Monday, March 24, 2014

A Sustainable Trend


      by Greg Kishbaugh

     The incredible creativity currently driving innovation in sustainable packaging will undoubtedly lead to many new advancements in the coming years. Tom Szaky, author of “Revolution in a Bottle,” recently blogged about some of the trends he foresees in 2014.
     Szaky sees plant-based plastic production increasing, pointing toward a recent partnership between brands like Coco-Cola, Nestle and Nike and the World Wildlife Fund establishing the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance, which is aimed at setting standards for the development of plant-based plastics derived from feedstocks like corn and sugar cane.

     Another huge area that needs to be addressed is that of single-serve coffee pods. The Wall Street Journal estimates that nearly 9 billion of the pods are sold annually, an enormous waste stream as, at the moment, the pods are cannot be easily recycled.     Just more than a year ago, MIT researchers and engineers unveiled LiquiGlide, which could revolutionize the elimination of some forms of food waste. LiquiGlide is a food-safe, slippery coating that can be applied to the inside of any liquid-containing bottle that allows consumers to get every single drop of food from the bottle, leaving absolutely no residue. LiquiGlide has been approved by the FDA and Szaky sees its use growing dramatically.     Finally, he sees two already established trends gaining increased momentum. The need for companies to adopt the “less is more” credo when it comes to packaging will continue to be a focus for CPGs as will the general sense of corporate responsibility. More than 80 percent of consumers are aware of the sustainability of the products they purchase. Szaky points to the How2Recycle Label  program started by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, operated by nonprofit GreenBlue, as an example of how corporations can address this consumer interest in sustainability.

     The labels detail the components of the product’s packaging, and also if each of the materials can be recycled. The Kellogg Company, Minute Maid and Ziploc are among the many companies currently partnering in the program and the list is sure to expand in 2014. As consumers demand more sustainable products, CPGs would be wise to follow the example of the How2Recycle program and find ways to demonstrate to their customers the level of their commitment to sustainability.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Changing Labels


      by Greg Kishbaugh

     In news that could have a far-reaching impact on the U.S. packaging industry, the Food and Drug Administration yesterday proposed changes to the nutrition labels on food packaging. The changes, which were announced by first lady Michelle Obama as a tie-in to the fourth anniversary of her Let’s Move Campaign, reflect concerns about obesity and food quality that were not nearly as prevalent when the labels last were updated in the early 1990s.
     The FDA plans to get input from a host of sources in the next 90 days, including manufacturers and dieticians. When the final requirements are announced, manufacturers will have two years to comply.they come from corn syrup, honey, sucrose or any other source, will be shown in one number.

     The proposed changes include (but are not limited to):
• Calorie counts that are larger and easier for consumers to find.
• Grams of sugar, whether they come from corn syrup, honey, sucrose or any other source, will be shown in one number.
• Serving sizes will be changed to reflect the portions that people typically eat.
     Food companies will naturally raise concerns about the cost of implementing all these changes, but they seem inevitable at this point.
     “Everyone in the industry is going to be affected,” said Regina Hildwine of the Grocery Manufacturers. “Everyone in the industry is going to have to change their labels.”
     Converters that can anticipate the needs of their food customers in dealing with these changes will position themselves as invaluable partners as these new guidelines go into effect.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Finding opportunity alongside other print methods
     It’s no surprise to any designer or converter that brand owners have become very savvy about packaging, and grasp its value in the marketing mix. Quality and consistency in packaging is imperative, along with pressure to reduce packaging costs, while working with shorter print runs. 
     Flexo converters have come a long way improving efficiency, consistency, cost and quality and over the past few years have reached a standard level that allows them to compete against other print methods—gravure and offset. According to PIRA, flexo is the only analog print method that is growing globally. Flexographic printing and converting can often be performed entirely inline, on many materials and substrates, resulting in little waste.      
     This is confirmed by our customers, of whom some report to have made substantial inroads in gravure or offset markets and experienced significant growth.       
     Gravure has been the logical alternative to flexography because of its legacy of print quality and cost effectiveness for large runs—but not shorter ones. And, gravure is not an environmentally friendly print method. For example, printing flexible packaging on a flexo press instead of gravure reduces energy use and CO2 emissions by as much as 50 percent, according to DuPont research. Flexo is also significantly less expensive when considering total cost of ownership against offset. Flexo presses and inks are cheaper, and the costs of operating a flexo press are less expensive than that of an offset press.       
     The reason for all of the recent interest in flexo is exceptional platemaking that can take advantage of developments in new flexo press technology and high line-screen anilox rolls. Great advancements in flexo offer print quality that rivals any other method, cost-effectively.      
     Esko has played a significant part in this trend. Since 2009, hundreds of companies have adopted HD Flexo technology. With HD Flexo, the screen rulings in flexo printing can be increased, while at the same time reducing the size of the smallest printable dot. This is achieved using a special screening technology and 4,000 dpi imaging resolution, resulting in sharper images, smoother tints and a greater color gamut. It also delivers exceptional print quality in highlights, midtones, shadows and solids. High-resolution imaging also creates a textured surface on the plate, improving ink lay-down and increasing ink density on the final print. It raises flexo print quality to a level comparable to gravure, digital print and even offset.        
     Now, with new and further advanced Full HD Flexo technology, enabling the formation of different dot structures in one single plate, the combination of smooth highlight printing and gravure-like solid ink laydown can be achieved.     
     Lurking ahead, one of the challenges to flexo is digital print, where technical and cost advances allow it to compete on longer runs than in the past. We see it happening with labels. However, even here Esko can be helpful. Our front-end system is the preferred ‘driver’ for many digital presses for labels and packaging. Along with matching print quality with HD Flexo, it gives a printer a tactical advantage. The converter can postpone its decision to print a job digitally or conventionally very late in the process depending upon available presses and economics, without any degradation in quality or running the job through prepress again.     
     The best news for flexo is that by working with companies like Esko, quality and economics make it a very viable print technology. And, we intend to keep it that way.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Retail Realities


      by Greg Kishbaugh

     The second week of January saw the National Retail Federation’s annual “Big Show” take place in New York City. The event hosts thousands of retail insiders as they wrestle with the many big questions surrounding the new, increasingly digitized, shopping experience
     According to organizers of the event, for the first time in history the balance of power has shifted away from sellers to consumers, who are more socially connected, mobile and well informed than ever before.
     Retail sales rose nearly 3 percent in the final two months of 2013 but actual store visits declined nearly 15 percent, according to the Associated Press. This means consumers are researching items online before heading to brick and mortar stores.
     In December, online orders jumped 63 percent on December 23 as retailers dropped prices below their in-store Black Friday bargains. Online sales, in total, rose 10 percent in November and December, to $46.5 billion.
     Another amazing statistic for retailers and their packaging partners to consider is that 20 percent of holiday season sales occurred on mobile devices.
     As consumers become increasingly less concerned with  where they shop, retailers need to be ever  more savvy in the ways in which they reach those shoppers.
     John Foley of Oracle Retail believes retailers have to reevaluate the fundamentals of their businesses and how they interact with customers. First of all, seeing as retailers have been collecting massive amounts of data for years, Foley says it’s time to use that data to optimize operations,refine pricing, and anticipate demand. Converters that can add their own analytics will, naturally, be highly sought after.
     Foley also encourages retailers to consider that mobility is more than just smartphones and points to stores in which employees are equipped with tablets that have point-of-sale capabilities.
     In addition, Foley urges retailers to add complete transparency to the consumer in terms of inventory and fulfillment. “It’s one thing to know that you have a pallet of product XYZ in a warehouse somewhere; it’s much better to be able to tell your customer that XYZ is on its way and scheduled to arrive at a nearby store at 8 a.m. tomorrow,” he said.
     Naturally, the packaging companies and CPGs that feed into the supply chain of the retailers will play a vital role in being able to make this idea viable.
     Foley stresses several other key points, including the ways in which customer relations will change, how integration of data across the entire supply chain needs to become more seamless and how retailers can combat “showrooming”, the practice of consumers browsing in brick and mortar stores and then making lower-cost purchases online.
     Retail changes, no doubt, are coming with increasing speed and intensity and the only way retailers stand a chance of keeping pace is to have CPG and package converting companies that are true partners and are knowledgeable about all aspects of this changing landscape.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Augmenting Reality


      by Greg Kishbaugh

     We live in a world of massive technological change. The gadgets we take for granted in our everyday lives would, just a generation ago, have been considered science fiction.
     And increasingly CPGs and retailers are turning to technology to increase awareness of their brands, educate consumers about their products and to connect with their customers.
     Augmented Reality (AR) has been around for a number of years, but the depths to which it can be used to educate (and entertain) consumers is still in its infancy.
     McDonald’s has launched a new AR app called McMission that educates McDonald’s in-store customers and mobile users on the company’s commitment to sustainability.

     The company launched it in tandem with its  third Corporate Responsibility Report. The app features interactive mini-games that teach visitors about the societal and environmental initiatives the company and its franchisees are involved. The app can be launched by scanning the packaging on a number of the company’s products.
     “With McMission we want to bring our guests closer though playful central aspects of sustainability,” said Philipp Wachholz, Director of Corporate Affairs at McDonald’s Germany. “We have chosen Augmented Reality as a technology because it brings together the real restaurant experience with fascinating virtual animation.”
     The app consists of missions that teach users about renewable energy, recycling, the origins of packaging and waste disposal.
Naturally, through the integration of social media, guests can share game achievements via Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.
     As consumers (particularly young consumers) rely more and more heavily on technology, progressive companies will be well served to pay close attention to the ways in which to turn an increasingly digital world to their favor.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Flexo Opportunities


Leo Nadolske

What challenges/opportunities do you feel flexo printers should be focusing on above all others right now?
     Well, projections show a steady increase in flexo for the next few years. So, the challenges need to become opportunities—and the key is providing quality. For instance: new barrier films now available for flexible packaging allow for much more vibrant graphics and address safety concerns—especially in food packaging. Showcasing these capabilities creates great opportunity—especially as consumers continue to demand source reduction in the packaged goods they buy. Flexo converters/package printers can supply a product that is not only eco-friendly, but eliminates contamination issues and could afford their CPG customers with cost reductions.

What significant trends will have the most effect on flexo printers’ businesses in the near future? Are there trends on the horizon that printers should be attuned to?
     If I had to choose one, it would have to be digital flexo printing. For sure this process is a key to growth for flexo converters. It’s no longer in R&D. In fact, one of our sessions in the educational program focuses on digital printing in the converting/packaging arena. CPP’s co-location with Print will provide flexo printers with a birds-eye view of the digital innovations on the horizon.

Are there areas in which flexo is better poised than any other printing methods at the moment to make competitive inroads? If so, what should printers be doing to take advantage of those areas?
     I’d have to say flexo is poised to be a leading process in the food packaging arena. As mentioned earlier, as brands and major retailers listen to their shoppers’ demand for eco-friendly packaging, as well as portion control packaging, we will continue to see bags, pouches, stand-up pouches, as well as “ease-of-use” packaging for individual servings grow exponentially. And, without a doubt, all indicators denote that the preferred printing process for these types of items will be flexo. To take advantage of the growth opportunity, getting educated on the materials that are best-suited and promoting its cost-effectiveness compared to current packaging will secure the greatest results.

What specific opportunities does CPP feel flexo printers will gain from attending the show this year in Chicago?
     Specifically? Innovation! There will be no greater opportunity to see the future than at CPP EXPO co-located with Print in September. The innovations in pre-press and digital that will transfer into package printing will provide an edge to the converters looking to innovate. And, conversely, commercial printers who are immersed in digital are looking to expand into package printing. The opportunities abound for all in attendance!
     So, at the end of the day, CPP EXPO will address the issues keeping your readers up at night now, but will also provide a road map for the future. We look forward to seeing them all in Chicago!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Following The Trends


      by Greg Kishbaugh

     Smithers Pira has released a new report entitled “The Future of Packaging in North America To 2017,” which highlights several primary trends the research company sees driving future growth in the packaging market in the coming year.
     The report predicts that Mexico will show the highest percentage of growth in both the short and mid-term among the North American countries. Mexico is forecast to gain an average 3.1 percent per annum over the course of the next four years, with growth particularly strong in soft drink beverage packaging.

     Paperboard will continue as a market leader for packaging in the coming years. In 2011, the largest share of packaging consumption in North America was paperboard. Corrugated packaging was the fastest-growing sector, growing by 4.7 percent during 2011, and it also accounted for the largest share of board consumption with 64.3 percent. U.S. board packaging sales are slated to grow 0.9 percent per annum on average to reach $51.9 billion in 2017.
     The outlook for industrial packaging is still a bit uncertain as the effects of the European economic crisis on the North American economy remain unclear. Industrial packaging is expected by Smithers Pira to increase 1.2 percent per annum on average by to reach $62.5 million by 2017.
     Finally, the report suggests that retail-ready packaging (packaging that is delivered to retailers in self-contained units immediately ready for on-shelf product display without the need for assembling or unpacking) will show significant growth. Nearly 60 percent of the respondents to a recent Packaging World survey stated they had received increased numbers of requests for retail-ready packaging in the past 12 months.