Produce select flexo inks, invest more in its development

Gaurav Sathaye, director at United Inks, says, though producing value-added inks hasn’t shot the top line, the bottom line has helped sustain its R&D activities. Sathaye discusses this and more about the label market with Noel D’Cunha.

03 Oct 2015 | By Noel D'Cunha

PrintWeek India (PWI): United Inks completed 75 years of its existence. It’s been a long journey for sure. But how have the last two years been?
Gaurav Sathaye (GS): The past two years have been eventful at United Inks, particularly in the label and packaging segments. Our inks have gained world-class recognition. I say world class, because today, the top printers to whom we supply inks are comparable with the best in the world, when it comes to quality work.
In specialty inks, well we have been converting “interest” into regular repeat sales. 
Our focus has been on selective and meaningful value-added work as a result of which our top line has not shot up but the bottomline is now allowing for more investments in R&D and product development. 
PWI: What is your star product at the Labelexpo Europe 2015? What’s new and how will it benefit the customers?
GS: We have showcased our portfolio of UV inks and our range of specialty inks. We feel such innovative products will allow for product differentiation, wow factor or security and anti-counterfeiting solutions which will allow higher customer satisfaction and retention as well as better margins for us and our customers.
PWI: We are nearly at the end of 2015. How has the label sector looked like? 
GS: The label printing industry has enough scope for growth for those who are investing in innovation and technology. On the other hand the general market has been commoditised, leading to the price wars.
The global economic slowdown has been a bit of a dampener, hence our push for innovation by way of product differentiation, wow factor or security or anti-counterfeit. 
PWI: Labels are still a piece of decoration, or in terms of functionality, there’s more to labels?
GS: Labels have evolved into “functional packaging”. They make the product stand out against competition and entice the customer; and must also ensure they clearly indicate product authenticity, product expiry, product nutrition / calorific data and allergic ingredients info as well as sometimes provide necessary barrier properties. On these lines, many of our customers have already started working towards the new evolved requirements to set benchmarks for the industry.
PWI: New guidelines for product security and ingredients disclosures are being introduced on a regular basis. Are labels donning a bigger role here?
GS: Security and anti-counterfeit is a large, important and unfortunately ignored area in India. Internationally, labels have already incorporated various security features to allow the consumer and/or the manufacturer to authenticate the product - in many cases due to regulations in this regard coming from the government departments especially for “high involvement” products.
India is a big market with an equally large grey market of counterfeit products. The large brands only resort to legal teams and raids to try to catch the counterfeiters – many a times without being able to prove in court that the seized goods are in fact duplicate. It is hence imperative that the label takes the role of carrying the security measures through hologram foils and security inks to be able to authenticate products and reduce the menace of duplicate goods.
PWI: There are new substrates, linerless to name one, plus processes. Which are the ones that are especially challenging when printing labels with your inks and what should the labellers do to address these challenges?
GS: Various substrates do pose their individual challenges which are handled by improved skills of pressman, the process technology and ink technology involved. It’s ultimately the team-work which makes us handle the challenges.
PWI: Though ink constitutes a small part of the production cost, it still is an integral part of the process. What are the ways in which using your inks can help label printers minimise waste and become more cost-effective to meet today’s fast-evolving production requirements and deliver greater commercial advantage? Can you give an example?
GS: Though inks are a small part of the production cost of a printer, the wrong ink with lower density or lower mileage or alternately longer set-up times will definitely generate higher wastage and machine-downtimes which will affect the printer in his cost and the environment with more waste. United Inks has always been recognised as a supplier of very high and consistent quality of inks.
We have an interesting example of a printer who requested us for a Roller Coater Scented Ink instead of a screen ink. The result was an ink that was at least twice as expensive. However, the printer saved much more through higher productivity and larger output and could complete the job within the agreed time, which otherwise would not have been possible. 
PWI: There are improvements in label manufacturing equipment, software and consumables, including inks happening. In future, what improvements can we expect from United Inks?
GS: As a customer we all are looking for a solution for low migration, less ink wastage on shelf/press, food grade inks etc. 
The buzz currently is around topics such as LED curing to save energy, security inks for anti-counterfeit and brand protection, low migration inks for pharma and food products, seven colour “spectrum” inks for wider colour gamut and eventual Pantone replacement. These are some of the developments that most ink makers would be working on. We would also be.
PWI: What do you see changing and growing in the label marketplace?
GS: The concern and awareness for the environment, continues to grow and we see the industry working more and more towards sustainable products, processes and practices.