Short run markets: the desire for attractive, personalized packaging is fueling the digital-driven segment.

Author:Hrinya, Greg

The growth of digital printing in the label industry has strongly influenced the short run market. As the demand for shorter runs increases, so too does the demand for digital print technology.

During the turn of the century, when flexo was king and digital was in its infancy, converters were hesitant to move away from conventional processes for a multitude of reasons. For starters, outside-the-box label creativity typically meant higher costs. If a brand owner wanted to run a number of shorter batches, it needed to invest in higher-cost plates. Additionally, smaller label markets did not seem as viable or profitable to make digital printing worthwhile.

Those concerns are dissipating by the day, however. As Coca-Cola illustrated with its "Share a Coke with ..." campaign, unique and personalized designs generate a substantial buzz. According to Forbes, 61% of American consumers feel more positive about brand marketing when the messages are personalized.

Personalized messages would not be practical with conventional flexo printing because of the large costs associated with plate making, especially if an order only required a minimal amount of prints.

Many of the other fears associated with smaller digital runs have been put to rest, as well. Companies are no longer sacrificing quality when making the transition to digital, and the production occurs in a faster timeframe. Moreover, on-demand printing features less waste. There is no need to warehouse surplus stock, which often affects cost margins.

Accessibility is also a critical aspect of this market. Major brands like Coca-Cola are not the only ones that can benefit from short runs. Specialty foods, seasonal products, nutraceuticals, medical supplies, cosmetic and personal care products, water bottles, organic produce and craft beers are all taking advantage of digital's capabilities. Many brands within these markets are avoiding setup fees and tooling charges with short run digital print.

A short run starts at one label, for prototyping, for example. And with enhancements in digital press technology, some converters today consider as many as 10,000 labels a short run.

According to The Freedonia Group, the demand for labels in the United States is expected to surpass $19 billion in 2017, with an annual growth rate of4.2%.To further this, the demand for digitally produced material will increase some 375% by 2018, according to a report from Smithers Pira.

"There are three megatrends among brand owners that support the growth of...

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