Digital printing for packaging value to hit US$31.6B in 2024

The market value for digital packaging and label printing is on the rise, taking it from US$18.9 billion in worth in 2019 to a projected US$31.6 billion in 2024, according to a report.

A recent Smithers Pira report, around the future of digital print for packaging, found that this growth is at a compound annual growth rate of 11.1 per cent and accounts for 6.38 per cent of all printed packaging by value in 2024.

It added that the area printed will grow at a CAGR of 13.1 per cent between 2019 and 2024, to the equivalent of 383.6 billion A4 prints.

“The digital print market has more than doubled over the past five years in value and print volume, making digital packaging the most dynamic and fastest-growing part of the print market as corrugated, cartons, flexibles and rigid plastics follow the more established digital label production sector,” the report identified.

According to the report, digital print is increasingly being used to print labels, corrugated, cartons, flexibles, rigid plastic and metal packaging, taking share from analogue print methods such as litho, flexo and gravure.

“[It] is opening up totally new opportunities. Technology developments have allowed converters to install digital print equipment that delivers high-quality output, suitable for particular applications, cost-effectively and at high productivity,” it stated.

The report also outlined a few key trends affecting the market. They include:

Economic short runs – With the average run length of label and packaging jobs decreasing, brands refrain from tying up capital in stocks that may not be used. Instead, they bring new product launches and new brands to market, resulting in more short runs. The report stated that digital’s ability to produce short runs economically has changed the label sector and is affecting the packaging market.

Engagement – Companies are increasingly using digital print to create personalised labels and packs, or versions to appeal to sections of the market, said the report. By doing so, they increase their market share in a specific campaign, while generating positive consumer reaction and approval.

Legislation – The report stated that increasing legislation pressures on content and identification are driving the information content on many packs and labels. In many regions, there are strict rules on the information that has to be on a pack, meaning label and packaging must accurately represent the contents.

Security and brand protection – The capability of printing unique personalised information on a pack or label provides new security capabilities, with validation that an identifier is genuine through a database look-up.

Design for digitally printed packaging –Currently, the packaging creation supply chain is complex, regardless of the graphic content.

Supply chain benefits – Packaging supply chains have developed, with the great majority of packaging and labels produced by specialist converters who deliver a variety of materials, in addition to filling the packs and applying labels, and adding any coding like batch identification and best before dates, as required.

Digital printing technology complementing analogue As the number of digital presses installed at converting operations has grown, the report said digital capability can directly boost the performance of analogue printing equipment. As run lengths fall, printing times on large litho offset and flexo machines fall too, with more time spent in changeovers and make-readies. This is said to reduce the saleable capacity of the installed base of equipment.

Sustainability – The circular economy is becoming mainstream, with supply chains under examination to reduce resource consumption wherever possible.

Barriers to digital adoption – The report stated that some barriers to digital adoption include high costs of jobs, problems with design and prepress, colours not matching, inks not being compatible with substrates, and drying problems.

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