There were nearly 300 installations of narrow web digital presses in Europe last year, exceeding for the first time installations of conventional machines, according to Finat’s Radar report on the European label sector.
Finat is the trade association for pressure sensitive label converters and their suppliers and the Radar report is a twice yearly survey of trends and statistics in the sector, now in its ninth edition. And the investments are not dominated by small low cost machines. Presses with a value of €250,000 accounted for only 10% of the installations while almost 60% were in the €250,000 to €750,000 bracket. €1 million plus investments accounted for 8% of the installations in 2017.
The investment drive is both a result of improved digital printing technology and demands from customers. Being able to offer digital printing is deemed critical by more than 25% of the survey, the most important factor which outweighed working with removable adhesives, low migration inks and being able to produce extended content labels. Only 4% said that digital printing was not important to their business.
The majority of labels continue to be produced on conventional technology. In the 2016 survey, €1,550 million of revenue was attributed to analogue printing with €152 million printed digitally while digital was responsible for an increasing share of sales revenue for label converters. In 2016, Finat found that 31% of its survey cohort had invested in a digital press. While toner continues to out sell inkjet, thanks to the established market share of HP Indigo and Xeikon, inkjet is catching up fast.
The healthiest sectors for label converters have been the prime markets of food, drink and healthcare. However, the report finds that a demand in automotive, consumable durables and industrial chemicals out performed most of the traditional prime markets, with only drinks labels among the top four growth markets.
The key factor behind the investment is a continuing drive for innovation according to Finat president Chris Ellison. Shrink sleeves, pouches and expansion into flexible packaging are key opportunities. He says: “Again and again, brands claim that their label solutions providers offer more innovation and agility over other packaging sector providers, and Finat’s Radar helps our members assess their own performance against the industry average. It helps them make informed decisions about their business strategies going forward.”
For the first time more digital label presses than conventional presses were installed in Europe during 2017 according to Final. However, more labels are produced on standard machines than digital where inkjet is quickly catching up with toner machines.