Labelexpo Europe 2019: Growth of PS labels and flexo’s fight-back, Andy Thomas of Tarsus shares the data

At the Labelexpo Global Series, Andy Thomas shared some exciting numbers and analysis of the global label market.

25 Sep 2019 | By Noel D'Cunha

Andy Thomas of Tarsus

The global primary product label market by technology: 24% was wet glue, 24% sleeving, 23% each is PS and Prime while in-mold and others constituted 3% of the pie. Thomas said, “Pressure sensitive remains the biggest category of label volume. It would be interesting to note that around about half of that PS volume is industrial labels in terms of information printing, which means it is a prime label market. Pressure sensitive, wet glue, and shrink sleeves have roughly equal volume. Shrink sleeves is the fastest growing label category, and about four and a half percent. But mostly, this is currently in wide-web web format in central pressure, flexo or gravure.”

While wet glue, as we know, is still losing the market share to pressure sensitive, but still has shown 3% growth globally. “It will be interesting to see the reaction against the ban on plastics or use of plastic, and whether that would get the traction for wet glue to make a bit of a comeback,” said Thomas.

The year has also seen flexible packaging become a part of the label industry. “It’s not something that Labelexpo had been promoting up to now. It just naturally happened that as presses become capable of handling symptoms, materials, label converters have naturally progressed on to flexible packaging. So we see a new generation of what we described as mid-web presses. So we’ve moved from the narrow web industry 13-inch presses, we’re now seeing this new generation member presses a 26-inch.” He added, “And the reason is that with the film format – shrink-film, shrink sleeves and the flexible packaging – the size of the printing is bigger, so it makes more sense to have wider press which reduces waste.

On the digital side of flexible, there will be new launches by Xeikon, the Memjet-Colordyne tie-up, plus the HP Indigo 20000 at the show.

On the hybrid front, there are 180 installations globally, with 6-8% being new press installations. At the show, Bobst has brought its first hybrid press, and there’s the Chinese manufacturer Spande which is collaborating with Domino.
A survey by the Labexpo showed that 15% of converter investment would be in conventional flexo press compared to 13% in digital. “I certainly see a fightback by flexo,” said Thomas. He added, “The reasons could be the higher levels of automation It could be the handling, like automated pressure setting, register inspection, increase integration with the main information systems or fast semi-rotary die-cutting. It helps make flexo a more viable proposition of shorter runs for brands.”

The survey also dwelled on sustainability, which showed that the converters are moving from a ‘nice to have’ attitude to ‘mission critical’. “It is a step-up from the brands, and now being driven very clearly by the agenda of younger consumers through sustainable products,” added Thomas.