Label industry predictions for 2021– insights from Konica Minolta

| 15 December 2020

Comment by Edoardo Cotichini, Senior Manager Professional Print, Konica Minolta Business Solutions Europe

Whatever happens in the overall economy at large, the printing industry – digital labels and packing in particular - will remain resilient and continue to play an important role in our everyday lives.

Any crisis such as coronavirus will accelerate trends that were already under way. They include the drive towards automation, online print purchasing and webshops, plus, of course, the unstoppable analogue to digital transition.

The IDC “Western Europe Digital Label and Packaging Printer Forecast, 2020-2024” makes it clear that brand owners will play a pivotal role in a changing world from analogue to digital printing in labels. Toner-based devices will continue to drive most shipments. Its advice to converters includes[1], “Digital print enables brands and manufacturers to respond quickly to customer demands. It also enables brands to improve manufacturing and the supply chain, reduce warehousing cost and waste and helping brands achieve faster time to market.”

Converters increasingly will look to digital print offerings

The report reveals that, by vendor, Konica Minolta captured 19.1% marketshare in western Europe[2] for digital label and packaging printer in shipments and value in 2019. And this growth will continue: “Label and packaging converters will be forced to expand digital service offerings as traditional offset/flexo volumes slowly erode over time,” says the report.

That also reflects our own experience as increasing numbers of traditional label printers are asking for advice on the shift to digital. And we remain confident heading into 2021 because digital printing is the only technology capable of delivering short to medium runs, with a quick turnaround time.

The same IDC report[3] also reflects anticipated slowdown in sales activities due to factors such as the postponement of drupa in 2020 and the impact of Covid-19. Although digital label and packaging shipments in the past year in western Europe dropped by almost a third to just over 200 units, the market is still expected to be selling around 450 units a year in 2024 – not far short of the predicted levels prior to the pandemic.

We see growing demands for complete start-to-finish manufacturing process, as well as a need for production devices that need fewer and less-skilled operators.

Looking to the future, we know that labels will continue to form the supply chains of basic necessities and provide a vital tool to convey information. Healthcare, pharmaceutical and food and drink sectors are among the sectors that will continue to be growth areas for digital label printing in the future.

Digital label technology will continue to expand

Digital label technology will continue to expand into traditional flexo territory. From discussions with customers, it’s clear that label and packaging converters are being forced to expand their digital print service offerings as traditional offset / flexo volumes erode over time.

In the first lockdown in spring of 2020, our own research[4] showed that page volumes in terms of linear metres printed on Konica Minolta AccurioLabel presses across Europe jumped to 150% in March 2020 – at the peak of the lockdown - compared to the previous month.

A digital trend that will continue unabated

It’s a market that will continue to grow sustainably, particularly as consumer behaviour continues to develop. More working from home or from regional offices, low numbers or individualised offers are increasingly in demand. One example is the development in the food trade, from regional manufactures to micro-breweries. The trend will continue unabated. Labels will play an increasingly significant role.

As a global technology provider with a local service structure, we still see significant opportunities in the years ahead for digital printing with our toner technology. Labels is a market we entered barely four years ago, yet already we’ve captured virtually a fifth of the printer shipments in value in the digital label market for label and packaging.

We all recognise that the ongoing Covid-19 situation has created unprecedented challenges, but there is hope for a return to a ‘new normal’ with vaccines now on the horizon. As always, we will ensure that our supplies and services to our customers will remain constant and secure into 2021 and beyond.

Building an online presence

We will continue to help shape ideas for our customers in a partnership approach – no matter the ‘communication channel’, whether face to face or virtually. While we recognise the benefits of meeting face to face, in the current climate we will continue to build our online presence, for example by including more products in our virtual showroom[5] that hold many features for an interactive exploration of their manifold product offers in printing.

With well over 500 installations of our AccurioLabel printing presses across the world, our commitment remains to deliver the best possible service to all our clients. Even against the odds, we will never waver, with health and safety always our number one priority.

You can find out more here[6] on the Konica Minolta website.

[1] The essential role of labels – Konica Minolta Europe website

[2] Konica Minolta website - Rethink the Way of having a Demonstration

[3] Background on digital label printing – Konica Minolta Europe website

[4] IDC Western Europe Digital Label and Packaging Printer Forecast, 2020-2024, Doc #EUR145503920 , April 2020

[5] IDC Western Europe Digital Label and Packaging Printer Shipments and Value by Vendor, 2019 ($M), page 11, Doc #EUR145503920 , April 2020.

[6] IDC Western Europe Digital Label and Packaging Printer Forecast, 2020-2024, Digital Label and Packaging Press Printer Shipment snapshot, Figure 4, Doc #EUR145503920 , April 2020