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The Value Proposition for Digital Package Printing; Part Two – The Two-Track Approach

In Part One of The Value Proposition for Digital Package Printing, we discussed the operations (material and operations planning) and marketing benefits relating to digital printing. Recognizing the reality of this operations and marketing dual purpose for digital, we break the compelling reasons for digital printing in packaging into two tracks.

  • Track 1– Utilizes digital printing capabilities where it can eliminate cost and relieve operational issues.
  • Track 2 – Utilizes digital printing capabilities where it can provide marketing advantages.


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Is Digital Printing for Corrugated Packaging; The Holy Grail or Third Rail?

My first exposure to digital printing for Corrugated Packaging occurred when I joined Inland Container.  This occurred in late 2000, and Inland was in the process of developing a prototype digital press to evaluate the potential for digital printing in Packaging.  At that time, technology options were extremely limited, and the resulting image quality was at best suitable for printed stock boxes.  Still clear is the excitement; confusion and disbelief in the eyes of a customer when we showed them how they could design packaging, press a button, and see the packaging production begin in less than 90 seconds.  Job changes were managed on the fly, with versioning occurring without stopping production. The final, Aha moment occurred when the cartons were printed with a picture of each participant, each carton within the run different, at production speed. The reaction was as they say, priceless.  The problem is, and continues to be, priceless is an emotion; and emotions will not pay the bills!  Welcome to the digital promise!  The question needing to be answered is; how and when can we pay the bills with digital printing?

Our firm Karstedt Partners consults with a wide variety of companies at many levels within the Packaging Supply Chain.  Forecasting and projecting the technical requirements necessary for success with digital technologies in Packaging applications is one area we are quite familiar with.  We regularly speak with converters involved in high end graphics.  These converters consistently speak of 15%-20% of high graphics jobs being a better fit for digital printing.  Order volume is just one of the reasons frequently cited, others include difficult job set-ups, addressing urgent customer needs/lead time issues, and reduced cost.  Converters who currently have digital assets also speak to the eventual development of discreet digital markets.  These converters believe widespread access to digital printing, combined with a desire among Brand Owners to expand the use of print in promotional events, may grow high graphics demand by 20%-40% over time.  The concept of a discreet digital market is not unique to Corrugated Packaging, and has developed in virtually every segment digital printing participates in.  In Commercial Printing, the discreet market has developed around variable data, enabling customers to personalize printed literature.  In Labels, the discreet digital market has developed around JIT initiatives supporting new product launches, initial production requirements leading to full production, end of life product management, and packaging enhancements adding additional color.  Brand Owners, especially smaller Brands, consistently state the desire to extend beyond two color printing, but lack the budget to do so.  Digital printing enables the addition of color at little to no expense.  If you are printing in blue today, and wish to replace some of the blue with red, digital printing can easily accommodate that, without adding expense.   In our discussions with digital technology developers and Corrugated Converters, we define the current available US market for digital participation at approximately $1 billion dollars at the converters selling price.  The current market will most likely expand to a $2-$3 billion dollar market fairly quickly, based on the capabilities of the press.  Even at $3 billion dollars, digital printing is about 10% of the overall corrugated market, so why bother?  Our response is competitive advantage and profitability.

How do you build competitive advantage and profitability through a niche digital offering?  First, digital printing will not be a niche offering.  In the context of the overall Corrugated Market, digital printing will not have a commanding presence.  In the context of High Graphics Corrugated, digital printing has the opportunity to be a significant participant. Keep in mind, digital printing is potentially a “disruptive technology”.  By definition, disruptive technologies have the capability to be game changers.  In my first days at Inland a senior sales executive made the following comment, “if we make digital printing about the ability to print a box, we all lose”.  Converters have sufficient options for printing a corrugated box.  What is lacking is a print technology capable of addressing process inefficiencies, directly or indirectly related to the expanded process for corrugated printing, design, procurement and brand strategy.  Digital printing offers several unique advantages in this area. What are the process inefficiencies that you or your customers are struggling with?  How can digital printing be used to address them?  I was visiting with a company that manufactures air filters for the automotive aftermarket when an urgent call came in from their Sales Manager in Canada.  Their largest Canadian retailer had just stumbled upon the fact that the packaging they were receiving from the filter company was not printed in both English and French.  They were advised they would lose the business unless they could have new packaging on the shelf in two weeks.  Over 80 SKUs were involved, and the GM was not optimistic about the ability of their suppliers to respond in such a tight time frame, not to mention the expense for managing that many revisions.  Now, imagine if you had digital printing capability, even to manage the interim requirements while you completed the overall packaging transition.  A digital printer could be printing packaging within hours.  How often is your business confronted with similar issues?  What capabilities do you have to respond?  Competitive advantage can be obtained in a variety of ways.  Few truly obtain cost advantage, but many act like they have it.  Product advantage, when similar materials and processes are utilized is hard to obtain, much less sustain.  Service advantages built around digital processes have the ability of extending from product design to inventory and replenishment strategies. And, service advantages are sustainable with digital printing.

Second is the ability for digital printing to impact profitability.  We see several ways for digital printing to enhance profitability:

  1. Incremental sales through enhanced service and product capabilities
  2. Leveraging your ability as a problem solver into additional business opportunities that fit your business
  3. Participation in the development of the “discreet digital” market
  4. Attacking areas of operational inefficiency being created through SKU proliferation.

We have covered the first three items, let’s address the fourth.  In a high graphics environment, what is the impact on your operational cost when job set-ups increase by 10%, but volume remains constant?  What if the number is 30%?  We know, you would identify and capture the resulting inefficiency, and charge the customer accordingly, correct?   If so, you are in the minority.  Even simple moves, like moving four-five set-ups per day from your existing operation to a digital press may free up a shift per day for production, rather than set-up.  We have had a number of converters, after working with them to assess digital opportunities, state that digital printing may be the lowest capital investment for adding incremental or peaking capacity, in addition to the other potential advantages of digital printing.  Resist the desire to do a side-by-side comparison on the cost of print between analog and digital presses.  Instead, look at the value generated when you use a digital press for operational relief, the results may surprise you.

For digital printing to succeed and be in a position to impact a converters business as described above, the technology must be able to participate in production job requirements. What is required?  Current flatbed capabilities generally fall into a range of 5,000-6,500 square feet per hour. This range needs to increase to 25,000 to 30,000 square feet per hour, and help is on the way.  Barberan, a company located in Spain, has introduced a single pass UV press capable of printing on sheets with a maximum dimension of 59.5” x 144” at a speed of 178 linear feet per minute.  This output rate equates to over 50,000 square feet per hour, production capable for sure.  We know little about this press or the company, other than what is on their website, but it is indicative of what the future may hold.  Seven years ago there were five to seven digital companies exhibiting at label Expo.  At last month’s Label Expo there were over 30 companies promoting digital printing solutions.   HP has been a long term participant in developing packaging solutions, other well-known industry leaders such as Kodak, Epson, Konica Minolta, Oce/Canon, Xerox, FujiFilm and Screen have either introduced products for packaging, or have announced their intentions to do so.  At last year’s drupa exposition, traditional analog manufacturers such as Bobst, KBA, Heidelberg and ManRoland announced partnerships with digital developers.  Over the next five years we anticipate a host of solutions, addressing both sheet fed, and web fed requirements, as both stand-alone and in-line solutions.

Dr. Geoffrey Moore is the author of several well-known books addressing all facets of disruptive technologies.  Dr. Moore uses the following diagram to explain the technology progression.

The chasm is where most new products die, as they fail to move from early adopters to the early majority, or the mainstream market.  Flatbed digital technology has established a beachhead in corrugated packaging, but it is clear the output of these products is not sufficient to gain the interest of mainstream markets.  The next generation of technology has garnered the attention of mainstream markets, but it still needs to deliver.  Digital printing in Labels has either passed through the chasm, or is close to passing.  New press technology targeting Folding Carton has caught the attention of mainstream Folding Carton Converters.  Efforts in Flexible Packaging are developing.  The combined efforts in all four markets have caught the attention of the Brand Owner, and they are now preparing for a future with digital printing.  Coca Cola gained a lot of positive press this summer by launching a campaign in Europe for several Coca Cola soft drinks through a promotional campaign combining traditional media such as print and TV with interactive promotions through social media and the Coca Cola website.  The cornerstone of the initiative was the use of digitally printed labels enabling Coca Cola to personalize the cans with the most popular names in designated regions.  Yes, the consumer was able to purchase the product with their name on the can.  In his books, Dr. Moore speaks about the dangers to companies who are late in adopting disruptive technologies.  The value of competitive differentiation enables those with the differentiation to participate, while effectively locking out those without the differentiation.  Sustainable differentiation means the competitive advantage endures, assuming you leverage the early gains into other areas of competitive advantage.  Digital value propositions focused on print deliver short-term competitive advantage.  Digital value propositions focused on upstream and downstream process advantages, both internally and externally create sustainable competitive advantage.  If you are a participant in High Graphics Corrugated, you may not desire to be the first to enter, but can your business really afford to be late?

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Jeff Wettersten is President of Karstedt Partners, consultants to the Packaging Supply Chain.  Karstedt Partners work with technology developers, retailers, brand owners converters/printers and suppliers in strategy development, product and market commercialization strategy, process optimization, and sales training.  Jeff may be reached through e-mail at Jeff@karstedt.com or www.Karstedt.com.

This article was originally published on WhatTheyThink.com at: http://whattheythink.com/articles/66614-digital-printing-corrugated-packaging-holy-grail-third-rail/

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WTT: Update from Benny Landa on Digital Press for Folding Cartons

Print 13 started out very nicely for me as my first official meeting was a breakfast meeting on Sunday morning with Benny Landa and three of my “packaging” colleagues, Danielle Jerschefske of Labels and Labeling Magazine, Pat Reynolds of Packaging World and Yolanda Simonsis of YTC Media. At the very relaxed event at a downtown Chicago hotel, Benny (as I now call him because we are “buds”) shared with us the updates on the packaging versions of the new nanographic digital press line that was introduced at drupa last year.

Kevin Karstedt and Benny LandaComing out of drupa last year I had a pragmatic set of expectations set for the release of the Landa presses to the world. This kind of technology is not easy to bring from the lab to the production floor, my feeling is that drupa was about 12 months early, but that could not be adjusted. So the early print sample quality (and the problems I saw in what they were showing) and aggressive target for beta were just that, samples and targets. I expected the quality to rise and the beta to slip so the announcement over eggs and toast that beta for the first press would be Q4 or 2014 and impressive print samples did not surprise me. What did surprise me a bit was that the first press would be the S10FC with FC standing for Folding Carton. We in packaging are so used to getting commercial printings hand-me-downs, it was a breath of fresh air to hear we were FIRST on the docket. It makes sense in that the FC does not have to print on both sides (duplex) for most carton applications so getting one sided printing commercially acceptable is the first hurtle and one we in packaging can handle just fine. Another nice thing is that the S10 frame can handle a sheet size of about 41” by 29.5” (updated on September 24th) or as they like to say “B1”; which is another pet peeve of mine, “drop the ‘Bs’ when you talk packaging”, lets see if it gets through this time…

There will be numerous articles written on this topic but few will have the “packaging spin” that this one will as I will focus on the items my readers are most interested in. I suggest you read the article by my colleague, Cary Sherburne, also on WTT, to get her keen insights; she was invited to a special session at Print13 for the commercial side of the house. Included with her article is the Landa Press Release around these announcements.

So here are my observations and comments:

New ink “ejectors” – I think it interesting that they continue to call them “ejectors” when the rest of the world calls them inkjet heads but that is part of the mystique of Landa. The resolution of the “ejectors” has gone from the drupa 600 dpi to 1200 dpi today. Speculation is that this is being done with new Kyocera heads, ooops, ejectors, but that was not confirmed or denied when I asked. This is likely one of the key reasons they have been able to increase print quality as much as they have. It is also a reason they will be able to control nozzle dropout problems as the systems go online.

The Quality “S” Curve – Shared with us was a graph they use to show where they were and are going related to print quality. They fully admit the quality has been sub-par and needs to improve. On the curve you can see they feel they are almost at “offset” quality and plan on being will within that range by next years beta. Quite honestly the image quality I saw over breakfast was sellable for most uses, better is always better and I am sure we only saw “the good stuff” but I was encouraged. Issues of printing on various coated and uncoated stocks as well as virgin and recycled boards don’t seem to intimidate them due to the way the ink layer is transferred from a printing blanket to the substrate in a solid rather than liquid form. This could be an advantage over systems that jet UV or Aqueous inks directly to the board where spread and adhesion can be challenging. This could have real benefits to carton producers looking for an edge.


FDA Compliant Inks – As the print samples were being passed around the table while we were still drinking coffee and munching on something sweet, it was noticeable that there was on odor coming from the print samples as you would usually notice from digital samples. This is due to the inks being water based and maybe from the strong smell of the Starbucks coffee. The company claims the inks are all FDA compliant and with low or no odor they will be good for cosmetic and pharmaceutical work as well. This needs to be validated but it is a good sign.

The New Operator “Cockpit” – If you are reading this far into the article you have likely seen the original Landa press shown at drupa. When looking at the huge “iPad” type control screen stuck to the front of the press my business partner, Jeff Wettersten, said to me “now that looks like a forklift accident waiting to happen”. It seems that others, some of the 120 customers the company says they visited to gain feedback, told them the same thing. So the new version has this interactive cockpit for the operator to work in more of a conventional environment. On the screen are video monitors with real-time shots from critical areas inside the press and all the critical operating functions right next to the output tray. They even have a viewing table (where is the back of the light booth?).


Optional Conventional Inline Coating – In their press release the company says: “An optional conventional inline coating unit will efficiently enhance Nanography-printed products with both flood and selective coating. The coating unit will support flexo rollers and plates as well as a variety of UV and aqueous coatings.”

My question to Landa and the others with digital printing solutions is; “Why would I want an analog coating system on my digital press?” The pragmatic side of me knows the difficulties of integrating a digital coating station but the idea of a static coating system on a digital press just seems counter intuitive to me. There has to be high speed jetting (ejecting) systems out there that could jet coating solutions at the speeds and (low) resolutions needed for digital coatings. I am sure that these conventional coating solutions are simply stopgap solutions and that a true digital solution is just a matter of time but I would have thought that if anyone were to bring that to the market first it would have been Landa.

Note that when looking at the overall diagram of the S10 the coating unit is called out as the white unit after the print engine and the large gray unit between the coater and the delivery is the dryer for the coating. The print unit does not require a dryer as the ink is dry from the time it is transferred from the blanket to the substrate.

Not a Niche Printing Press – The notion that the Landa presses will be for short run digital use was totally dismissed. It is clear that mainstream production is the target for the Nanographic technology. In the presentation Benny showed the popular slide of where digital and analog technologies play now with a gap in the middle of production volumes where his presses nicely fit. It is clear they do not see their presses playing niche roles in the production of folding cartons or even flexible packaging in the not to distant future but playing a major one in terms of jobs and volume produced.

Question of Throughput – A few questions were raised at the meeting that I worked with the Landa team to clarify and I have received that clarification on this question today. Originally the system had eight ejector bars (two each for CMYK) this gave the system the ability to print 13,000 sheets per hour. Now the system has a standard configuration of one set of CMYK ejectors that will give a 6500 sheets per hour rating. They say there is a future option for an added CMYK set of ejectors to get the system to 13,000 sheets. This however will likely jeopardize the extended color gamut plans the company plans.

Extended Color Gamut – Benny was very excited about, the use of extended color gamut printing using, CMYK +OVG on the Landa presses. It is interesting to see the level of excitement the company seems to have on this topic, it almost felt as thought this was a new line of thinking. In fact, this topic has been discussed in packaging circles for the better part of the last decade. Outside of a few instances it has yet to gain major traction while it is of keen interest to Brand Owners and Converters alike. I see the obvious upside potential of its application but also see the issues holding it back from full scale adoption. These Nanographic presses coming into the market may add some weight to the positive side of the scale, may help the tipping point, for extended gamut printing to become mainstream. That is yet to be seen but it is an intriguing prospect.

Not So Final Note – My final thought on this article… undoubtedly there will be many more on the topic… I am pleased with the prospects that my new BFF, Benny has laid out for us. Yes the timing is not what some had hoped but it is what realists projected. While it is not rocket science, it is pretty complicated and they had a long way to go coming out of drupa. Frankly I am impressed with the progress they have made and thank the Landa team for including me with “the Packaging People”.

Check out Benny’s latest video update on Karstedt Partners TV. Bookmark the station too…


This article was originally published on WhatTheyThink.com at:


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WTT: Interview with JoAnn Hines, The Packaging Diva

JoAnn is a syndicated packaging writer who is arguably the most prolific “packaging person” on social media. I have been following her for years and thought it extremely appropriate to have her featured here for the WhatTheyThink Labels & Packaging audience. Following are the highlights from an interview with “The Packaging Diva”.

Karstedt Partners: JoAnn, tell me a bit about your business, who are your clients and what do you offer them?

JoAnn Hines: Much of my work now is with clients who have new products, or product lines they are looking to bring to the consumer and they need guidance in a lot of areas. I help clients with everything from graphic design, as it relates to color choices, and creating a branding message that will resonate with consumers, to packaging substrate choices. I even help them source suppliers.

I focus mostly on branding and marketing needs; if my client needs technical assistance I would pass them on to someone else.

Karstedt Partners: Can you give me an example?

JoAnn Hines: A good example is how I helped The Weather Cannel. They were taking a lot of different products from different suppliers, such as umbrellas and NORAD Radios, and putting them into a single product line. I helped them to make the entire line look as though it came from one source, The Weather Cannel.

I also had an interesting project where I helped a client based in the UK to get his product patented. It was one of the most innovative new packaging ideas I have seen and I helped get doors open for him. That was a very rewarding project.

Karstedt Partners: What are some of the packaging trends you see that will be shaping packaging over the next few years?

JoAnn Hines: Well, sustainability is not really a trend anymore, it is mainstream and every company must have a position on how they are addressing sustainability in their businesses. Part of the reason sustainability is so important is because consumers are so aware of it and place such a high level of importance on it, AND because the consumer is now so “connected” and vocal. Social media gives consumer a platform they never had before and brands are forced to listen to them. Rants on social media can be devastating to a brands future, just as “positive buzz” can help brands.

Another trend I am seeing gain momentum is intelligent packaging. There are so many examples of intelligent packaging from cartons that have lights and say, “buy me” to pharmaceutical blister packs that tell users when to take their pills. The liquor sector is leading the way for high-end packaging because of the high value of the product but I see this migrating to other product types as prices come down due to volume and availability.

Private label products are continuing to grow with many having product and packaging that rival branded products. Likewise there are increases in convenience foods for fast moving households and the need for “senior friendly” packaging for our aging population. This points to the increase in more finely targeted products to smaller and smaller demographic groups, this is going to increase with the use of digital printing which is something you are very aware of. This is also driving order sizes down.

While I’m on the topic of trends, I am also seeing a big push to bring manufacturing back to the US.

Karstedt Partners: Who is driving this In-Sourcing? And is it for packaging and products?

JoAnn Hines: The brands are driving the move so they can take advantage of shorter lead times and satisfy customers desiring/demanding “home grown” products, but the cost of manufacturing, in China for example, is going up with the growing middle class of people over there, and that is making off-shoring less attractive. And this is being seen for both the consumer products and packaging.

Karstedt Partners: So JoAnn, you are known as the Packaging Diva and are prolific on social networking, particularly on Twitter (@packagingdiva). What can you tell me about that?

JoAnn Hines: I’ve been on Twitter for five years now, that is a long time in social media. When I started there were very few people talking about packaging on Twitter, now there are thousands, I now have almost 20,000 packaging followers around the world and have made almost 40,000 updates. As a matter of fact, I now generate all my work directly from social media connections particularly twitter. I get inquiries and speaking invitations from twitter almost daily.

The other social tool that I love is Pinterest; this is my baby. My main page ispinterest.com/packagingdiva where my “pin board group” has 37,000 images “pined”. I have boards for dozens of different packaging types from cosmetics to breakfast cereal. This is such a great tool for designers and brand managers to look and get ideas from packaging all around the world. My “Packaging Pick of the Day” board has 625 contributors from all over the globe. What a great tool to get visual feedback on packaging, and its free! My advice to anyone who is trying to connect to “creatives” is to do it through social media.

Karstedt Partners: I read on your website that you have spoken at the White House, tell me about that.

JoAnn Hines: That was during the Clinton administration. I had just returned from a trip to China looking at packaging operations over there. The administration wanted to know what things we had that could be leveraged when speaking to the Chinese government. That was a very interesting meeting. I told them that the Chinese want everything we have.

About JoAnn Hines:

Ms. Hines is a packaging consultant with more than 37 years global packaging experience and expertise. She has a comprehensive command of the power of branding, design and merchandising on packaging and how it can influence the consumer to buy, or NOT. As an industry leader, she is committed to promoting packaging as a merchandising tool.

She has traveled the world speaking on packaging trends and technologies and was invited to speak at the White House on US packaging innovations and how that could translate into business opportunities with China.

Her day is spent researching packaging trends and technologies for her clients and in doing so keep them abreast of trends and innovations that impact their business. Because she is independent she can offer an unbiased opinion on the viability of new or breakthrough packaging concepts.

Her packaging trend columns are syndicated around the globe.  In addition to advising numerous analysts about packaging, and creating the mfg.com/packaging global platform she is also member of “Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve” and the number one packaging person in social media. Follow JoAnn on Twitter at twitter/packagingdiva or reach her at packagingdiva@gmail.com.

 This article was originally published on WhatTheyThink.com:
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WTT: The Flexible Packaging Sector, excerpts from 2012 PRIMIR Research

For the first few weeks of we featured articles focused on the corrugated packaging and folding carton sectors. For the next few weeks we will be focusing on the flexible packaging sector.

To help us introduce the various packaging sectors to the growing WhatTheyThink Labels & Packaging readership we asked PRIMIR if we could pull excerpts from their 2012 study that Karstedt Partners was commissioned to write titled Packaging: Evaluation of Vertical Markets & Key Applications. This study was unique to many industry studies in that it looked at the force being placed on Brand Owners, the originator of packaging orders. Taking this focus a step further the study looked in-depth at the major vertical markets of food, beverage, household, personal care and healthcare to see what will be driving packaging demand in these verticals and thus driving the supply chain. Following are some of what we brought to PRIMIR members surrounding the folding carton sector. The full table of contents for the report can be downloaded here.

Flexible packaging converters have been leaders in active and intelligent packaging for the past decade. The Freedonia Group projects growth in active packaging to be 6.5% per year to $1.9 billion in 2015. Advances in gas scavenger technology in food and pharmaceutical packaging are the drivers. There are also continued opportunities in self-venting substrate usage of the type used in microwave popcorn. An example of how pervasive these capabilities are, can be seen with the adoption of microwavable, steamed vegetable packaging. Originally developed for premium brands just a few years ago, it is now used for a very high percentage of products in the frozen vegetable and entrée section of grocery stores for national and private brands. Consumer preferences for more natural products with no or less preservatives are creating opportunities for packages that offer longer shelf lives for both fresh and processed foods.


Intelligent packaging, that is more a marketing and sales enhancing tool, currently comes in the form of QR codes and 2D barcodes that aid the brand in communicating with the customer. Freedonia projects expansion of this group now at 20% annually to $370 million in 2015. It is hard to quantify how much activities in this group will affect packaging converters, as much of the implementation is done through communications infrastructure, web sites and databases. Converters add the printed QR codes, barcodes and other graphic components. Intelligent packaging require frequent package design changes to keep their promotions ‘fresh and engaging’ for the consumer. Heavy users of flexible packaging will us these active measures for better tracking and trace capabilities for food and other perishable products. This is significant in light of the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA http://www.fda.gov/food/foodsafety/fsma/default.htm) introduced in January 2011. FSMA is contamination prevention legislation that will have a large impact on food processing and packaging over the next few years.


Brands and retailers are pushing for packaging and materials that help food products stay fresher longer. Source reduction initiatives are becoming increasingly valuable with initiatives taken by major retailers and brand owners to evaluate supplier packages for eco-friendliness and cost reduction.


Increases in the application are also driven by continued conversions to standup pouches and flat pouches in a number of markets including sauces, dried foods and spices. Flexible packaging converters also benefits from the increased use of convenience features such as zippers and spouts integrated into pouches and the emergence of new applications and products such as flat-bottomed, side-gusseted pouches and hybrid pouch/folding carton products.


Growing efforts by retailers and brands to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability may lead to a renewed interest in paper, for its perceived benefits:  renewable, recyclable and compostable.


Growth in food applications targets eat-on-the-run consumers that will drive more costly film and barrier coatings to extend shelf life. These trends boost the demand for food in smaller package sizes and more convenient foods designed to reduce food preparation time. Trends toward healthier eating will encourage food manufacturers to expand their offerings of products, especially snacks, baked goods and beverages, in single serving packages. Such products require more packaging than standard packages of similar items.


The fastest growing food packaging markets for flexible packaging are: beverage, meat and related products and snack foods. In non-food applications, advances will be led by pharmaceutical and medical product markets based on heightened barrier requirements, cost and convenience advantages.


New developments in barrier resins, bio-plastics, recyclability, biodegradable films and compostable films will also drive market expansion.


Other factors influencing the flexible packaging application include considerable cost and material reduction programs by major food manufacturers, brand owners and retailers. Packaging waste reduction initiatives at the local and government levels also impact flexible packaging producers.


Lean manufacturing programs are present at all levels of the flexible packaging segment. The goal of most converters is produce less waste, reduce setup times, maintain consistency within and between jobs, and gaining overall efficiency.


There are industry efforts to expand the acceptance and use of digitally imaged flexo plates. In-the-round imaging has limited implementation to-date. Other industry technologies that are in the ‘ramp up’ mode are extended color gamut printing, G7 near neutral calibrations and in-line full web defect detection systems. One of the great successes of recent years in flexographic printing is the relative acceptance of High Definition Flexography (HD Flexo).


While pre-recession growth rates of 4.5% per year are unlikely to be repeated for some time, industry associations and experts expect growth of around 1.8% per year for the next five years.


As part of the study Karstedt Partners interviewed 122 Brand Owners in multiple vertical sectors as well as 60 converters and industry leaders to compile comprehensive trending information that will be affecting buying decisions for the next few years. For more on the study and to become a member of PRIMIR visit them at http://www.primir.org.

This article was originally published on WhatTheyThink.com;


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WTT: Interview with Ben Markens, President of Paperboard Packaging Council (PPC)

For the past 84 years, the Paperboard Packaging Council (PPC) has been the leading industry association serving suppliers and converters of all forms of paperboard packaging. We spoke with Ben Markens, President of PPC, about the current state of the folding carton industry and the opportunities and challenges faced by its members.

Karstedt Partners: What are PPC’s goals and objectives?

Ben MarkensWe believe that the value each member extracts from its involvement in PPC should be greater than the resources they invest. So PPC’s paramount focus is member satisfaction, which we gauge through active listening to our members, committee involvement, and program participation. To maintain this value proposition, we work continuously to enhance our offerings. We also work to bolster alliances with our sister organizations (such as the AF&PA and ECMA) so that we can address the important issues facing our industry with a common voice.

Karstedt Partners: What are some of the challenges facing the U.S. folding carton industry?

Ben MarkensMost of the issues are common to many segments of U.S. manufacturing, such as lower-priced competition from overseas and stringent governmental regulations, such as proposed legislation on extended producer responsibility (EPR). We’ve also found that certain misconceptions about packaging—particularly the supposed superiority of lighter weight substrates such as flexible plastics—have confused the public. When you think about it, compared to fossil fuel-based packaging, paperboard is the obvious choice for recyclability, renewability, and sustainability.

Karstedt Partners: What are the most promising opportunities for growth?

Ben MarkensWe are hopeful that the recent trend in onshoring [the process of moving  business from overseas back to the local country] will foster a more equitable global market. We are also pleased with the growing consumer focus on sustainable packaging. In a more paperboard-friendly climate, innovation and design opportunities can flourish, so we expect to see more creative, eco-friendly paperboard packaging designs coming down the pike.

Karstedt Partners: What are some of the recent trends and innovations?

Ben MarkensBecause of recent advancements in digital printing, small-batch, short-run, and customizable jobs have become more accessible to package designers and brand owners. High-end decorative coatings are also becoming more available and affordable for the more economical styles of paperboard packaging.

There have also been some major design advancements. For instance, the top winning entries of last year’s PPC’s National Paperboard Packaging Competition included: an innovative blisterpak design, a plastic cup lid and a metal liquor tin ingeniously replaced with paperboard, and a patent-pending method for printing a multi-disc DVD box on just one sheet of paperboard. One of the major awards was for a clever package design for shipping multi-size pipette tips and a design improvement for juice packs that saved the brand owner money across the entire value chain. (To view the winning entries, visit www.ppcnet.org/CCpost)

Karstedt Partners: What changes are you planning that will help members grow and succeed?

Ben MarkensNot only are we providing more educational, members-only webinars on important topics such as how to reduce make-ready time, how to make your gluing systems more sustainable, and how to utilize social media to grow your business, but we are also broadening our data benchmarking programs, increasing emphasis on technical and production meetings, and broadening our specialized communities of interest. For instance, we recently reinvigorated our rigid box committee and are hosting a technical forum design summit on June 4-5, 2013 that will focus on structural and graphic design best practices. (For more info, visit ppcnet.org/TP)

Karstedt Partners: What advice would you give converters about growing their businesses?

Ben MarkensBe innovative, sell, sell, sell, and know your costs. Additionally, train your staff in best practices and as your older employees retire, have a job succession plan in place that ensures effective knowledge transfer. But most importantly, it is vital to network with your industry colleagues; the most effective way to do this is, in my opinion, is to join PPC!

For more information on joining PPC, visit www.ppcnet.org or call Ben Markens at 413.686.9191.

 This article was originally published on WhatTheyThink.com:
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WTT: The Folding Carton Sector, excerpts from 2012 PRIMIR Research

For the first few weeks of we featured articles focused on the corrugated packaging sector. For the next few weeks we will be focusing on the folding carton sector and will post interviews with Ben Markens of the Paperboard Packaging Council and Jay Willie of the Independent Carton Group.

To help us introduce the various packaging sectors to the growing WhatTheyThink Labels & Packaging readership we asked PRIMIR if we could pull excerpts from their 2012 study that Karstedt Partners was commissioned to write titled Packaging: Evaluation of Vertical Markets & Key Applications. This study was unique to many industry studies in that it looked at the force being placed on Brand Owners, the originator of packaging orders. Taking this focus a step further the study looked in-depth at the major vertical markets of food, beverage, household, personal care and healthcare to see what will be driving packaging demand in these verticals and thus driving the supply chain. Following are some of what we brought to PRIMIR members surrounding the folding carton sector. The full table of contents for the report can be downloaded here.

The growth in the folding carton sector is projected to mirror that of consumer products growing at a rate that matches GDP.

Insights From Converter Interviews

The research team conducted over 180 interviews with constituents all through the packaging supply chain. Following are some excerpts from those interviews with folding carton converters.

The folding carton converters indicated that they are considering moving between flexo and offset printing processes over the next five years. Discussions indicated even movement in-and-out of each process. Both sides of these movements claim high investments and prepress costs are detrimental for flexo adoption and the lower overall operating and finishing costs of flexo over offset on the opposite side.

Carton manufacturers say they need to more effectively manage production orders that are shrinking in size and increasing in frequency. They are actively seeking solutions that allow them to produce more orders while maintaining overall production volumes. This is not simply obtained by purchasing presses that have quick changeovers. This plan moves a bottleneck from one process step to another. Carton converters are searching for solutions that truly transform their operations for the better.

In discussions with a carton manufacturer who recently installed a highly automated large format sheet fed press, he states that one of the major challenges he faces is feeding the press jobs and clearing the table after it. By this he means that prepress has to have fresh printing plates ready throughout the production day, and pallets of board have to be continually loaded into the feeder to assure the press does not have to wait for raw materials. As soon as the press needs to wait for input materials, efficiency and profitability are erased. On the output end, he notes, the bottleneck soon shifts to the die cutting process, which is tuned for fewer changeovers and more volume.

Another area of wasted time and resources is the practice of maintaining inventories of finished goods for customers. In speaking with converters of all types over the years, this practice is seen as a ‘necessary evil’ that customers need and converters provide. Most say it has gotten a lot better, but it still is a major drain on profits for both the converter and ultimately the customer as well. JIT was offering relief to this practice but in reality it has marginal success. Converters still manage inventories for customers opting for ‘just-in time’ deliveries rather than ‘just-in time’ manufacturing.

For most carton manufacturers, quality is a given, there is no discussion about cutting quality to gain productivity or flexibility. The quality standpoint is one of the reasons they tend to stick with technologies they know as reliable. As mentioned earlier, there are mixed messages regarding carton press preferences shifting from offset-to-flexo to take advantage of inline processing available in narrow and mid-web flexo presses for cartons. Converters familiar with flexo printing have a first-hand understanding of the quality of high definition flexo and what is required to produce flexo quality printing. Converters that have little or no first-hand experience with flexo, believe that the cost and learning curves are too steep to make a viable transition. Suppliers interested in bringing flexo presses to the carton segment have to overcome significant inertia, which includes solid ROI data to substantiate the advantages of such systems.

Interest in digital printing is high, but participation is limited… This is not to say that carton manufacturers are not interested in digital printing, on the contrary, interest in new press offerings at drupa 2012 was high among carton converters. This segment eagerly awaits a solution that offers an alternative to running orders on equipment that is not equipped to manage them consistently and effectively.

However, digital solutions bring on a similar series of process issues, most notably what happens after printing, when coating, die cutting and folding and gluing is needed. The issue of die cutting is addressed by digital die cutting that uses lasers and special creasing methodologies. This was shown at drupa 2012 as well as other new technologies that show promise in helping to alleviate these production bottlenecks.

The interviewed carton converters believe that their customers are more ‘value-oriented’ than ‘volume-oriented,’ by a 2 to 1 margin. Sixty percent say their customers would pay a premium for products or services that address unmet needs. This corresponds to the brand owners’ response. Specifically, folding carton packaging provides the most value to their brands. Overall, 72% of brand owners say they will pay more for products or services that satisfy their unmet needs.

As part of the study Karstedt Partners interviewed 122 Brand Owners in multiple vertical sectors as well as 60 converters and industry leaders to compile comprehensive trending information that will be affecting buying decisions for the next few years. For more on the study and to become a member of PRIMIR visit them at http://www.primir.org.

 This article was originally published on WhatTheyThink.com
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WTT: Interview with Kristi Ledbetter of TAPPI

We recently had the opportunity to catch-up with Kristi Ledbetter, the Converting Division Manager for Tappi, and had the opportunity to get an update on what is happening at Tappi.

Karstedt Partners: Our audience may not be familiar with Tappi, will you tell us a little about your organization?

Kristi Ledbetter: TAPPI has been around for quite some time!  We were founded in 1915 so we are very close to celebrating our 100th Year Anniversary.  TAPPI was originally formed to gather and disseminate information as well as share best practices for the industry.  Fast forward 98 years and we have evolved into an International Center of Excellence for the forest products, pulp, paper, packaging and related industries. Our global community is comprised of more than 7,000 members in 66 countries and we have a reach to 40,000+ professionals who rely on us to provide access to news, networking and knowledge.  Our members have access to approximately 30 conferences and courses each year, online training, Standards, Technical Information Papers (TIPs), magazines, journal, newsletters, 300+ book titles and a host of networking opportunities to learn from experts and peers.

Karstedt Partners: What are you hearing from your membership related to how 2012 finished, and the outlook for 2013?

Kristi Ledbetter: Last year, TAPPI hosted the largest corrugated trade show and conference in the Western Hemisphere, TAPPI/AICC SuperCorrExpo.  The conference included keynote addresses from some of the leading thought leaders in our industry and most discussed their outlook for 2012 and beyond.  Jim Porter, Corrugated Packaging and Recycling for RockTenn, Tony Smurfit, Group Chief Operations Officer for Smurfit Kappa Group and Michael R. Harwood, President of World Containerboard Organization & Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Pratt Industries just to name a few provided expert insight on the outlook of the industry.  The recurring theme seemed to be conservatively optimistic and lots of excitement around innovation for our industry.  Video interviews from this event are available at http://www.supercorrexpo.org/ShowDaily.asp. We encourage your readers to join the conversation at 2013 CorrExpo.

Karstedt Partners: What issues/problems are your members concerned about for 2013?

Kristi Ledbetter: Many of the challenges our industry faces are the same ones most industry struggle with such as developing sustainable solutions for customers, remaining competitive with global markets and continuing to find ways to add value for customers/brand owners while also removing cost.

Karstedt Partners: What are the top three issues that Tappi and your membership are focusing on for 2013?  Why are these issues important and how is your membership addressing these issues? 

Kristi Ledbetter: Three important issues:  finding ways to continue strengthening the corrugated industry, prioritizing investment in innovation, and heavier promotion of the industry (i.e. highlighting the impact we have on the economy, communicating how the products we develop are important to our customers/end users and showcasing the advancements that are being made in areas such as smart packaging).

Karstedt Partners: What do your members see as opportunities for 2013?

Kristi Ledbetter: There are a number of opportunities for our industry but at the core we have a renewable, sustainable resource and helping to educate the public is key for our entire industry.  Helping customers sell more of their products and becoming more of a partner than a product provider is a growing initiatives for many companies in the packaging industry.     This is a shared goal for manufacturers, converters and suppliers across the industry.

Karstedt Partners: What are the top three opportunities that Tappi and your membership are focusing on for 2013?  What makes these opportunities important, and how is your membership addressing these opportunities?

Kristi Ledbetter: Three important opportunities: developing partnerships with brand owners, leveraging technology and advancements to help customers sell more of their products and continuing the emphasis on creating sustainable products for the industry.

Karstedt Partners: How would you advise suppliers and others interested in learning more about TAPPI approach your organization? 

Kristi Ledbetter: Simple, just get involved.  TAPPI provides a number of training, education and networking opportunities but to truly leverage our resources, we invite suppliers and other professionals to join TAPPI and then get involved.  This could be as simple as participating in an online community forum (coming soon!) or maybe sharing your knowledge as a subject matter expert at one of our conferences.  The connections our members make have a lasting impact on their careers, their companies and the overall industry.  As a supplier, being involved with TAPPI is a unique opportunity to get to know your customers, build relationships and better understand their needs in a collaborative environment.  To learn more about TAPPI’s efforts in the Corrugated Packaging Industry, please contact Kristi Ledbtter at (kledbetter@tappi.org or 770-209-7319), visit our website www.tappi.org, follow us on Twitter at TAPPITWEETS, join our LinkedIn group or if you our in the Atlanta, GA USA area stop by and see us!

 This article was originally published on WhatTheyThink.com:
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WTT: The Corrugated Packaging Sector, excerpts from PRIMIR Research

For the next few weeks we will be looking at the corrugated sector of packaging, which accounts for approximately $85 Billion in shipments globally and $24 Billion in North America. To help us introduce the various packaging sectors to the growing WhatTheyThink Labels & Packaging readership we asked PRIMIR if we could pull excerpts from their 2012 study that Karstedt Partners was commissioned to write titled Packaging: Evaluation of Vertical Markets & Key Applications.This study was unique to many industry studies in that it looked at the force being placed on Brand Owners, the originator of packaging orders. Taking this focus a step further the study looked in-depth at the major vertical markets of food, beverage, household, personal care and healthcare to see what will be driving packaging demand in these verticals and thus driving the supply chain. Following are some of what we brought to the readers surrounding the corrugated packaging sector. The full table of contents for the report can be downloaded here.

In that study the food and beverage vertical was identified as the largest end-user of corrugated boxes of all segments in North America, accounting for 51% of shipments in 2010. Corrugated for the food vertical are forecast to continue increasing at an average annual rate of 2.4 % through 2015.

Demand for corrugated boxes traditionally fluctuates with the growth of a wide range of consumer products including both durable and non-durable manufactured goods. General macroeconomic conditions such as changes in real GDP, consumer spending, international trade, industrial production and factors that affect manufactured goods markets are the drivers behind volume shifts in corrugated shipments.

The report notes the high percentage and volume of corrugated cartons used for shipping containers has historically insulated the corrugated industry from volume fluctuations caused by material substitutions. Corrugated cartons are valued for their low cost, durability and strength. By industry estimates shipping containers account for 75-80% of corrugated volume.

The corrugated industry is a net exporter of product, for converted cartons as well as Kraftliner. Exports, combined with the emergence of club store volume have helped the corrugated industry to overcome volume losses created by the movement of North American manufacturing offshore. Some analysts project that the U.S. may become a low cost producer again within the next five years due to wage inflation in China and the risk of doing business in Mexico. Manufacturing is beginning to move back to the U.S., and this bodes well for the corrugated industry. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce the corrugated industry export significantly more in 2010 than it imported.

U.S. Exports:

  • Paperboard Mill Products (Kraftliner) $0.133 Billion
    • 3.4 million tons exported
    • 53% to Canada and South America
    • 18% to Asia and Europe
    • 29% to Africa and Middle East

U.S. Imports:

  • Paperboard Mill Products (Kraftliner) $0.039 billion
  • Corrugated and Solid Fiber Boxes $0.314 billion

With the focus of the PRIMIR study on how vertical markets affect the demand for packaging there is a heavy focus on how lifestyle changes are affecting packaging demand and corrugated board. Following are some of the lifestyle changes that are projected to affect packaging demand moving forward.

Demand for convenience foods continues to increase, at both the retailer as well as convenience restaurants. This trend continues to stimulate the demand for corrugated board, particularly in microflute applications such as take-home pizza boxes and other fast food containers. Fast food establishments are also interested in digital printing for promotional campaigns, cross-selling coupons, and targeted marketing initiatives at the local level. Personal grooming products are expanding product categories to reach specific demographic audiences.

The growth of multimedia products drives increased demand for folding carton, corrugated and microflute. Mobile phones, digital cameras, satellite navigation systems, tablets and other technologies are driving demand for microflute with high quality print.

Microflute packaging also penetrates markets such as confectionary, powdered drinks, personal care, alcoholic beverages and other markets. This creates growing demands on the printing industry for improved graphics and finishes, utilizing analog as well as digital printing.

Aging populations exhibit different spending patterns. Health foods, healthcare products, nutraceuticals and anti-aging remedies are growth segments. These products will generate incremental growth in corrugated material used for merchandisers and displays.

Online shopping is the fastest growing retail segment. Packaging is a big issue for online merchants, as consumers frequently object to receiving their product simply placed in a plain shipping container. The objection is based on the consumer perception of the retailer lacking permanence or staying power, and potentially disappearing immediately after the sale. Online retailers are attempting to promote brand identity, and a stronger connection between the online web site and packaging. The need for brand identity must be tempered with the reality of the shipping world, and the need to ‘safeguard’ the identity of the contents being delivered. This creates multiple opportunities for corrugated packaging, from smart packaging for tracking and tracing of shipments, to shipping containers, to high impact primary packaging.

Technological developments in papermaking and corrugating have allowed the same functions to be performed by lighter boards. From 1990 to 2010, the average weight of corrugated board decreased approximately 12%. In recent years, new capacity and equipment upgrades have created lightweight board.

As part of the study Karstedt Partners interviewed 122 Brand Owners in multiple vertical sectors as well as 60 converters and industry leaders to compile comprehensive trending information that will be affecting buying decisions for the next few years. For more on the study and to become a member of PRIMIR visit them at http://www.primir.org.

This article was originally published on WhatTheyThink.com:


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WTT: What is coming in WhatTheyThink Labels & Packaging

With the launch of the Labels & Packaging section of WhatTheyThink now behind us, we wanted to give you a preview of upcoming topics and what to expect.

First, because our audience includes Brand Owners, Converters/Packaging Printers, Suppliers, and many other readers, the familiarity with Packaging is going to vary. A significant part of our vision is to educate and keep audience members informed regarding the state of the industry, significant events occurring in the industry, and trends or issues that may affect the industry. Our desire is to provide a communication link bridging the packaging supply chain, from the suppliers of equipment and raw materials, all the way to the retailers.

Our focus for the next 9-10 weeks will be discussing specific application segments within the packaging industry. These application segments will include corrugated packaging, folding carton, flexible packaging, labels, rigid containers, and glass packaging. Industry executives will provide inputs on the current state of their segment, opportunities and challenges affecting their segment, and their view on the future outlook. We are inviting suppliers and brand owners to provide feature articles discussing issues or opportunities they see specific to that application area, and how their industry is responding to the issues or needs.

Following the series for packaging applications, we will turn to the retailers and brand owners to gain their input on future trends in retailing, consumer behavior, or packaging requirements that will affect the packaging industry. Topics we will explore will include sustainability, private labeling, the impact of social media on packaging, demand patterns, contract manufacturing and contract packaging, and sources of supply. We are inviting converters/package printers, contract packagers and contract manufacturers, and suppliers to provide feature articles on how the upstream changes at retailers and brand owners is impacting their business, and what their industry is doing to respond.

Next, we will turn to the suppliers of the packaging industry. What is happening with print and converting technology, what is happening with basic raw materials, pre-press supplies and equipment, software, and inks and coatings?

If you have additional thoughts or would like to add areas for exploration, or if you would like to be a author/contributor please feel free to contact me at Kevin@Karstedt.com. We also invite press releases and industry news article to be sent to news@whattheythink.com to make sure they get placed in the news feed section of the site.

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