FINAT Travel docs: Love & life – the story of two label printers in Greece - Part 1
"Fair Greece, sad relic of departed worth. Immortal, though no more, though fallen, great.” – Lord Byron
We sometimes forget that Greece is much more than a beautiful and sunny travel destination or the producer of feta cheese, ouzo or souvlaki and gyros. It is the birthplace of mythological heroes, philosophy, medicine, democracy, theatre, the Olympic Games and other principles of Western civilization. The country is also a founding member of the United Nations. English romantic poet Lord Byron lost his heart and soul to the Greek culture and was even bold enough to join the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire in 1821. He sadly died in 1824 in Messolonghi, a city I happen to spend my holidays and where I lived when I was 7 years old. Being half Dutch and half Greek (and speaking the language) I have had the privilege to learn and benefit from both cultures and habits. I am still amazed by the beauty that can be found in the smallest of things, and thankful for the many connections and friendships that have been established in Greece and other countries through FINAT.
This year, in our search for hotels in Athens for a possible ELF in 2024, I took the opportunity to visit two label printers that are members of our association: Cabas S.A. & Forlabels S.A. Both companies are to exhibit at the upcoming Syskevasia show in Athens, from 30 September - 2 October 2022 (Cabas: Hall 2, stand no C11, Forlabels: Hall2, stand no E3)
The following is the first report on Cabas S.A., how they perceive the label industry in Greece in general and what label printing means to them in particular.
Jakovina van Haeringen, Events & Publications Manager
A company founded in 1970 by Nikos Cabas in downtown Athens, who after having tasted the rigidness and narrow-mindedness of the public service sector he used to work for, decided to follow his heart and pursue a career in which he could make the most of his imagination and passion. His label printing company was set up at a time when self-adhesive labels did not yet exist in Greece.
Searching for innovation and more economical solutions he started printing on a machine that in those days, and especially now, was small enough to fit in a broom closet. It did not impede Nikos from delivering. After all, it takes a master to work miracles regardless of what we might call inferior tools and materials. The first labels he printed were intended for pastry and florist shops and immediately became a success.
In 1982, the company was relocated to another part of Athens. The business expanded and it was time to invest in more up-to-date machinery. In 2000, a prepress department was added, covering the needs of layout processing, proofing and production of printing plates, thus providing a fully integrated service. In 2001, the company looked beyond the Greek borders and also started to supply labels to several European end-users. In 2009, the company again invested in technology and installed an innovative system for the final inspection of labels, for ultimate safety and accuracy (Web Inspection Camera).
Nowadays, after several investments and technical updates, Cabas owns four letterpress and one digital printing press, with a flexo press being the latest addition. Services encompass design, pre-press, print production (with a variety of UV and special low migration inks, silkscreen, varnishes, foils and other embellishments), post-production control and packing. All plates are neatly stored in an advanced archiving system with controlled temperature and humidity conditions.
The people and their philosophy
The current Managing Director, Panos Cabas, joined the firm in 1996. He, his wife Nicole who deals with Marketing, and a team of dedicated employees diligently focus on projects and are making sure that clients receive the continuous quality for which they have asked.
“Our philosophy is not based on growing our business, but on maintaining a high degree of trust and integrity and keeping good relationships with our clients,” Panos comments. “We listen to our clients and do our utmost to provide at their needs and meet their requirements. Personal involvement is at the top of our agenda. Our personnel are also treated like family. We are here for each other. We share the good and the bad times."
I can certainly underline this statement as I was welcomed as a good friend into the premises and introduced as such to all the staff present during my visit.
Becoming a member of FINAT
The decision to join FINAT in early 2000 was taken because of the leading role an association can play in tackling matters that concern the industry. Matters that cannot be dealt with by a single company. ”The association is a window of opportunities; a platform where serious minded people come together to discuss business, regulations, technical aspects, schooling of young talents, sustainability issues, to learn about the market, and much more. They find common ground to improve collaboration and exchange of information, hence changing the future of the industry for the better.”
The building could very well have been a FINAT office, for my eyes were immediately captured by the familiar design of the FINAT logo. The walls of the stairwells and rooms are trimmed with numerous certificates Cabas has won in the FINAT Label Competition throughout the years, and the recently acquired Best in Show and other Group awards adorn one of the cabinets in Panos’ office. Nevertheless, this hall of fame is not used as promotion. The company prefers to keep a low profile.
“For us, the awards are not meant to show off to the public; they are a welcome proof that the company’s efforts in providing printing excellence have paid off. In our opinion, the FINAT Label Competition is a means for label printers to demonstrate their potential and versatility of the product and we truly hope that the competition will be continued,” Panos explains.
The label business – before and after Covid
As far as the overall label market is concerned, Cabas is of the opinion that markets worldwide face challenges as well as opportunities. The Greek label industry is no exception. Greek label printers may be considered a bit more stubborn, but also quite flexible, when it comes to adjusting to new circumstances, as they have had to overcome quite a few hurdles during the past few years.
In 2020, Covid struck the world. “The Greek label market has actually grown because of the Pandemic, especially due to the needs and growth of the food and pharma sectors,” Panos comments. “As our company mainly supplies these industries, which are considered critical end-use markets, we managed to stay open and overcome this difficult period almost unscathed. Right before the first lockdown we incorporated the required safety measures and made adjustments in working shifts, so that production could continue without endangering any staff.”
Additionally, new food contact regulations and other safety recommendations for (fresh) products to be sold wrapped or packaged, created a need for more labels. During the 3rd quarter of 2022 though, this high demand of the previous months seems to balance itself and return to normal volumes for both of those markets and the time of year.
Another crisis, this year’s strike at the UPM paper mills, was also averted due to thoughtful, imaginative thinking. Customers were informed in advance of possible longer delivery times and were given a portfolio of samples of alternative labelstock to choose from and to test, just in case the original material was no longer available for a specific application. By doing so, clients were able to continue to sell their products.
As to the question whether there are still opportunities for a label printing company to grow despite the competition, Panos responds: “Yes, there are always opportunities for a company to grow, especially when you offer quality, honesty and ethos. In order to print more and better labels you invest in technology and people. Novel features and enhanced abilities of printing presses and finishing machines have created new businesses for the label printers and presented them with an excellent chance for growth.”
Talking about the competition, Panos expresses his concern about a small number of companies which operate without a sound strategic plan or vision for their future. To attract customers they drop prices, and offer their services sometimes even below cost. Fortunately, the majority of the Greek label industry consists of strong, capable printing companies, something from which one can only benefit. “Strong and healthy competition creates a strong and healthy industry as a whole, and helps our customers trust Greek companies and invest in our cooperations. No one can ever achieve alone what we can accomplish together!”
The hour passed quickly and we arrived at the last question of the interview. “If you were asked to finish the sentence: For me labels are….what would you say?”
Panos responded immediately. “Labels are like a mistress, they are my ‘second’ love.” Here I notice Nicole’s eyebrow arching a bit, but I am more than confident that she comes first and need not feel envious of a paper or filmic label. “I love working in the label industry. I am not in pursuit of fame and glory, but I do want to build a legacy of being a reliable, trustworthy company that cares about its customers and for the people working for it. We will continue our business with the same enthusiasm and dedication we have done for more than 50 years, and we will deal with whatever challenges we encounter in the future together.”