Asahi is delivering a sustainable message with its water-washable plates with a clean print

By 27 Sep 2019

Dieter Niederstadt, technical marketing manager for Asahi, says, for brands, food safety and avoiding product liability pitfalls related to labels and packaging, including the inks and substrates used, are incredibly important. “But at the same time,” he says, “They want the product to communicate high quality, or even luxury, depending on the product category.”
In this conversation with PrintWeek India, Niederstadt shares tips on how packaging converters can improve efficiency, meet quality demands created by growing use of photographic images on packagings and how they can meet the sustainability demands of brands

Dieter Niederstadt: “We believe it is a realistic view of the market over the next 10 to 15 years to project that flexo will continue to develop, especially in markets such as China and India”

Q: How has the previous two years, since the last Labelexpo Europe 2017 been for your company – new moves, company health in terms of finances?
A: Since last Labelexpo Europe, we have seen good growth in all of the markets we serve. We believe that our sustainability message with our environmentally balanced water-washable AWP plates with CleanPrint is resonating well in the market and will continue to offer both growth opportunities for us and better financial and production performance for our customers. In addition, we do not foresee any slowdown in the flexo label market. So, from our perspective, it is a very positive outlook for us and for the industry.

Q: The educational white paper that you are showing, what is it about?
A: At Asahi Photoproducts, we see two converging trends in flexographic printing.

First, brand owners are seeking faster time to market with higher quality packaging that stands out on the shelf. They want to achieve this at an ever-lower price point. And increasingly, they are looking for suppliers that can produce packaging with a reduced environmental footprint.

Secondly, packaging printers/converters are looking for ways to significantly improve efficiency in order to meet these demands while increasing quality to address the growing use of photographic images on packaging. They want to meet the sustainability demands of brand owners, but also understand there are benefits for their businesses as well, with less waste and a cleaner work environment.

This eBook gives you more insight and provides five unbeatable reasons why flexo packaging printers/converters should invest in Asahi CleanPrint. It’s the future of flexographic printing.

Q: The global label printing market is estimated to be around 65.56-bn sqm. India’s share is around 2.3%. Your market share globally and in India and also with reference to your competition?
A: We do not have any specific market share data on our participation in India. That said, our plates are being used there, and we are clearly focusing on the printers, helping them to be more successful and profitable. We believe this differentiates us from other flexo plate manufacturers in the Indian market – and in fact, around the globe.

Q: What are the most significant changes you see compared to previous editions of label expo that you may have attended?
A: We believe the label market is still quite interesting and continues to evolve. Of course, quality is increasingly important, even more so than in 2017, especially as brands want their labels and packaging to stand out on the shelf, communicate that a quality product is contained, and include increasing photo-realistic images.

Another exciting evolutionary factor is the growing use of augmented reality tools beyond QR codes. For example, the Digimarc solution allows brands to personalise content in real time when a label is scanned with a smartphone. Personalisation is based on the phone’s GPS data, and personalisation could be something regionally specific, language specific, or any other criterion the brand chooses. Digimarc codes are less intrusive than QR codes, helping packaging to be more attractive. And these codes can be printed using flexography, linked to a smart software back-end that serves up the appropriate content to the consumer. So, you see, flexography can deliver personalisation. And at very high quality.

Q: New technologies in substrate, press and finishing are enhancing the functionality of labels. What significant improvements that you would like to talk about your solutions?
A: As I mentioned before, Digimarc and other augmented reality alternatives to QR codes are very promising technologies for our industry. We are also getting great market reception to the sustainability and quality that can be achieved by switching to our plates – especially since they can be implemented without making major workflow changes or investments.

Q: Fast presses need consumables which have the capabilities to run at good speeds. What should the Indian label printers do to improve their production methods? How do your products help in this? 
A: The approaches they can take are: Integrate platemaking at the printer’s site to improve time to market, have better control over production lead times, and gain more direct control over quality

Minimize printing press down times for plate cleaning and/or replacement with CleanPrint, including its ability to transfer all of the ink to the substrate as well as its kiss-touch printing capability.

In addition, because of the precise register and very high quality these plates deliver, printers and converters can take advantage of the efficiencies offered by using expanded gamut fixed colour palette printing with four or more colours that remain constant across all jobs.

Q: What are your thoughts on the impact of modern e- retail on labels? How is your company empowering their customers for that?
A: For brands, food safety and avoiding product liability pitfalls related to labels and packaging, including the inks and substrates used, are incredibly important. At the same time, they want the product to communicate high quality, or even luxury, depending on the product category. So, whether packaged/labeled products are viewed on the store shelf, on a web store, or upon delivery to the consumer’s home, high quality packaging is critical to communicating the brand image and integrity required to compete in an increasingly complex market environment. 

Q: How much of “direct on product” print is expected to affect the traditional digital or analogue labels? Is that a version of industrialisation of print that everyone is talking about?
A: We don’t believe this will be a barrier for the overall label market. Advances in label substrates, both from an appearance and a sustainability perspective, will keep labels in use for the foreseeable future for most product categories in which they are used today.

Q: What sort of dialogue and exchange do you have with the brand owners to anticipate the consumer scape? Can you share some insights?  
A: We are part of an association that covers the supply chain, including suppliers, brand owners, printers/converters, etc., and have frequent exchanges with them, and with individual customers, about improving the packaging supply chain. As we have mentioned, we find quality, sustainability and innovation (such as the Digimarc solution) to be the top topics of conversation.

Q: Your thoughts on manufacturing collaborations even as the industry rapidly integrates digital and technical competence, which is extremely distributed?
A: Clearly, there will be a growing need in the future for distributed print closer to the point of need and in ever shorter runs. That’s why it is important for the future of flexography to continue to work to make the process more efficient while maintaining or increasing quality. That’s what we have been doing for 45 years and what we will continue to do for the next 45 years.

Q: Water-based inkjet is the future of digital in labels and packaging – is it a myth that you would like to bust or a gospel you would like to believe?
A: Water-based inkjet has some applicability in the labels market, of course, as does UV-curable inkjet. However, we believe it is a realistic view of the market over the next 10 to 15 years to project that flexo will continue to develop, especially in markets such as China and India, and our plate solutions will continue to develop with it. It will continue to be a competitive mass market production method into the foreseeable future, co-existing with a variety of other technologies, including inkjet. 

Q: Digitally printed pouches seem to be the order of this show how wrong are we in making this statement?
A: Pouches are an increasingly popular way to package food. We are showing two different pouches on our booth at the show printed with fixed colour palette flexo printing. I can’t speak for users of digital print technologies, but our flexo customers are printing more and more pouches than ever before.

Q: Amazon has been championing bulk packaging until the point of consumption. As a manufacturer do you see this as an opportunity or risk evolving?
A: We need to distinguish between primary and secondary packaging. Products contained in bulk in secondary or over-packaging might be distributed that way depending on the retailers business model. And often that secondary packaging can be used to create shelf displays, so it won’t be just plain brown cardboard. Rather, it will be printed or labeled with attractive, high quality, graphically rich imagery. For primary packaging, the industry, as I mentioned is responsible to ensure food safety, good shelf life etc. I cannot see how this model will change much in the foreseeable future.

Q: Change is a complex word. Societal shifts are often driven by a handful of factors like a new population or evolving consumer behaviour. Technology too has been a key driver which has shaped the world - the way we live and consume, for example. In that context, how do you think labels will be produced and consumed in 2040?
A: By 2040, sustainable operations will be a given. Brands and label converters will be using a broader range of sustainable substrates, and will also be conscious of how labels and the products to which they are attached will face end of life to eliminate any possible damage to the planet. As world population continues to grow, we expect to see some level of continued growth in the label market as well, and we expect that flexography will be the production process of choice for all but the shortest label runs – or those that require personalisation. We also believe that brands will continue to demand more colour, higher quality, lower costs and faster time to market as we progress through the next two decades.

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