1.8bn new consumers to be added by 2015

Experts address key issues about release liners which are used in self-adhesive labelling during the Label Release Liner Industry Seminar 2013 at Brussels. A report by Supreeth Sudhakaran.

09 Oct 2013 | By Supreeth Sudhakaran

In his opening speech and presentation, Corey Reardon, president and CEO, AWA Alexander Watson Associates shared the finding of the recent study published by AWA on global release Liner Market. Touching upon the various findings of the study, Reardon noted that the global market by region in 2012 stood at 37,500mn Euros. “Of these, Europe and North America equally command 31% of the total pie, closely followed by Asia (29%), South America (5%) and Africa and Middle East (4%),” he said. He added that glassine/calendared substrates control 40% of the substrate market.

Reardon: Glassine still command Asian market
“In Asia, 34% of the market in Asia is enjoyed by polyolefin coated paper, followed by glassine. In contrast to the trend, glassine paper is growing at a double rate compared to SEK in markets like India. Currently, we do not see clay coated papers (CCP) as substituting glassine paper,” he added. Reardon also said that Asia is growing at over 6% year on year while South America and Africa and Middle East are closely behind with South America, Africa and Middle East, and that, filmic substrates form only 15% of the total substrate market of labels. 
Lack of available skilled talent a continuing drag
Mikko Rissanen, product manager, paper business group, UPM-Kymmene in his presentation talked about various global trends impacting global release liner business. Not surprisingly, many of the trends and concerns expressed by him seem to find a tangent connection with the issues that continue to persist in India too.

Rissanen: Skilled manpower is a challenge
Quoting a statement from the McKinsey Global Institute’s report titled— Manufacturing the future: The next era of global growth and innovation 2012— Rissanen said, “Technological changes can lead to shortages in specific commodities… Across all major commodities, demand is expected to increase. This will be driven by addition of 1.8bn new consumer to the global consuming class over the next 15 years. It is unlikely that the pattern of declining resource prices will return. Further, resource prices will almost certainly be more volatile.”
“Economic importance and supply risk of raw materials is another factor affecting the liner business, and this needs to be kept in mind during product development stages,” he added. He suggested that the label industry should not just look at products with an outlook for the issues of current scenario but look far ahead.
Later he switched his discussion to sustainability and skill management. “Growing materials resources competition and scarcity will fundamentally alter country and company resources strategies and competition, and serve as a catalyst to significant materials sciences breakthroughs. A greater focus on long-term cost and resource sustainability are driving innovations in materials, product design, production processes, and business models. Skill in managing supply-chain risk will be increasingly important differentiator. The future of manufacturing belongs to the companies that can craft the strategies and build the capabilities to succeed in a new phase of global competition,” he said.

He felt that internet shopping has changed the way packaging players used to design packages, while adding to the importance of incorporating a tracking and coding technology for better logistic management.
Quoting from the 2012 Talent Shortage Survey conducted by Manpower Group, he said, “Substantial proportions of employers around the globe identify lack of available skilled talent as a continuing drag on business performance.” Rounding up his presentation, he touched briefly upon the discussion over the fibre based versus synthetic materials and proposed the usage of downguaged liner and chemical compatiblilising of liners. 
Understanding faint signals critical
Alan Hazlewood, materials quality and technical support manager of Norway-based Skanem, shared his over 30 years of experience in the industry to provide a label maker’s perspective during the seminar. His views held particular importance for India as Skanem has a majority stake in Vasai-based label printing and converting company, Interlabels. Interlabels is now a joint venture between Skanem and the Indian promoters of Interlabels. The company is operating under Interlabels’ existing management.

Hazlewood: die-cutting issues a thing of past
Starting off his presentation, he said, “We need the liner to produce good quality labels. Label is good, healthy… A majority of labels produced by Skanem utilise honey glassine liners, followed with white glassine and filmic type liners. And within the filmic type liners, a lion’s share is held by PET 30 liners, followed by PP30 and PET 23 liners.”
He said that as a label producer, he looks for three factors while choosing a liner: standardisation between suppliers and across grades; consistency in thickness for die-cutting, strength for unsupported web and curl for label flatness. The third factor is controlled siliconisation including the silicone coat weight and process control plans involving the voids and inclusions. He added that die-cutting problems are now almost the thing of the past.
He noted that the key issue is the squeeze between suppliers and consumers. “Every year you are forced to reduce 5% of your label prices. On the other hand, suppliers ask for increase in price. This is where shrink sleeves, direct print and liner-less labels are posing as threats to liner growth. Market is very slow to react, therefore understanding the faint signals are very critical to anticipate the upcoming trends. The net result of various purchasing behaviour is material efficiency and less liner.” He was quick to add, “PP30 doesn’t seem to create wonder in the cosmetic segments but in bigger labels; it is a very strong technology.”
Thinner the better
“Thinner films and labels is one of the most predominant trends. Not only thinner in caliber but also in weight. You have to embrace the trend or risk being left out.” These were the opening remarks of Robyn J Buma, global procurement director - paper, Avery Dennison materials group’s presentation.  Expressing her view about the filmic labels, she said that the growth at the expense of paper will depend on two key factors: the economics and the rate at which large glue applied applications switch to pressure-sensitive. “From an economic standpoint, there will be a stronger push towards filmic labels. It is the highest value products that will make the move to films faster,” she added.

Buma: embrace the trend or risk being left out
Talking about liner-less labels, she said, “It is an interesting concept and has made inroads to simple liners. But is it disruptive? That is yet to be seen.” Buma admitted that paper industry has done a ‘horrible job in marketing its initiatives and benefits’. “In 2007, there was a strong demand for sustainable products, but due to recession, the sentiments were diluted by economics. I see the trend picking-up again,” she added.
According to Buma, there is lot of consolidation and movement in the niche areas. “You can’t say you cannot do one thing and not the other. The trend is that there is a disruption happening in the niche markets. Players need to decide whether they are completely in or out of a particular niche,” she said.
“For alternative products, the trend is different in different regions. At the end of the day everything comes to the cost. Europe is slower in the adoption. But the adoption rates are picking up in US. In economic situations like these, options are good!” she added.
Further, she continued, “The cost of entry and understanding where you can play and where you can’t is important. Looking at the whole picture is the necessity instead of just focusing on the cost matrix. When it comes to quality aspects, end-user requirements will continue to trickle down. Quality is and will be the key differentiator.”
Buma heavily criticised the overuse of the term “innovation”. “Innovations are mostly around cost reduction. Perhaps because it is the biggest need from the demand side of the business. There are only few changes which solve pain-points and can be termed as innovations.”
Closely following Buma’s presentation, Ingrid Brase, market segment director, Henkel shared an in-house technical silicone-adhesive release study with the delegates. The study looked at release values at constant speed as well as ramped velocity. Similarly, Geoffrey Debaugnies, senior AETS Professional mainly focused his attention on Activ V release paper.
“The objective of our study was to deliver a label that end users can dispense efficiently. Multiple factors influence the choice of both adhesive and release liner such as end user requirements, converting, printing, dispensing, applications, and adhesive and liner characteristics. Components are impacted by one another,” Brase said.
According to Brase, there are three major factors which contribute to release changes: tackifier chemistry, rubber or elastomer types and rheology. The conclusions of the study suggested a strong inverse correlation between G formulations (stiffer adhesives). In addition, it revealed that release performance requirements need to be considered using adhesive formulation as well as silicone selection. The case study also showed how the findings can be applied.
Debaugnies in his presentation talked about the ultra-low platinum advantage series release coating on Munksjo Activ-V release paper. He said, “The demand of release liners is from the developing markets. The need is to focus on sustainability. However, development efforts are driven by cost control.”
The shift from paper to heat sensitive filmic release liners, desire to reduce Pt dependency, down gauging, and countering more challenging converting conditions such as line speed, labelling speed and liner-less labels, are few market trends he talked about.