A New Definition

Readers of this report will, in all probability, consider themselves to be part of the labeling business — either as a supplier or a converter.

But I would like to challenge everyone to look again at the definition of the word “label” — because that is certainly what the product manufacturers — our end-user customers — are doing.

They are not in the business of buying “labels.” They are looking for product decoration and identification solutions — and that, I believe, is how we should define the labeling industry today.

Why? Because today the constraints on what the label market is exist only in the mind.

Different Needs, Different Labels
The world of packaging has changed, as technologies and materials have changed, and as buyers' needs have changed. A product manufacturer today may be selling the same product in a variety of different containers, in different sizes, and of course, in different quantities. It makes sense to buy the product decoration and identification solution most effective for each.

For really long runs, that might be wet glue labels or wraparound sleeves. For medium to long print runs, self-adhesive labels might be the choice (they remain the world's most-used technology) — but they might just as well be shrink sleeves, with their outstanding esthetic quality. For larger-sized containers, in-mold labeling may be the right choice. And for many applications, direct print onto the bottle or container can be the most effective.

Then there are other alternatives: containers such as flexible pouches or sachets and plastic tubes where the information and decoration normally contained on a label are integral to the package itself.

Today, brand-conscious consumers are driving product manufacturers to choose from a number of technologies — and while this ultimately may threaten self-adhesive labeling's market share, it still represents a major area of opportunity for converters. Advanced narrow and mid-web presses can print a whole range of substrates, from self-adhesive label stocks to unsupported flexible packaging films, toothpaste tube laminates, and even cartonboard. Therefore, a converter is much better placed to offer an enhanced service to customers — particularly now, when just-in-time delivery is often required, and print runs are getting shorter (but repeated more frequently).

So let's redefine the business we're in: It's not labels, it's product decoration and identification — and that opens up a whole new world of business development possibilities.


Corey M. Reardon is president and CEO of AWA Alexander Watson Assoc., headquartered in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, an international market research and marketing consultancy specializing in the packaging, coating, converting, and printing industries. He can be reached at +31 (20) 676 20 69.

This year's AWA Label and Labeling Technology Conference, DecTec 04, will be held in Amsterdam, October 6-8. This established industry forum offers a unique view of the market, involving all the label technologies.

In-depth reference sources include two recent market research studies — “Labeling Markets: North American Sourcebook 2004” and “Labeling Markets: European Sourcebook 2004.” Both provide comprehensive quantitative and qualitative information on current market status, trends, threats, and opportunities. “Labeling Markets: Asian Sourcebook” is to be published in fall 2004.

For further information, visit the AWA Web site: awa-bv.com.



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