impact on the industry happens to be regional-for example, Gidue leads the Jordanian market with its Combat press."
Shyam Babu, managing director of Nilpeter Middle East, discusses the...