Label and packaging industry meets at Label Congress

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More than 50 exhibitors were present at Label Congress to organize product demonstrations and showcase their new products. The event, which marked the return of an in-person trade show, took place in Rosemont, Ill., USA, from September 29-30.

After the first day of the event, Avery Dennison and Flint Group sponsored a tag meeting in the heart of Rosemont at Joe’s Live. The Reunion Label allowed participants to catch up after spending more than 18 months apart, conducting much of their business virtually. For many Label Congress attendees, the TLMI Converter meeting in March 2020 was the last in-person gathering.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the event took the place of Labelexpo Americas. The wider aisles of the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center were complemented by an abundance of disinfection stations and an indoor mask mandate at the show.

While there was no equipment at the show, companies found other ways to bring their information to attendees. For example, Xeikon and Screen Americas took visitors to their neighboring facilities to see their digital printing presses in action. Meanwhile, Epson showed live demonstrations in California via a remote network. The material suppliers also provided the guests with samples and brochures. The event also brought together a wide range of product experts at each stand.

In addition to networking and product information, Label Congress presented a strong conference program. The event opened with an informative overview of the state of the label industry. AWA President Alexander Watson Associates Corey Reardon and TLMI President Linnea Keen provided insight into the latest trends, as well as the impact of sustainability and M&A in our industry.

“It’s great to attend an event in person after 18 months,” Reardon exclaimed.

Reardon analyzed the product labeling and decorating market in the session titled Introduction: Global Market Overview. Globally, 68.3 million square meters of label materials were printed last year, and stickers represent the largest labeling format of the total material volume at 40%.

“We have seen a recent change driven by Covid where VIP categories have grown at a slightly faster rate than primary labeling – for logistics, transportation and shipping labels,” Reardon said. “It is important to note that VIP does not have competing categories like shrink sleeves, in-mold etc. The pandemic, along with home delivery, has really accelerated the growth of VIP labels. “

According to AWA, there has been a bit more erosion for stickers – despite being the primary labeling format – due to shrink sleeves compared to 5-10 years ago. Overall, the label market is growing by 3.4% worldwide, with North America accounting for 2.5%. Asia leads this category with growth of 4.7%.

Keen said TLMI “has a positive outlook for the future” with growth in self-adhesive label formats in North America. Keen added that supply chain disruptions, M&A activity and the continued quest for sustainability will be key topics going forward.

In a recent AWA survey, more than half of respondents (61%) are three weeks or more late for materials. This is the fourth quarter in a row with over 40% reporting a backlog of three weeks or more.

“Sustainability has continued to be, before covid, and will continue to be, after covid, an important topic for our industry,” noted Reardon. “The liner and the matrix are by-products. I recommend learning more about associations like CELAB from TLMI. CELAB is a group of companies coming together to create solutions for matrix and liner waste in a very proactive and important way, with the real goal of keeping labeling products out of the landfill.

“Today, digital printing is not a niche technology,” Reardon added, identifying other megatrends. “Today it is a consumer technology competing with flexo, and not increasing it as in the past. There’s also a lot going on in workflow management, quality control systems, and automated functions within organizations, making companies more competitive to do a lot more with a lot less. Automation is becoming a way to streamline the workforce, and it’s true all over the world. Once we have the materials, we don’t have the manpower to operate the machines.

Another major trend is M&A activity. According to Mazzone & Associates, there have been 39 acquisitions in 2020. There have been 25 acquisitions so far YTD in 2021, and that number is expected to increase. These movements involve strategies and consolidation.

“This is a dynamic part of the industry, which we continue to see to grow,” commented Reardon.

“Labels are a very strong market and a strong industry with high demand,” Keen added. “It leads to a desire to be in this space.”


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