Stuart Kellock, Owner of Label Apeel shares his thoughts on digital print, the next big trends and whether being sustainable is still crucial for business.
What is next for digital print?
In labels and packaging the next step has got to be educating the end user, the marketeers and the brand owners about what is available to them.
Pumping the market with presses does nothing for the innovation being applied. For me, it will be those who can apply themselves to new and innovative applications that will be the winners. Those who are merely using digital presses to produce labels that could be done using conventional, will find that the unseen costs quickly catch up with them, and that the competition very quickly becomes a bit hot to justify the expenditure. We have already seen this model play out in the commercial sheet fed world with disastrous outcomes for some of the less innovative businesses.
Has personalised packaging had its day?
No, personalised packaging is here to stay. With any amount of luck we can all stop treating it as the be all and end all of what digital has to offer. Yes, coke and Absolute Vodka have done some smashing stuff with personalisation, but is it really innovative? I remember 12 years ago turning up to an event and being presented with a bottle of personalized beer. Personalisation is not innovative; the scale of the personalisation that these companies demonstrated was innovative. Digital has so much more to offer and it is only once we can get past personalization, will we start to develop and understand what that is.
Three big packaging trends and techniques for 2015?
I think that 2015 will see a return to fantastic photography being used in packaging. The last few years we have seen bold colour stamping the mark of brands, I think we could see a return of photographic imagery. The challenge for printers will be to get the consistent reproduction quality that is going to be demanded of the designers.
Digital moving in to wide web packaging is going to be something that will be great to watch for those of us not involved and a challenge for those in the market. A continuation of the drive for tactile finishes and added decoration will be how brands make themselves stand out from the crowds.
Is social media having an effect on the print industry?
Social media is having less effect directly on printers than it is having on our customers. This is particularly true of printers like us, who work with small batch exclusive brands. Prior to digital, these brands could not afford the labelling and packaging of the big boys. Now their packaging looks amazing, fresh and desirable. This in conjunction with far reaching social media as a sales tool means that smaller niche brands are having an impact on the market place.
It is no coincidence that we see large brewers launching their own craft breweries or the distillers doing short run exclusive lines. The little guys are having an impact and eroding the big boys market, they are being forced to respond. Social media is allowing this to happen.
Sustainability – is it still a crucial battleground or are brands less worried about their green credentials?
Brands were ever so worried about their green credentials while it was the printer and other suppliers picking up the tab. Then, came the financial downturn of 2008 and the focus was taken elsewhere.
We have seen a return to a concern for sustainability over the past two years and I think now that concern is far more effective. It comes from a real and pragmatic position, rather than a dictatorial (because the marketing bod says we have got to.) Printers now recognise that by reducing waste and by buying sustainably they are able to improve their own business while delivering the real change the planet needs.
We no longer have half-hearted conversations about recycled paper. Our conversations now are about reducing packaging, reducing waste, eliminating landfill and reducing energy consumption from a position that creates a win for all the stakeholders.