Labelexpo 2013 delivers! Global Label industry is rejoiced!

Harveer Sahni, managing director, Weldon Celloplast in New Delhi, traces his journey of Labelexpo Europe.

14 Oct 2013 | By Harveer Sahni

Euphoria built-up in the run-up to a historic Labelexpo-Europe 2013 in Brussels culminated in jubilation amongst printers attending the show. It was a show that delivered, exhibited positive vibes from day one. I predicted; it will be festival time for the global label industry and so it was! The show opened and we could sense the vibrations. I personally feel if it starts well it will definitely end well.

The show had an exceptionally focussed audience from across the world and they all wished they had more time to see. That is a feeling with which shows need to end. The label community will come back to pick up from where they left and to acquire more knowledge and find the way forward. Indeed, Labelexpo 2013 turned out to be the greatest label show ever! 

True to my terming it as “festival times” in my preshow write-up, label printers from across the world marked their presence at this premier global event in big numbers. It was almost a week full of friendship, fellowship and reunion of industry peers coming from remote destinations.

Grand Place

They were seen exchanging pleasantries and giving hugs to old friends at the show venue or at the “Grand Place” each evening where the visitors would go to chill-out and get a feeling of great times! Brussels was vibrating and the label industry left a stamp of approval for this unique label event. A committed industry that provides labels or the face for any product in terms of aesthetics and information, was there at Labelexpo to empower themselves with more knowledge, learn new developments and witness innovations to deliver more efficiently to their buyers. In the process they also renewed their international acquaintances and explored alliances. It was a festival in true spirit and was celebrated!


The show carried a tag line, “The greatest show on earth”. It lived up to expectations. It opened on the 24 September 2013 to welcome an extremely vibrant visitor profile who were serious and got to work the moment they entered the show. It was perhaps the best opening that I have witnessed in the last 15 years. In just two hours we saw most of exhibitors busy and attending to inquisitive visitors. Lisa Milburn the new and young Managing Director of Labelexpo group should have been a worried person and a nervous one, on the opening day. Contrary to this she was seen confidently moving around the show and happy at the results.

At the end being satisfied at the outcome, she commented,”We knew that we would have more new technology on show than ever before but to see it all live was astounding”. Group managing director, Douglas Emslie added to Lisa’s expression and said, “Labelexpo Europe yet again proved to be the global event for the industry”. Later in the evening on the opening day of the event, the grand function, “Global label awards” was held at The Event Lounge in Brussels. The virtual who's who of the world label industry was present at the most important global event and provided the opportunity to network and exchange views with industry stalwarts.

It was at this time that I met and could get an in-depth “India specific” view of Geoff Martin, chairman and chief executive officer of world’s largest label company, CCL Label. The industry in India has for long looked at him with bated breath as to when he will invest and have been guessing who will be his strategic partner. Commenting on the show Geoff feels Labelexpo Europe has grown and needs to move on, he says, “Find a new venue….Brussels isn’t equipped to handle a show like this”. The global awards evening is a very important event for the pressure sensitive narrow web label industry. The evening’s impressive entertainer was mind reader Lior Manor, while he was on stage I kept thinking they were just visual tricks that he was performing but then suddenly he was at our table. He took a lady’s spectacles and put them on the table. Then he just waived his hands over them and the spectacles tossed over. Amazing as it was, we were trying the trick all evening without success. 

Tomas Rink, Harveer Sahni and Dean Scarborough

The star that evening was Tomas Rink, president of Ritrama, who won the Lifetime achievement award for services rendered and milestones accomplished in his lifetime in the label industry. Dean Scarborough, chairman, president and global chief executive officer of Avery Dennison and I took pleasure in being some of the first ones to congratulate Tom. All award winners are important but in today’s time conscious efforts for the environment protection, sustainability and leaving a planet livable for the generations that follow us are, definitely imperatives that need to be appreciated and awarded.

In words of Dean, whose company Avery won the sustainability award, “I was very pleased that Avery Dennison won the sustainability award for the second year in a row.  It was the capstone for the launch of our second sustainability report during the show. Our customers really liked the theme of sustainable innovation.” 

Lisa Milburn singing and Andy Thomas on keyboard

The evening had a very interesting feature; the “Tarsus team band” went live onstage with group managing editor of Labels and Labeling magazine Andy Thomas on the keyboards. Adding to the fun for the sheer pleasure and surprise of the august audience, the charming new managing director of Labelexpo group, Lisa Milburn, was on the microphone as the singer leading the orchestra!

On day two and three, the show was all serious business. Innovations and improvements in technologies were being presented to an audience with a voracious appetite for learning more. Tom Rink lead Ritrama, showcased their new innovation a linerless label material. The simplicity of the product left even me as a labelstock manufacturer quite fascinated. 


I found the idea so simple that it boggles me why nobody could come up with this solution earlier. They have eliminated the liner completely. Normally, one would print on a 50micron film and then laminate it with a 62gsm liner and use it. However, here, the final labelstock face material is only 37micron instead of 50micron. The technology is in making a self adhesive laminate with a 25micron film and 12micron filmic liner in a conventional manner. This would then be printed at full machine speed of about 200 metres/minute on a normal label press.

Then offline on a Prati equipment the liner would be removed turned around and laminated to the same face stock exposing the siliconised side on top and rewound like an adhesive tape, sandwiching the printing in between. The ILTI dispenser would cut and dispense these labels on to the product. So in per se, the self adhesive laminate is using a lesser total thickness of face material ie 37micron instead of 50micron which means lesser weight for each reel of labelstock and no liner is going to the landfill. This also translates into more labels per reel and lesser machine stops. An ecstatic Tom Rinks stated, “Labelexpo 2013 is a very special one for me and the greatest ever for Ritrama always in the lead". 

This does not really mean the conventional labelstocks will lose out, all technologies will coexist. Montreal-based ETI converting also has presented their unique equipment an ultra compact Cohesio called the Mini-Cohesio. This servo driven in-line silicone and adhesive coating technology uses less space, a shorter web path, a faster setup and is more affordable. A beaming Maxime Bayzelon, president of ETI says, “It was a very big hit! People were very impressed by our New Pellicut die-cutting unit and Mini Cohesio that enables to produce and die-cut label on 18 micron PET with more than 30% savings.”


Leading press manufacturers seemed to be a very satisfied lot at this edition of Labelexpo. Ferdinand Ruesch of Gallus said, “Once more Labelexpo Europe was the melting point of the label industry for four days and proved itself as the number one exhibition worldwide and a must-see for every label printer. For Gallus it was an excellent show.”

Peter Ericksen

Peter Erickson of Nilpeter expressed his satisfaction at the results from the expo, “For Nilpeter, the 2013 Labelexpo has been the best for years. Our industry is back to being driven by a general optimism for the future and a renewed focus on innovation.”

Marco Calcagni at Omet summed up his expression at the end of the show, “Labelexpo Europe closed its doors and it is time to take stock. The show was great for OMET which experienced true interest from the public in its most recent innovations and could sign a few orders during the exhibition days.

Right to left: Antonio Bartesaghi, president of Omet , Sanjeev Sondhi of Zircon, Pawandeep Sahni and KD Sahni of Weldon

 “Tapio Kolunsarka, executive vice president of UPM Raflatac, exuded similar sentiments, “Very busy week – it seems that there is more activity in the industry than what has been for a while”. Spanish flexible die manufacturer Lartec who exhibited, besides their regular range, their innovative range of Debossing, Texturing and Micro-Text dies says the show was an outstanding success, generating a frenzy of interest amongst label printers, paper and machine manufacturers. It was the best ever for them.

The fourth and last day at the exhibition is always very confusing, there are some in a hurry to catch up what they missed, others trying to meet friends whom they did not see due to busy schedule and then those who are waiting to start packing and go home. The general impression around the whole event was that the show was the best ever.

The international media too was extremely busy. I took a detour just to visit all the media stands at the show and was surprised to note they were empty most of the time. When I met a few of them they all expressed paucity of time as they were running out of time at the large number of press conferences and events that they were under pressure to cover. For this reason I avoid covering detailed technical information on the new materials, machines and processes in this write-up as most magazines will be covering all that.

I will here like to mention the omni-present two Indian journalists from Printweek India, Noel D'cunha and Supreeth Sudhakaran. I was stunned by their stamina and drive to cover all details and report them each day online.

Neel Madsen of Flexo Tech UK said we were extremely busy and had no time to attend our booth. Steve Katz of Label and Narrow Web USA sums it up as, “This year's Labelexpo was a high energy show, with exhibitors reporting substantial traffic and motivated buyers. Supplier highlights included inkjet innovation, sustainable substrates and even linerless workflow solutions." 

Wolfgang Klos Geiger

Wolfgang Klos Geiger and wife Jutta, played host as usual to leading printers and suppliers at their stand each evening right from the day before the show opened till the breakdown commenced at the end of the show. International label guru, Mike Fairley, must be saluted for his vigour and indulgence in this prime label event. He was as usual busy with his master classes, lectures, demos, events and interviews. His contribution to the industry is par excellence and applaudable. His comments on the show are, “This was the most outstanding Labelexpo show ever in terms of number of exhibitors, visitor attendance and special attractions.”


The suppliers to the label industry are the backbone of any successful industry event as they are the ones who bring in the funds to create an event of such size and market it effectively. However still it is the label printers who are the reason for the suppliers to invest and be effectively present with their top management.

The show has demonstrated its importance in real terms. 31,795 visitors attended which is over 11% more than the last show. They came from 158 countries, up from 123 countries in 2011. The show was spread over in seven halls covering a floor space admeasuring 31,000 sq/mt which is the largest in Labelexpo Europe’s 33 year history. The number of exhibitors has also grown to almost 600 up from 550 in the last event, demonstrating the confidence level of the exhibitors and the importance of the show. Tarsus reports an incredible 86% rebooking of the space for the next 2015 show. Label printers from across the globe also expressed their satisfaction from this event.

Isidore Leiser of Stratus Packaging says, “It was a very interesting and exciting Label expo.”

Swedish printer, Mikael Dahl from Nordvalls, found new LED UV, digital printing and laser die-cutting very exciting developments and can hardly wait for the next show. He further adds, “The show with different great evening events on the side was as usual great and impressive. It was nice meeting and chatting with colleagues and suppliers from all over the globe.” The show was good but then when you have such a large congregation of a focused industry groups there also have to be some who wish there was more. 

Thomas Hagmaier

Thomas Hagmaier, the West German label printer, member of FINAT board and also the chairman of membership committee feels, “The show was great as expected, a lot of advancement was to be found, but I missed the big gathering, the thru-break of innovations.”

Thomas may have been talking about the expected big innovations and sensational announcements by conventional press suppliers. News that would eventually lead to further evolution of the self adhesive label industry in times to come.

Zulqiurnain Ali Khan of Zultec, Saudi Arabia said, “It is a good, very focused and informative show, good learning for us to decide on our future plans. Pleasure meeting business friends from around the world and understanding different market trends”.  


FINAT the world label association was this time very active and their contribution to sustainability and environment is worth appreciation. They held luncheon sessions on these subjects for the benefits of members. The membership drive also got a boost with FINAT enrolling many new members.

FINAT president, Kurt Walker, commented, “Labelexpo Europe is always an inspiration for me, and it's great to be here in Brussels experiencing the best of my favourite industry. The world is changing in many ways, and FINAT knows that the label industry's future success depends on understanding changing needs, communicating them, meeting them, and always being ahead of the game.”

Dana Kilarska, president, FINAT YMC Board

FINAT has been actively promoting the involvement of the generation next in the day to day affairs of the industry and association. The FINAT young managers club (YMC) is becoming more and more active; I was pleased to notice that the next generation is steadily getting into driving seat. Bibiana of Rotatek, Fransesca Egea, Pawandeep Sahni of Weldon and Finat YMC board president, Dana Kilarska, all were very visible by their energy and movements around the various halls.

Dana wrote back to me and she says, “I have experienced amazing atmosphere and gained new knowledge about our industry.” She adds further, “These four days full of positive impressions are the greatest four days in our industry!”

As regards Indian participation is concerned, it is indeed strange. Given the currency problems in India resulting in a weak Rupee it was expected that the Indian presence will decline. While at the show even I felt that there were fewer Indians then last time. In the last show we could find a lot of Indians visibly moving around the halls but this time all felt they were lesser in number and the reason was not difficult to imagine. When the figures came out I was stunned! Almost same number of Indian visited the Labelexpo Europe.

In 2011 the figure was 429 and this year the figure was just about that much at 421. I wonder why they were not visible. I have dwelled on the subject and finally I feel that the only explanation that I can come out with is that they were perhaps the busiest lot in discussions with prospective suppliers. If this is true, we can expect a much needed investments and increase in capacity to enhance growth in the Indian label industry.

Our LMAI secretary, Ramesh Deshpande, was busy escorting the officials of the ministry of MSME, Government of India, to all Indian exhibitors’ stands in an effort to get them the subsidy that is available to the industry by the Government. His efforts are appreciated. This time a total of seventeen, the highest number of Indian companies ever, exhibited.

While Sanjeev Sondhi of Zircon says that a busy schedule at Brussels left him wishing there was more time. He missed important meetings. Chandan Khanna of Ajanta Packaging with multinational presence said, “Great time spent, meeting friends from all over the world and watching innovations and improvements in the art of printing labels. It keeps getting better every two years. Time well enjoyed. It is fantastic learning for future expansions.”

Kuldeep Goel a stickler for innovation feels it was an imperative to be a visitor to this important show. Our lone Indian label press manufacturer to exhibit at Brussels, Amit Ahuja, says, “Fantastic response, closed an order and 6 more expected shortly”!

Lablestock manufacturer SMI had put up an impressive stand and they have been very busy. Weldon exhibited their tamper evident range of labelstocks and A4 Laser labels. Other important Indians that I met or saw were Amar Chhajed of Webtech, Gururaj of Wintek (ITW), Hemanth Paruchuri of Pragati, Dinesh Mahajan of Prakash Labels, Ajay Agarwal of Syndicate labels, Rajesh Nema of Pragati Global, Manish Desai of Mudrika, Mahendra Shah of Renault, and a host of others.

The Indian contingent with Sandeep Lal of Metro Labels Toronto, Canada

Evenings at Brussels during this event are spent in restaurants and lanes in and around Grand Place. Most of the old international friends are found while walking around in this area. There are parties organised by many exhibitors leaving visitors busy also in the evening. For the last eight years we have always been hiring the same ground floor apartment in Grand Place area so that my friends can walk in for a drink and also get a taste of my culinary indulgence.

Sanjeev Sondhi, tempering the lentils (Daal)

This year I am pleased to say, the party grew bigger and the fun side added to the pleasure of fellowship amongst industry peers. In words of my dear friend Sandeep Lal, president of Metro Labels, Toronto, Canada, “The best part of my trip to Labelexpo was the evening I hung out with the Indian Contingent at Harveer’s apartment. Thank you Harveer for making that possible.” I thank my friends for being with me.