Customer engagement provides key opportunity for digital print in packaging, says survey

A survey of leading figures in the packaging print industry has found that over half see the relationships with consumers as the key motivator for adopting digital print into packaging production lines.

This research was carried out by Smithers Pira, when it canvassed the opinions of more than 120 delegates at its fourth Digital Print for Packaging Europe Conference in Berlin on 8-9 December, 2015.

Delegates from across the digital print supply chain contributed their insight at Digital Print for Packaging Europe 2015 - Source Smithers Pira

A total of 53% of respondents identified consumer engagement as the top motivator for brands investing in toner- and inkjet-printed packaging. A quarter saw cost-efficiency as the main driver; while 14% felt the ability to reduce risk during new product launches was the primary motivator. 

Price premium

For print service providers that are investing in a new generation of high-performance digital presses the survey had a positive message, with an overwhelming majority seeing brands spending more to access the marketing advantages digital print can offer. Forty four percent of respondents believe brands will be willing to pay an extra 10% for the increased flexibility and marketing opportunities digitally printed packaging offers. Another 24% were even more enthusiastic, believing brands would be prepared to pay a premium of 25% on top of their conventional print unit price.

The remaining 32% or responses were divided equally between those believing digital print could command a 5% increase, and those believing brands would accept no increase in price.

The survey reported the biggest business opportunity (47%) for packaging and label printers was to take short run print jobs off conventional presses – saving on set-up and changeover times. This was followed by 32% who saw customisation and personalisation as offering the highest potential.

Beyond that, a small segment of respondents – 11% – envisaged digital completely replacing conventional techniques, such as screen and gravure print.

Barriers to adoption  

While already well established in label printing, a number of technical and business challenges remain before digital print can be expected to revolutionise other packaging segments.

There was no consensus from the delegate survey, but the barrier cited most frequently was cost (29%). This was followed by uncertainty on how to adapt digital print technologies (24%), difficulty in obtaining regulatory compliance for digital inks (20%), and an inability to connect with the right partners to introduce the technology (18%).

As these barriers are removed, independent market data from Smithers Pira predicts digital print in packaging will nearly double in value over the next five years. The recently published Smithers report – The Future of Digital Print for Packaging to 2020 – sees a total global market worth $19.8 billion (€18.4 billion) in 2020, up from $10.5 billion in 2015.

What is the true value of digital print in packaging? – Over two thirds of respondents consider it is worth at least a 10% increase in price paid

Pack formats

The penetration of digital printing into packaging has been led by the labels segment, in 2015 Smithers estimates that it was responsible for 80.5% of total global market value and 93.5% of the printed volume.

Lucrative though this format has been, only 13% of Digital Print for Packaging Europe 2015 delegates saw this as the biggest opportunity moving forward. Remaining responses were split between three pack formats. Flexible plastic packaging led (33%), with corrugated board and folding cartons each receiving 27% of votes.

No delegates saw the primary opportunity in metal or rigid plastic packaging.

The Future of Digital Print for Packaging to 2020 bears out this data with corrugated, flexibles, and folding cartons – especially the latter two – all recording higher annual growth than labels over the next five years.

The survey went on to find that food (38%) and beverages (31%) are viewed as most profitable end-use segments. Industrial packaging and pharmaceutical and medical applications were in joint third place with 13% each; only 6% of respondents saw cosmetics and personal care as offering the biggest opportunity.

Click here for more information on the report The Future of Digital Print for Packaging to 2020.
Click here to download the full survey of delegates to Digital Print for Packaging Europe 2015.