New report forecasts strong growth across digital print for packaging sector

The digital packaging printing sector is one of the few rapidly growing arenas of print. Digital print for packaging is valued at $10.5 billion in 2015, the equivalent of some 107 billion A4 prints.

The world market will grow by an average CAGR of 13.6% in constant value (real) terms to 2020, with print volume CAGR of 16.2% globally. Labels account for 80.5% of this value and 93.5% of the printed volume in 2015 but this is changing as new applications for cartons, corrugated, flexibles, rigid plastics and metal decorating are introduced and grow rapidly.

A new report from Smithers Pira – The Future of Digital Print for Packaging to 2020 – forecasts very strong growth across the digital packaging sector over the next five years. Overall packaging markets are growing, with economic upturns in most regions pushing consumer expenditure as the population grows and demographic changes see more single-person households.

Demand is fuelled by reductions in the average run length that makes digital technology increasingly cost-effective against existing analogue printed packaging. However, economic benefits are not the only drivers. Within this sector there is increasing legislative pressure and many innovations bringing new functionality to market. As packaging users find ways of exploiting new functions provided by digital printing its use will grow.

The Future of Digital Print for Packaging to 2020 covers the increasing use of digital print methods in packaging and label production. It provides detailed data on the production output values and printed volumes across the major printing countries and regions from 2010 with forecasts to 2020. The report covers digital printing technologies, predominantly electrophotography and inkjet.

Electrophotography is liquid or powder toner ‘laser’ printing, a contact process that transfers colorant via a charge photoconductor surface. It can be very high quality and is widely used in label production using cut sheet and mainly narrow web formats. The alternative, inkjet, is non-contact, using liquid inks ejected from precision heads onto the substrate and there are various drying mechanisms.

Electrophotography is currently leading the way in print volume terms, but inkjet is forecast to grow faster and overtake the volume of electrophotography in 2018. The non-impact inkjet processes are more suited to printing larger formats on a wide range of substrates, making it more suited to packaging; inkjet can also be integrated into existing conversion lines more easily than electrophotography.

Figure 1 Global digital packaging and label markets by process, 2010-2020 (A4 billion prints or equivalent)

Source: Smithers Pira

Digital packaging demand will continue to grow, offering many advantages to packaging converters, packaging buyers, retailers and most importantly to satisfy consumer demand. New functions enabled by digital print that are valued and useful – such as increasing emotional engagement – are being introduced, as manufacturers launch new equipment and inks/toners. Digital technology can print totally variable data and this can help to increase the bond with consumers and potential customers by tailoring the content for individuals or groups. This can boost the brand status as was the case with Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke with...” campaign. This has proved to be a significant watershed, bringing the capabilities of digital to the attention of brands, converters and designers in how to use packaging as a new tool to engage with potential customers.

The Future of Digital Print for Packaging to 2020 is available now for £4,200. For more information, please contact Stephen Hill on +44 (0)1372 802025 or via e-mail at