Sachin Shardul looks at Indian label industry

Sachin Shardul says, the per capita consumption of labels in India is still in its nascent stage. And the growth of packaging has been a constant factor as compared to commercial printing.

10 Dec 2013 | By Sachin Shardul

India is seen as a growing market for packaging sector especially the labels. Multinationals, foreign brands are investing in the country as they see huge potential for their products. One can witness the demand in packaged products. For instance when I was in my home town near Jalgoan (a mere 15,000 population), I saw the demand for packaged and labeled food products. This awareness of having the properly packed and labeled products is encouraging. But it’s a long way to be at par with the developed countries.

This can be vetted when Vivek Kapoor, president of Label Manufacturer Association of India (LMAI) in his opening speech during the LMAI Conference 2013, says, “Predicting the future is easy. It's trying to figure out what's going on now that's hard.” He quoted the Hollywood actor Robert Redford, when he said, “Problems can become opportunities when the right people come together.”

India a potential market

India is seen as a market which has the potential for the consumption of products, be it house hold, cosmetic, pharmaceutical, health care, beverage products etc. The reason for this is rise of literacy level and awareness through various marketing campaigns like television, newspaper, use of smart devices and now internet. It will not be wrong if I say, 70% of population of the country is between the age group of 20 to 45 and this segment of population is highly aware the development outside country. The major percentage of the population falls in medium to higher income group. This segment of population has the capacity to spend and it is growing. Leaving standards are improving.

The cosmetic, FMCG, health care, beverage companies are introducing new products in the market. In the process, printing plays an important role be it for product promotions, advertisements and more importantly for the packaging.

The main trend is: a shift from wet glue adhesive to self adhesive label.

Trend in labels

Today companies are aggressive when it comes to packaging either it is labels or cartons. Label especially is critical segment.

For example, Knock Out, a beer by SABMiller India planned to launch a new soda for which they wanted an innovation on the label which could attract the consumers. The innovation was the blue printed portion on the label glows at a certain temperature when kept in a refrigerator. This was achieved with the temperature sensitive special inks.

The labels can also be termed as silent salesman which compels its buyers to buy as well as acts as a distinguishing factor among its competitors. Thus, it becomes a challenge for both the brand owner and the label convertor to come up with innovative and attractive option on label because the area is limited unlike cartons. The reason is that label has the information of the product, manufacturer, and ingredients which are important and cannot be ignored.

Pre-press plays a crucial role for this. Today, there are software’s which help in designing and rendering effects on the labels. The challenge does not stop at pre-press, printing of the labels is next big thing.

Label printing on the conventional flexography presses is no longer same as it was 10 years ago. The technology has evolved. Today besides flexo printing, labels can have the gravure, offset, letterpress, screen along with the die-cutting effect in a single pass. There are machine manufacturers who now have their own presence in India and who can provide latest technology.

Types of labels

Depending on the product segment, labels differ from each other. The labels which are produced for pharmaceutical products are different from the house hold products and so on. The design and structure of the label purely depends on the usage of the product.

For example, the labels for the export oriented pharmaceutical products especially for some countries in US and Europe has to have braille printing on it. In India, the government is also thinking of having braille printing on the pharmaceutical label.

There are various types of labels. Multilayer label, sticker label Piggyback labels which are made from combining two layers of adhesive substrate. The bottom layer forms the backing for the top. The label can be applied to any object as normal, the top layer can be a removable label that can be applied elsewhere, which may change the message or marking on the remaining label underneath. These are often used on express mail envelopes.

Smart labels have RFID chips embedded under the label stock. Asset labels are used for marking fixed and non-fixed assets. They are usually tamper-evident, permanent or frangible and usually contain a barcode for electronic identification using readers. Blockout labels are not see-through at all, concealing what lies underneath with a strong gray adhesive.

Biometric labels, this is future technology and it will some time to come to India. It works on the temperature of the skin. When the figure touches the label of cream or lotion bottle, the label indicates whether the product is suitable or not to consumer.


The per capita consumption of labels in US is 70%, in China it is 10% to 12% while in India it is not even 2%. So we have huge potential for growth. Even if we have to reach 12 % then we will have to increase the awareness usage. This means many label convertors and newer kit which can produce the labels.