'Patiently' Awaiting Labelexpo

Patience is a virtue I've tried to cultivate, but I admit that, for me, it's frequently elusive. My family would be among the first to testify to the accuracy of that statement (the term “nag” comes to mind). When it comes to exhibitions, however, I'll admit frequent bouts of dread. For this year's Labelexpo, I will readily pose an exception: It can't come fast enough.

While Labelexpo Americas' 2010 rendition theoretically shouldn't be any different from those of years' past in terms of success, the recession has stymied many a marketing effort. For some, uncertainty still seems to linger in the air, despite encouraging — albeit incremental in certain cases — economic news and continuing growth indicators. As for the label business, while it certainly has slowed from its once double-digit growth, it continues to experience positive gains.

From a recent event held by AWA Alexander Watson Assoc. on June 3 at the Hyatt Hotel in Rosemont, IL, I learned, however, that the pressure-sensitive adhesive industry may find more competition from shrink, stretch, and roll-on-shrink-on (ROSO) label technology. Speaker Denny McGee, president, MPS America, suggested changes in demand could indicate a future shift in the market toward a particular printing technology. While there still is a high demand for letterpress — primarily in Japan and other Asian countries — UV flexo, which may be among the most flexible processes, is finding increasing competition with digital printing. And web offset, which McGee feels represents the highest quality, actually intersects in some capacity on a quality level with gravure, digital, and flexo as well.

What's responsible for these shifts, says McGee, is the brand owners' desire for more frequent graphic and packaging design changes as well as more customization of packaging. In addition, the proliferation of multiple SKUs (stockkeeping unit) also is responsible for this shift toward a particular printing process.

A recent trip to Israel as a guest among other trade publication editors and about 35 HP Indigo digital press customers allowed me an opportunity to learn still more about the impact brand owners are placing on narrow web converters. I invite you to follow my journey on my blog (http://blog.pffc-online.com/yolanda/) where I recount my experiences. What started out in the mid '90s as a revolutionary approach to image replication, employing electrophotography for both commercial print pages and web-fed labels, has evolved just some 15+ years later to handling a whole lot more. Now we're talking shrink, stretch, and ROSO labels, flexible packaging, and folding carton applications. Digital as a process has stepped up quickly — and not just with quality but speed as well. HP has even developed software that will quantitatively determine when analog or digital printing is preferred.

Waiting until September 14 will seem like an eternity for me. See you there.

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