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Rotometrics celebrates an Exploration of Print

UK Sales Director, Neil Lilly, welcomed more than 300 converters to this year’s two-day event in Aldridge, saying that to succeed and prosper in today’s constantly changing market for package print, converters needed to see and react quickly to new trends and offer something more than their competition. Introducing a line-up of speakers that covered various sectors of the market, the noticeable thread running throughout was responsibility, sustainability and the environment.

But the programme kicked off with a new product presentation by Nick Gilmore, CEO of IC3D Creative Edge Software, who illustrated how innovative technology was coming to the aid of the packaging industry. He traced the history of three-dimensional vision back 500 million years and highlighted its importance today in all manner of tasks from driving to filling a container with liquid. JIT marketing, advertising and cost reduction are the key driving factors in the development of 3D rendering software, which is expected to be worth around $3 billion by 2022 and shows an annual growth rate of 22%. The 3D technology market will hit $175 billion by 2020 – so its importance and value are unquestionable.

So, why is 3D visualisation important? Because it delivers a visual effect that generates a perception of depth. This means that viewers get an enriched 360 degree viewing experience of the image, which helps prototyping because an accurate example of the real product can be seen in advance. By showing the product in physical form, any problems can be identified and resolved prior to production, which shortens time to market. This was highlighted by a graphic which compared a new design taken from brief to prototype in typically 33 days using outsourced 3D services, with the same job handled in-house in just 10 days. As he concluded: 3D photo-realistic visuals are becoming the norm, and whether the packaging is glass, liquids, foils, bags, or cartons - they all look amazing! Any packaging designer can learn iC3D in just days, and it will save you and your client time and money – and even win new business!”

Joanna Stephenson, Managing Director of ‘Women in Packaging UK’ and MD of PHD Marketing then outlined the market trends. With the UK/Ireland sales growth for 2018 predicted to be higher than the European average, with the pharma, beverage, health/beauty, and food sectors leading the way, she said there is room for optimism. Despite the growth, run lengths continue to decline and two distinct trends were noted: an interest in digital technology; and a willingness of narrow web converters to move into folding cartons. But while volumes are up, it seems loyalty is slipping, with many brands looking to source outside Western Europe.

Although the world economy is likely to double by 2050, there remain obvious hurdles. The current anti-global policies emerging from the USA, and the outcome of Brexit. Both offer challenges and opportunities, but require watchfulness and careful planning to take advantage of the boom in demand for luxury products for home consumption in times of uncertainty.

She highlighted a number of examples of how smart technology is helping to boost market share through active involvement with the brand. The Pepsi Max #FutbolNow Blippar campaign, Nestlé’s innovative use of cereal boxes as Augmented Reality, Share-a-Coke, and Nutella Unica were all cited as examples, while the connectivity offered by IOT (Internet of Things) gives converters an opportunity to take the lead. Technology is also increasingly involved in the need to track and trace all packaging to assure product authenticity, and digital workflow is offering converters and brand owners alike a greater degree of security.

One of the greatest influences in today’s retail market is the growth of E-Commerce, more than 20% of which will be cross-border by 2020. This is requiring designers to rethink packaging to cater for the tech-savvy generation for whom ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth) is more important than the traditional FMOT (First Moment of Truth). Packaging design needs to work both online and on-shelf, bearing in mind the former may be viewed on the small screen of a smartphone. The task of a designer becomes more complex with the need to satisfy a market that demands frustration-free packaging that includes a vast amount of data, is unique, personalised, and sustainable!

Another area set to grow is the local/craft business, which offers opportunities to use unique stocks and added-value techniques to lift shelf appeal. This goes hand-in-hand with the demand for personalisation at one end, and minimalism at the other, as consumers demand a return to the simplicity of ‘real food’. Which brings the debate neatly round to environmental protection and the need to use more recyclable/compostable materials from renewable sources. Linerless is one obvious technology for the future, but the situation needs tackling from the far end with better recycling of materials. The days of ‘single-use’ packaging are drawing rapidly to a close.

With the environment in mind, and the need to ‘leave the world a better place than we found it’, Kevin Vyse of Marks & Spencer showed how from community projects in the 1990s the graph of progress towards a truly sustainable business by 2030 was being achieved. The end goal is a low carbon business that is circular, restorative, and committed to well-being, equality and fairness. M&S embarked on what it calls Plan A in 2007 and last year moved into phase two. The aim is to have 100% of its packaging recycled by 2022 and to be using one polymer group only for plastic packaging (to ease recycling) by 2025, the need for which is being driven by the continued rise in world population, more urban living, and the growth of single use packaging, such as water bottles.

He explained that there are two types of economy: linear, and circular. Linear follows the ‘take, make, use, and dispose’ concept, while circular follows the ‘make, use, repair, re-use, and recycle’. Today, plastic packaging follows the linear route, and it needs to change by re-designing, re-using, and recycling more effectively. M&S has a three-pronged strategy for this. It believes in maximising resources by making efficient use of ‘healthy’ materials that can be renewed, recycled and are traceable. That customers and brands can be protected by optimising packaging that is designed to minimise waste and maximise recovery and utilisation and third, that supply should be secure by sourcing only from the greenest raw material suppliers and converters. As he concluded, we have only one planet Earth, and we need to protect it.

Next up, Susan Wright, Editorial Director of Earth Island Publishing, gave an impassioned plea for environmental respect. Saying that creativity and sustainability go hand in hand, she said that the market is demanding more than decoration for its packaging and that the pressure for sustainability has switched from being an -in-house ethic at the more ‘green-minded’ converters five years ago, to being driven by consumer demand today. This offers both an opportunity and a challenge. For converters using natural substrates, there is the chance to win back some lost ground by skilful design and the promotion of paper-based packaging as a the only sustainable option, and for the plastic-based sector, a challenge to prove that it can gain maximum use and re-use with minimal harm from its fossil fuel-based products.

Citing the three current trends of: a move towards digital production, the growth of smart packaging, and ‘green’ production, she said that most brand owners were now less concerned about how their printed packaging was produced than how creative it is, and whether it meets their corporate policy on sustainability. With the continued slide in average run lengths, which reflect not only the desire by brand managers to ring the changes on volume products, but also the growth in demand for short run packaging from artisanal businesses (think beer, wine, preserves etc), converters have a unique opportunity to make a sea-change in how they produce and the materials they use. For the sake of the planet, they all need to get it right!

Also on a personal note, Sanjay Patel brought his vast experience in packaging to bear on the audience with an amusing but highly pertinent presentation on ‘Opening the eyes of Brands’. Speaking with a Packaging Collective hat on, of which he is a Founding Partner, he explained that there are five fundamental design principles that all packaging needs to meet: protect, present, promote, position, and provide, and he said that if you get it wrong, someone is going to be very unhappy! Asking the question: ‘what does the future hold?’ he speculated on the use of drones for delivery, but suggested that whatever lies ahead, it holds a challenge for printed packaging, whether it be a bottle, a bag, or a box.

Moving on to discuss Marketing 4.0, a level to which most companies aspire but which relatively few attain, he said that marketing has moved from the early descriptive days where packaging needed to explain what the product did, to the second phase that required it to explain why it was better than its competitors, to phase three, which saw freedom of choice and the need to find a way of making the customer feel special. The fourth level is relevance, and equating how the message can appeal to a wide audience for the same reason, but without identifying a specific product – and he showcased this with one of John Lewis’ Christmas TV advertisements in which a cartoon hare gives his best friend, a bear, an alarm clock to wake him from his hibernation and allow him to enjoy his first Christmas Day. The alarm clock was almost irrelevant, although sales did go up – but the engagement of all who saw it to the John Lewis brand was incalculable.

Looking ahead, he said that Marketing 5.0 is all about purpose and looks at ‘why are you here, and why should anyone care?’ It’s not just about ‘me’, it’s about creating a true ‘win-win’ situation that is all embracing, and requires the brand to grow almost organically. For those in the audience who struggled to relate to this concept, he recommended signing up to the Packaging Collective and giving those involved in this global industry a stronger voice and more leverage on the market.

The event was wrapped up by Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who in describing the various phases of his education and colourful military career, gave a motivational speech that stressed the need for perseverance and a pathological dislike of all competition! Illustrating his presentation with examples of his many global explorations, mostly at the North and South Poles, he emphasised the importance of being first at everything, irrespective of the hardship involved. In a witty and entertaining hour, ‘The World’s Greatest Living Explorer’, as he is described by The Guinness Book of Records, Sir Ranulph put into perspective the humdrum daily lives that most of us live.