FINAT Technical Seminar 2018 - Entering into the flexible packaging industry
Narrow web printers have the opportunity to extend their services to flexible packaging. During the FINAT technical seminar 2018, Nanette Thomas, CEO of Synthogra, explained why to take this step and how to start.
The reasons to extend the range of services as a narrow web printer to include flexible packing are multiple. The simple reasons are because you can, and because you and your customers will benefit.
Narrow web printers can offer these services as consumers of flexible packaging are the same ones as of self-adhesive labels. Even the technology, narrow web printing, is suitable to produce flexible packaging. In other words, no mayor investment in marketing or technology is needed to extend your range of services. And the potential benefits are high. Offering a complete lid for a pasta pack, for example, is in many cases worth more than just offering the label that goes on top of the lid.
Short lead times – quantities as requested
For the brand owner, ordering from a narrow web printer has huge advantages over ordering from a traditional supplier using wide web technology. During the workshop Nanette presented a case of a pasta producer, producing 5 kinds of pasta for 4 supermarket chains. A narrow web solution would reduce the delivery time to 1-2 weeks over the 12-16 weeks that it would take for a wide web solution provider. This results in a much faster time to market. On top of this the brand owner reduces his upfront investments to a third compared with buying from a wide web solution provider, as is his minimum order quantity and his stock. This means less capital, faster revenue generation and more space in his warehouse. In short, narrow web technology makes that Narrow web printers are well positioned to compete with the traditional suppliers of flexible packaging, where wide web dominates. This opens up new opportunities for FINAT members. Brand owners will welcome the improved offerings. A true win-win.
How to start?
Going flexible for a narrow web printer makes sense, but where to start? Here Nanette shared the experience of a converter. The first important step for the converter was to set up a support network. To enter the flexible packaging market, you need the collaboration of at least a brand owner, an equipment supplier, a material supplier and of course ink and clichés.
It is a joint effort.
Barriers and film layers.
During the workshop, Nanette described issues like how to determine the layers of film and barriers needed. Issues narrow web printers normally need not worry about, but as a flexible packaging producer these issues are key. It matters a lot whether you pack food or non-food. And within food it matters which kind of food. During the workshop, issues regarding regulating oxygen and water were discussed, and the need for testing and documentation. And this is where the network becomes important. Going into flexible packaging for a narrow web printer looks easy, since it involves the same customers and narrow web printing technology. However, going from label producer to packaging producer is also a huge step. Food safety and reputation risk for the brand owner are at stake. The potential returns might be higher, but so are the risks. Dealing with these risks requires knowledge and experience that a narrow web printer making this move will not have initially. For this, a strong network with your equipment and material suppliers is of the essence.
Environment and help
Nanette also informed about our environment, how can we participate in saving materials… what is the difference in compostable and biodegradable, what is our responsibility.
In short, going into flexible packaging makes sense, but it is not easy. The FINAT Marketing and Communication Subcommittee can help by telling the story to brand owners in general that narrow web printers can provide more services than just printing labels. And the FINAT Technical Committee can help converters develop the network and technical knowledge that is required to enter this market successfully.