You outta be in film
Experts say much of narrow-web flexo's growth lies in films, but converters must carefully choose technological tactics to combat the competition.
"Paper or plastic?" used to be a standard question grocery shoppers would hear on their way through the checkout line. These days, many store clerks don't even bother to ask for a preference. Plastic bags have captured more than three-quarters of the grocery and convenience store market, and are often the only type of bag seen at the checkout.
The grocery bag debate has long been closed, but "paper or plastic?" is becoming an ever-more-burning question for printers in the narrow-web flexo arena. Indeed, every expert interviewed for this article named filmic labels and/or flexible packaging as the top growth opportunity in the market. But are films a feasible fit for the product mix of every narrow-web flexo business?
According to one industry insider, four-color prime labels have become too price-competitive to yield significant growth, and even though more folding carton business is moving to narrow-web flexo, the carton market as a whole continues to contract. These market forces are among the key factors leading the average flexo label printer to take a serious look at growth opportunities in both unsupported and pressure-sensitive film applications.
Taking up the film trend
Press manufacturers that are fielding the growing number of film market inquiries identify a variety of motivating factors.
"Everybody's been talking about films," acknowledges Edgar Minino, sales director at Gallus. Minino says flexible packaging has been making steady narrow-web inroads for the past three to five years because of its better economic viability for shorter-size runs.
At PCMC, a key sign that flexible packaging is "the hottest growth area for narrow-web" is that many wide-web customers are building relationships with narrow-web converters, says Lisa Prunty, marketing specialist. Wide-web converters are turning over shorter flexpack runs to the narrow-web houses in order to stay competitive and retain existing business, she explains.