Reflecting on packaging sector lessons from 2020

15 Apr 2021

There’s no doubt that the challenges of 2020 are unprecedented – bringing new pressures to the packaging and labels sector. Covid-19 threw many industries into disarray almost overnight, with the impacts still being felt today for many businesses.


With changing lifestyles and purchasing behaviours, brands have responded to this change in differing ways – some more successfully than others. These changes have significant impacts all along the supply chain, including the printers and converters that create and supply the packaging.


What have the challenges of the past 12 months taught the packaging sector – and could it lead to a more robust industry in the future? As we look ahead to business in 2021 and beyond, we have outlined 4 factors that surged to the top of the agenda for packaging printers and converters.


1 – Agility is key


One of the most notable challenges for brands, particularly in the FMCG sector, is the need to pivot. When consumer demands change rapidly, the packaging that needs to engage with them must also be able to evolve in short order – or risk being left behind the competition.

Printers and converters that are able to deliver fast turnaround in terms of design, features and substrates find themselves with a tangible competitive edge.


2 – Digital workflows can be protective


We tend to look at the proactive benefits of digital workflows, such as enhancing speed, reducing errors and opening greater opportunities for collaboration. However, automated workflow management has proved it can be protective, too. Packaging printers and converters that are already taking advantage of digital workflows have been able to avoid much of the disruption by responding much more quickly.


Digital technology such as Esko WebCenter, which we offer at Creation, is invaluable for reducing the likelihood of errors, and consequently, print reruns. By doing so, printers are minimising the risk of waste, which could otherwise bring added costs and impact margins – the last thing printers want in times of stress.


3 – Sustainability still matters


For some brands, the sudden need for volume in the face of panic buying and accelerating e-Commerce pushed sustainability further down the priority list. Of course, when a global pandemic threatens the supply chain, there is a notable scramble to get products on shelf and into the hands of the consumer.


However, a valuable lesson learned by the packaging sector – and the brands it serves – is that the consumer is still very much taking ‘green’ credentials into account when making purchase decisions. In fact, a portion of the incoming European plastic packaging levy is going towards environmental protection programmes, very much reflecting the needs of the market. Similar schemes are rolling out across other geographies, too. The demand for sustainability from the consumer has not slowed down, which means that for brands and their packaging and label supply chains, it needs to be firmly back on the agenda.


4 – Embrace luxury and tactile finishes


The packaging sector has seen tactile finishes in a fresh light over the preceding 12 months. The global pandemic has made much of daily life ‘hands-off’ as a protective measure. This has created fresh opportunity for brands to engage with consumers through tactile finishes – when the product is physically in the consumer’s hands. This new relationship has accelerated the idea of ‘haptic marketing’ – using the sensation of physical touch to convey a message or a particular image.


Alongside this, consumers are reconnecting with the idea of luxury. As shopping trips become less spontaneous and more infrequent, shoppers are once again embracing premium products as escapism, and consumption as experience.


It’s the ideal time for brands and printers to explore the potential behind specialists finishes and coatings that add an effortless touch of class, such as matte finishes, UV ink, hot and cold foiling and raised characters. In combination with consistent colour management and effective design and workflow management, tactile finishes are demonstrating real value.


Looking to shore up your packaging prepress and deliver exceptional origination? Discover the diverse benefits of partnering with Creation Reprographics.


Creation specialises in turning great on-screen design into outstanding on-shelf appeal, perfectly positioned to help printers and brands harness their prepress operations as a competitive edge. Click here to discover more.

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