Print 2018: The Creation View

17 Jan 2018
Print trends 2018

As the year turns, we start to think about what the next year is going to hold for us as a business. Are we going to see more of the same – a continued focus on cost down, the need for speed and consistency and the drive for shelf stand out for brands – or are we going to see some trends that have been less in focus come to the fore?

At Creation, we’ve put our leading print and packaging experts together to come up with five key trends we see driving the UK print industry forward in 2018.


There has always been a lot of talk about the impact of packaging and printing on the environment but the noise and pressure has certainly ratcheted in 2017 with the spotlight on the role of packaging in marine litter and the growth in single use plastics in particular. Whereas developing ‘sustainable’ packaging might have been a nice-to-have for brands and retailers in the past, truly engaging on the environmental credentials of substrates and processes is driving the debate both in the industry and media today.

At Creation, we’ve always passionately believed in minimising our environmental impact. A great example of this is our pioneering use of the Asahi AWP flexographic plate, which is water washable rather than using solvents – a great leap forward in plate manufacturing technology. We’ve also supported the development of compostable pack solutions in 2017, creating lustrous, stand out brands for new comers to the retail sector and worked on minimising the carbon footprint of our deliveries by downsizing the packaging of our plates, exactly to the plates’ dimensions, utilising our Kongsberg table. We’re nothing if not creative in our consideration of the environment!

Colour management

The Holy Grail of consistent brand colours across print processes and substrates has continued to elude many major brands. However, with the growth of product counterfeiting and increasing legislation around pharmaceutical and food safety requirements, we believe the focus on colour management is going to increase in 2018.  A number of sophisticated digital tools are on the market today to support brands in their journey to brand colour standardisation but few truly integrate the capabilities of the solutions to the full extent of their reach.

Creation is a pioneering developer of Esko Webcenter® launching CreationLink™ – a completely digital workflow and asset management solution that enables brands to track, approve and standardise their colour palette and packaging developments across multiple applications and suppliers. Completely integrated into the Creation MIS system, we are leading the way in workflow automation and working with a number of brands to streamline their colour management and packaging and labelling development needs.

Growth in Fixed Colour Palette (FCP) Printing

Interestingly 2017 saw a focus on pack differentiation through the use of new special effects – glitters, tactiles and special pigments all came to the fore in the fight for market share on shelf. However, we forecast with the rumbling economic volatility of Brexit, increasingly competitive retail market and disappointing Christmas retail sales for many retailers, we will see a renewed focus on fixed colour palette systems to drive supply chain simplicity and cost reductions wherever possible in 2018.

At Creation, we of course love to drive design creativity and premium quality and implementing a fixed colour palette solution doesn’t have to be a compromise. What is clear though is that managing FCP at the press has its challenges. The number of variables involved in managing the print specification is significant and there is no point starting out with good intentions but not being able to manage the stability of the press against the standard. That only leads to one thing – unhappy customers and an increase, not reduction, in costs.

We have invested in design and print expertise, as well as the latest software, to help manage the transition from spot colours to fixed colour palette across a brand portfolio. We work with our clients to meet their needs in designing the palette from the outset, as well as supporting them to ensure long-term stability across their print run requirements.

Label industry consolidation

We have watched the continuing consolidation of the corrugated, carton and wide web flexible packaging sectors in recent years with interest. Mid-size and small players have been mopped up by the big boys, adding to their portfolios to drive share or capability as the sectors have become increasingly competitive. Our view in 2018 is that we are going to see more consolidation but most likely in the highly fragmented label sector where fortunes are seemingly mixed.

The label sector has been extremely buoyant in recent years – it seems to the home of print innovation. So many print techniques are involved in the sector, the opportunity to drive differentiation through complexity of design has seen some amazing print results winning awards. But the need to drive differentiation can lead to the need for continuous innovation and investment, and not every player can win that race.

The speed of technology change is clearly represented at Labelexpo and record attendees to the 2017 event reflect the breadth and depth of the industry that now exists. However, we believe that the market consolidation trend has to happen in labels. There are too many small players, too much spare capacity and the bubble could be about to burst.

We see our role at Creation as supporting the label sector to drive quality, efficiency and consistency, whether long or short run work. Complex label designs require excellent reprographic and plate making skills and the team at Creation delivers day in day out for our label customers on that front.

Digital print growth

We would be very remiss if we didn’t talk to the continuing opportunities in digital and its growth in the vibrant UK packaging and label industry.  Digital printing is still less than 3% of the UK packaging print sector; although you would think it was a lot larger considering the media attention it attracts! That being said it offers some great advantages for short run and sampling work, as well as personalisation and customisation of packs.

Creation works with a number of clients who complete their sampling work digitally and then come to us to deliver their short, mid and long run flexo work with the quality and consistency that flexographic printing offers at competitive cost. Digital printing still has limitations in printing metallic effects, certain finishes and being cost competitive in longer run work but it’s certainly here to stay and the Creation team is excited to see what the future in digital looks like.

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