Packaging Highlights Return of PRINTING United Expo
In the two years since the PRINTING United Expo made its dynamic debut in Dallas, the world has become a very different place. The COVID-19 pandemic and its lingering effects have completely upended business around the world, and prevented the vast majority of in-person trade shows, conferences, and events. Despite the uncertainty that has driven much of the recent past, the packaging segment has persevered, and in many ways, has been a beacon of success to the printing industry overall.
That’s not to say that the pandemic hasn’t changed the packaging landscape. Printers and converters in the label, folding carton, flexible packaging, and corrugated industries have each seen their respective segments evolve and adapt to the realities of this new normal, and companies across the board are seeking out strategies and investments that can keep them at the forefront of an altered industry.
When PRINTING United Expo 2021 makes its triumphant return this October in Orlando, Fla., the packaging segment of the printing industry will be strongly represented within the greater than 1 million-sq.-ft. floor space.
The emphasis on packaging is a testament to the segment’s perseverance throughout the pandemic. 2020 was a tough year for printers, and among all companies surveyed in the COVID-19 Print Business Indicators Research Report, Volume 2, No. 2, May 2021 (produced by PRINTING United Alliance and NAPCO Research), sales fell 15.4%, on average last year.
However, among package printers and converters surveyed in this report, sales were up 6.6% on average, the only segment that showed positive growth in 2020.
“Packaging is such an incredibly important and highly anticipated market segment at the forefront of this year’s event,” Mark J. Subers, president of PRINTING United Expo, said. “We are working with leading companies and associations in this space to help make the connection with the industry as a whole in identifying and embracing areas of business opportunities and diversification. No other event in printing this year will allow companies to connect with the industry in its entirety in one spot. PRINTING United Expo is really a ‘one-stop shop’ for the industry to reconnect.”
While the uptick in packaging demand over the past couple years has been beneficial for the industry, there is hardly a guarantee that this influx of business will continue. With the nation's reopening, printers and converters need to arm themselves with the tools to stay at the forefront of their segments, and prepare for a possible downturn or plateauing of demand compared to 2020.
The best place to accomplish those objectives will be at the 2021 PRINTING United Expo. On track to be the global printing event in 2021, PRINTING United Expo will be the first in-person industry event of significant magnitude since its inaugural 2019 Expo. The fall event — which takes place at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) from Oct. 6-8 — is welcoming printing’s leading companies to display their newest technologies coming to market. Registration for the event, which includes access to Expo Preview, Expo Live, and Expo Wrap-Up, is now live at printingunited.com.
“The industry is ready to gather once again and the time has finally arrived,” Subers says. “Since the launch of PRINTING United Expo in 2019, through to the PRINTING United Digital Experience, and now at the doorstep of this year’s event, we have been talking to industry leaders and partners the entire way to understand how these events can best serve them. While virtual events kept us going during the past challenging year, the feedback we continue to hear is that people want, and really need, to be together to begin getting back to business. In fact, according to a recent study conducted by Association Insights, 94.7% of respondents indicated that large industry trade shows are important, or essential.
“Companies have continued to develop products and technology since the pandemic began, and they are waiting to finally showcase what’s been going on live at PRINTING United Expo,” he continues. “With so many updates, we want to be sure all printing industry professionals can see and hear it all. From Expo Preview to Expo Live to Expo Wrap-Up, we’re working to equip the industry with the most up-to-the-minute education, technology launches, and opportunities to connect, and then revisit all these areas after the show to ensure attendees haven’t missed anything. We could not be happier to welcome the industry back together again safely in October at PRINTING United Expo.”
Packaging in the Spotlight
While it has been years since much of the industry has attended an in-person trade show packed with the latest equipment, that certainly does not mean that the OEMs, suppliers, and equipment manufacturers haven’t been hard at work developing tools for package printers and converters to take their segments to new heights.
Exhibitors showcasing the latest in packaging production technology at PRINTING United Expo 2021 include Agfa, Durst, EFI, Epson, Fujifilm, Heidelberg, HP, INX, Kodak, Komori, Kongsberg, Mark Andy, Matik, Nazdar, RMGT, SCREEN, Xeikon, Zünd, and many more.
The show floor will feature a mix of digital and conventional technologies — a combination that has proven to be highly beneficial since the pandemic, as package printers have had to become more nimble than ever before, while also satisfying the high-volume of demand from brand owners.
New for 2021, the show floor will also feature a Packaging Pavilion. This Pavilion will highlight a selection of the packaging industry's leading associations including AICC, Flexible Packaging Association, Paperboard Packaging Council, and TLMI. Leaders from these four associations will also take part in a sustainability panel on Oct. 7 as part of BRAND United University.
Packaging Forum Highlights Industry Convergence
At the core of the PRINTING United concept is “convergence,” a term that has been prevalent throughout the printing industry as opportunities arise in various segments, and print service providers seek to expand outside of their core competencies. Packaging has been a convergence target for many printers outside the space, and will be the focus of a Forum, which will be held on October 7.
The Forum, titled “Packaging 101 for Commercial and Wide Format Printers,” will highlight multiple printing companies that have made the jump into packaging, and their experiences growing into the segment.
Among the panelists will be representatives from Sussex, Wis.-based Color Ink and Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Foremost Graphics.
Color Ink was founded in 1984 as a commercial printer, but has since evolved its packaging capabilities to be able to provide a variety of folding cartons for multiple market segments. The company has embraced both conventional and digital technologies, and operates a Komori Impremia IS29 and Fujifilm JPress 720 on the inkjet side, as well as a Konica Minolta AccurioPress C6100 toner system.
Meanwhile, Color Ink has embraced digital finishing as well, implementing an MGI JetVarnish 3D for digital embellishment and the Highcon Euclid III laser diecutting system.
Foremost Graphics meanwhile, added flexible packaging capabilities to its repertoire in 1999, and more recently brought folding carton production on board, by way of a strategic acquisition in 2015. The company has also implemented both conventional and digital equipment to take on its packaging work, including a Koenig & Bauer Rapida 106 sheetfed offset press for folding carton production. On the digital side, Foremost Graphics installed an HP Indigo 15K digital press, which is capable of taking on packaging and commercial work, serving both sides of the company’s business.
Latin American (LATAM) Pavilion
PRINTING United Expo attendees will also have the opportunity to meet with distributors in the designated LATAM Pavilion on the show floor. CONLATINGRAF, the leading association in the graphic arts business community, will be on-site to help attendees make connections with the most influential businesses in the market space.
To celebrate being together again, registered attendees are invited to a special series of Community Receptions taking place the first night of the Expo on Wednesday, Oct. 6 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. In the true spirit of convergence, attendees can attend any, or all, of the receptions in the following areas: apparel, Canadian, commercial/publishing, functional printing, graphics/wide-format, graphics installation, in-plant; Latin American; mailing and fulfillment; and package and label printer/converter.
Denise Gustavson is the Editorial Director and Special Projects Editor for the Printing & Packaging Group, which includes Printing Impressions, packagePRINTING, In-plant Graphics and Wide-Format Impressions magazines, among other brands. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of Wide-Format Impressions.