Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Walmart's Changing Guidelines


      by Greg Kishbaugh

     Recent news from retail giant Walmart has put Consumer Packaged Goods companies on high alert and could have huge ramifications for the flexo industry.
     The announcement, called Master Case Labeling Standards and Expectations, rules out the use of inkjet print on cases for the 14-digit Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) and its accompanying bar code symbol. Instead, Walmart has ordered that only flexo printing will be accepted for the printing of GTIN on corrugated boxes. The company issued a statement saying bar codes printed with inkjet technology are not as consistently legible as those printed flexographically. 

     Additionally, Walmart has also stipulated that it will now require that all four sides of a corrugated case must carry trade item information. In this regard, Walmart’s argument is that store associates are not currently able to get merchandise onto store shelves efficiently enough when the master corrugated cases do not have the trade item information on all four sides or if the printing quality makes it impossible to scan.
     Naturally, this announcement has brought forth many questions and concerns. The use of inkjet allows corrugated providers to keep inventory low and reduce cost in many cases. Through the use of inkjet, converters can use the same same box, for instance, for any number of different flavors or styles of a product, and then use inkjet to indicate the different variations, as well as the applicable GTIN.

     Having to now print GTIN and bar code information on all four sides of a corrugated box will also require converters to make changes to their current production workflow.
     Corrugated converters would be wise to analyze the ways in which this new measure might affect their business and what steps they will need to take to ensure a smooth production transition.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

More Than A Feeling


      by Greg Kishbaugh

     Leaders in the packaging field have long known the connection between visual appeal and a consumer’s desire to purchase a product. Strong graphic design that incorporates bold colors, and elegant use of fonts and illustrations work to reach directly to shoppers as they move down the aisle.
     But the effects of graphic design do not stop at increasing the impulse to buy. Packaging, as well as other sensory components, can actually effect the way consumers experience a product. Many reports have suggested that the same food served from different packages appears to taste differently to consumers.

     Euromonitor International, a London, England-based market research firm, has followed this phenomenon closely. As an example of how packaging can influence the way in which consumers enjoy a product, the company points to a recent experiment performed with yogurt. Simply put, consumers who ate yogurt from a heavier pre-packed bowl rated the yogurt as being more intense, denser and more expensive. This despite the fact that it was exactly the same yogurt served to study participants in lighter bowls.

      The same experiment shows that strawberry-flavored mousse served from a white plate was perceived as more intense, sweeter and was far more preferred than the exact same dessert served on a black plate.
     Something as simple as just changing the color of a particular product, or its packaging, can have a dramatic effect on consumer enjoyment. A University of Oxford experiment found that people served regular popcorn, without any sugar, reported it was sweeter when they ate from a red bowl. When eating unsalted popcorn from blue bowls, respondents reported that it tasted saltier than the exact same popcorn when it was served in a white bowl.
     Packaging experts have theorized that Coke’s decision to temporarily change the color of it cans to white was a commercial failure because the company’s usual color for its products, red, is for more associated in the minds of consumers with sweetness. The design decision was based on a fundraising effort for endangered polar bears but the company had to suspend the campaign when consumers complained that the Coke in the white cans did not taste as good, despite it being the exact same formula.
     Diet Pepsi Twist, which comes in a white can, has shown dramatic sales decrease from $21 million in 2010 in the United States to $3 million in 2015, according to data from Euromonitor.
Running a successful packaging converting operation has always been a challenging endeavor, and its gets increasingly more complicated as the demands of the supply chain grow. Converters must be more than just capable of producing boxes, they have to get inside the minds of the consumers. What drives them to make a purchase? What kinds of packaging designs work best?
And now through multi-sensory integration, converters may also have a direct link to how much consumers actually enjoy a product.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Link In The Chain


      by Greg Kishbaugh

     The supply chain is a complicated organism, composed of millions of variables and moving parts. That is why it has always been important to break down the process whenever possible and analyze the ways in which it can be improved, particularly in regards to environmental impact.
     A new study, A Study of Packaging Efficiency As It Relates to Waste Prevention, analyzed more than 300 containers in 56 different grocery categories to understand their overall level of sustainability and efficiency.
     The study examined credited packages for source reduction, recyclability, and use of recycled materials. The methodology, findings, and conclusions were reviewed by the Laboratory of Manufacturing and Sustainability at the University of California, Berkeley.
     “There are three legs on the sustainability stool—economic, environmental, and social,” said Report Editor Robert Lilienfeld. “The study clearly shows that, over the past 20 years, packaging has evolved to more effectively deliver on these sustainability requirements.”
     The report found that source reduction remains a primary driver in reducing packaging waste, all of which conserves materials and energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
     Recovery for recycling continues to play an important role in reducing the impact of packaging on the environment. Paperboard cartons, steel and aluminum cans, beverage bottles made from PETE, high-density polyethylene, and glass are collectively recycled at a 34.2 percent rate today, up from 25.7 percent in 2005. The level of primary packaging recycling, according to the report, is now equal to the recovery rate for total waste, and is the primary reason that the total recovery rate increased from 31.4 percent in 2005 to 34.3 percent today.
     The report’s revelation is an interesting example of a positive societal trend leading to unattended consequence in terms of packaging. As consumers move toward more active and healthier lifestyles, they look toward products that offer convenience and weight control solutions.
     Unfortunately, the resulting packages can lead to inefficiencies as they generally require smaller sizes for those seeking portion control or increased functionality for ready-to-eat, ready-to-serve, and out-of-home product solutions.
     “In general, the environmental impact of food is up to 10 times greater than the impact of its packaging,” said Lilienfeld. “So a bit more portion control or ready-to-eat food packaging can actually reduce waste, as these packages ensure that the food inside is actually eaten, rather than thrown away.”

Friday, January 29, 2016

Providing Protection


      by Greg Kishbaugh

     In a retail environment that increasingly requires packages to be de facto salespeople, explaining everything about the product inside, it can often seem as if we have forgotten the original intention and purpose of packaging, that of protection.
     World demand for protective packaging is projected to increase 6.1 percent annually to nearly $27 billion in 2018, according to a study from The Freedonia Group.
     This growth represents a significant improvement over statistics from the period between 2008 and 2013, when demand slacked off in many of the world’s largest markets, including the United States, Japan and Western Europe. Manufacturing has surged in all of these areas, however, and this new activity is expected to boost demand for protective packaging.

     Another key driver of the market’s expansion is the continued growth in Internet retailing.
     Because the Asia-Pacific region still possesses several large developing economies, it is expected to grow at a faster clip than other regions around the globe.
     “China will remain the largest market in the region and post rapid advances even as its economic growth begins to decelerate from the remarkable pace of the past few decades,” according to analyst Mike Richardson.

     The Africa/Mideast region and Eastern Europe will also experience above average growth, though both will remain fairly small regional markets. Advances are expected to be below the global average in North America and Western Europe.
     Environmentally friendly protective packaging will be at the forefront of growth opportunities, particularly in developed countries, as will the explosive expansion of Internet-based shopping, which continues to grow at a pace that outstrips retail activity.
     According to Freedonia, the e-commerce has created immense opportunities for manufacturers of protective packaging materials. Without question, online retail is a relatively small minority compared to brick and mortar shopping, but its share is expanding more rapidly as retailers expand their e-commerce presence, Internet accessibility continues to increase, and ownership of smartphones and other mobile devices grows. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Out With The Old


      by Greg Kishbaugh

     As a new year dawns, it seems appropriate to look ahead at what may be in store for the packaging industry. Mintel, the London, England-based market research firm has done just that, releasing what it feels are the six key trends that will impact the global packaging markets over the next year.

     Consumer demand for clean labeling will gain momentum, Mintel forecasts, placing converters in a bit of a Catch-22. For while converters state they want more information on packages so they can make more informed decisions, consumers also are conversely demanding that their packaging is less cluttered. This provides a great challenge to converters in the new year as they struggle to get more data on packaging, while simultaneously making it look ‘cleaner’.
     The encroachment of flexible packaging into areas typically dominated by other forms of packaging will continue. Converters will discover innovative ways to incorporate flexible packaging — possibly hybrids with rigid packaging — to ensure greater functional and environmental benefits.
     As comes as no surprise, the environment and eco-friendly packaging is predicted to remain at the forefront of concerns for consumers. Increasingly it is becoming clear that consumers are basing purchasing decisions on the environmentally sound attributes of a products’ packaging. Brands and converters must continually — and aggressively — strive to remain innovative in the ways they approach sustainability.
     As a subset of the environmental issue, Mintel sees converters
ability to produce right-sized packages as gaining importance to consumers in the new year.
     Mintel see mobile-engaged packaging (already a tremendous source of innovation) to make further inroads in 2016. As brands seek more efficient and effective ways to engage with consumers, the mobile environment will be at the forefront of efforts to win customer loyalty.
     Finally, digital printing, Mintel believes,will continue to create opportunities for brands to engage consumers on a local and personal level.
     “There’s a parallel path between brands striving to engage consumers on a more personal level and consumers’ expectations for packaging to deliver that experience,” David Luttenberger, Global Packaging Director at Mintel, said.“Digital print that creates ‘hyper’ personal experiences; clean-label messaging that enhances brand transparency and builds purchasing confidence; eco-responsible packaging that empowers social consciousness; next-gen hybrids that offer functional and environmental benefits alongside great shelf presence; right-sized product packaging that meets consumer needs and shifting use-occasions; and apps that support ‘mobile-engaged’ packaging. These are the key themes we see resonating with consumers in 2016. Brands and manufacturers are innovating packaging to keep global consumers engaged and to develop brand loyalty which is becoming more and more intangible in an age where consumers have more choices than ever across all packaged goods.”

Monday, November 30, 2015

Growing Awareness


      by Greg Kishbaugh

     A number of trends promise to drive the global packaging industry forward in the coming months. According to the Global Packaging Trends Report for 2015, sponsored by the Australian Packaging & Processing Machinery Association (APPMA), three prime trends are influencing every region: growing consumer awareness of health and wellness, stronger influence of recycling and environmental issues, and increasing disposable income and purchasing power. 

     Increased urbanization, convenience, smaller pack sizes, branding strategies, Internet retailing, and premiumisation — the demand for better and more expensive variants — are regional trends that are gaining traction.
     “These trends are affecting packaging because they’re driving consumers’ purchasing choices,” said Mark Dingley, Chairman, APPMA. “Recyclability and reusability of packaging are dominant trends and the report is predicting that this will continue.”
     Predictions for the Middle East and Africa markets are very strong with 5.3 percent Compound Annual Growth Rate  in volume anticipated. Forecasts for Western Europe and North America are not as robust, coming in at 0.4 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively.
Growth in Asia Pacific is predicted to be strong, as well, at 4.3 percent CAGR.
     Despite being a mature market, North America will see many opportunities as consumers develop increased interest in sustainable products.
     Globally, flexible plastic accounts for 29 percent of the market. PET bottles accounts for 12 percent of the market but is expected to be among the fastest growing, with 4.7 percent CAGR. Bottled water is expected to add 135 billion units through 2019, accounting for 54 percent of the absolute volume growth in PET bottle use.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Staying Lean


       Kevin Wilken

     As we continue our ever-evolving journey as an industry and a company, I’ve had the privilege to learn quite a bit over the past year. Our industry continues to see consolidation, from the expanding reach of multi-national corporations to vibrant activity at the local and regional levels as niche brands and ‘boutique’ products emerge from the increasingly popular ‘farm to table’ and ‘buy local’ concepts. Both ends of the spectrum offer a lot of opportunity for printing and converting shops to carve out their own approach to supporting these market spaces. 

     To meet these ever-changing printed label and package demands, converters are more eager to invest in their operations while keeping workflows streamlined and Lean. They are looking for partners who understand their unique needs and will work closely with them to meet those needs. This means much more than advanced equipment. It includes a demand for access to knowledgeable, experienced people, able to help solve unique problems or work alongside the converter to optimize not only their equipment but develop sustainable, profitable operations.
     At Mark Andy, we continue to evolve as well, organizing ourselves to be a partner to printers and converters, fully supporting their productivity and profitability needs. This goes beyond our renowned and on-going commitment to designing and building the most relevant equipment for our industry.  Today, we are cultivating an organization able to support any aspect of print and pressroom workflows. Our goal is to be accessible and available every day to:
     • Educate converters with the best printing practices and maintenance training — Mark Andy University.
     • Share knowledge and expertise in response to day-to-day challenges from applications to automation — Mark Andy and Rotoflex’s vast engineering proficiency.
     • Provide the right supplies and consumables to keep your daily workflow running smooth — Mark Andy Print Products.

     Our Performance Series in-line flexo presses continue to set the pace with a high quality print platform that delivers productivity, reduced waste and enhanced profitability. These are proven deliverables as this quarter we close in on our 450th Performance Series installation. As we continue to develop this popular technology, an enhanced P3 S model will launch this year, which will grant an even wider range of converters access to the key benefits others have already discovered with the P Series platform.
      Advancing technology comes in our Rotoflex line of offline finishing as well. From new features including RMS, a Report Management System, which collects all data related to the inspection and drive system and consolidates it for analysis and future planning, to biometric recognition, which allows users different levels of machine access based on their organizational role (operator, supervisor, maintenance), Rotoflex technology is focused on automation and production tools to enhance pressroom productivity.
     Digital printing continues to evolve, and Mark Andy is vigorously committed to building equipment that drives serious, measurable success for the converter. New digital platforms must be smart, flexible and most importantly, adaptable and expandable to navigate the rapidly changing label and packaging landscape. Mark Andy’s Digital Series delivers the needed integration of multiple technologies, seamlessly combining the best of digital inkjet printing and key value-added features. The Digital Series enables flexibility and custom solutions to meet the unique needs of the varying business models we see in our industry today. It is a logical equipment strategy that embraces the on-going needs of the converter.
     As Mark Andy looks to the future, it is our aim to ‘be the supplier of choice throughout the product life cycle, offering high quality, innovative solutions that drive customer profitability.’ We are working very hard to be a Total Solutions Partner.
     We look forward to seeing where we can help guide the industry next.