Posted October 2011
Austria - The future of labels
There seems to be an amazing
lot to talk about when it comes to paper labels. The 9th
international label conference, which had been organised by
Austria's paper manufacturer Brigl & Bergmeister and was held in
the mountain resort of Bad Hofgastein from 12 - 14 October 2011,
certainly drew a large crowd, considering that the label
business is comparatively small when you look at who's producing
the labels, who is refining them, who is printing them and who
is providing the technology and machinery for it all.
This year's conference was
attended by 196 delegates from 26 countries, many of them from
far-away Asian countries.
The conference benefitted
again from Brigl & Bergmeister inviting a number of experts who
dared to speak their minds. That must have gone down very well
with the audience, all of whom were people in the know.
This year's conference theme
was "sustainable business perspectives" and the impression one
got from listening to the remarkably frank presentations by
label industry representatives was that the industry has faced
up to many environmental challenges and done a lot of homework.
Whether they submitted to outside pressures or whether they
acted pro-actively is beside the point.
The point is that, in order to
reduce the industry's carbon footprint and larger environmental
impact, manufacturers have implemented many initiatives, ranging
from lowering energy consumption and improving the recyclability
of metallised paper to developing biodegradable adhesives.
Several printers too have looked hard at their environmental
impacts and adopted measures to become more "green".
However, there is no denying
that those in the paper label industry are given a hard time by
plastic bottles and labels, which have become the beverage
industry's packaging of choice.
Although the paper label
industry may point out again and again that paper labels
ultimately use a renewable source - trees, that is - while the
supply of crude oil is finite, the global survey conducted by
Canadean, a provider of beverage intelligence, shows that in
packaging PET bottles are advancing fast, especially for soft
drinks and packaged water. Worse still, non‐refillable packaging
(mostly plastic) accounts for over 90 percent of global soft
drinks volume and is growing faster than refillable. And with
plastic bottles come plastic labels. Fortunately, for the paper
label industry, 69 percent of global beer is bottled in glass,
often refillable, with cans taking a 24 percent share.
Thanks to Brigl & Bergmeister's sure hand in
picking speakers, several presentations dealt with future
scenarios - consumers and consumption trends - and how they will
affect the paper label industry.
Two presentations in particular stuck out. One
was by Rowland Heming, a Belgium-based international packaging
designer, and the other by Sam Waterfall, a marketing consultant
with HMT, London.
Mr Heming drew our attention
to the possible future of shopping. He explained how the global
retailer Tesco in South Korea is using smartphones to facilitate
easy home-shopping. As South Korea reportedly has more than 10
million smartphone users in a population of less than 50
million, it made sense to look at mobile shopping. This year
Tesco's local unit set up virtual grocery stores in locations
like subway/metro stations so that people can literally do their
grocery shopping while waiting for their train. Tesco reasoned,
according to Mr Heming, that it made more sense to them to
expand their online sales rather than spending a lot of money on
opening new supermarkets.
In the video he showed, subway
walls are plastered with posters that resemble the aisles and
shelves of a supermarket. They’re lined from top to bottom with
the products you’d normally see while grocery shopping. The only
difference is that you can’t just grab the product and check
out. The groceries each have a QR code which the shopper scans
with a smartphone camera and adds to a shopping list. When the
shopper has scanned the codes for all the groceries needed, he
pays using his phone and the groceries are then delivered to his
QR-code-based shopping is
something that could revolutionise how consumers shop for
products in urban environments. The implication for beverage
manufacturers and label producers? Packaging could become less
important and different. Once the consumer has made his pick,
based on a brand's online image, why should supermarkets then
deliver five bottles instead of a five-litre box? Or as Mr
Heming put it: for packaging in its broadest sense, the internet
releases us from the constraints of the box or bottle. Size
becomes almost irrelevant when there is no shelf and the product
experience becomes broader.
Product labels may become less
relevant once consumers make their product choices based on a
brand's internet appeal, but as Mr Waterfall in his presentation
drove home, they are far from becoming redundant. As he argued,
labels and what's written on them become central to
health-conscious consumers and their purchasing decisions.
According to Mr Waterfall, consumers are more and more motivated
by needs and benefits so ingredients stated on a label can
provide a reason to believe and increasingly… a reason to reject
a product. So what’s happening? Thanks to the label, the product
is no longer the product. The entire value chain is now exposed
(think food miles) and food and beverage manufacturers had
better bear that in mind.
In summary, those who though
that a label was just a label, were quickly disabused of the
notion by Brigl & Bergmeister's conference.
· may10 · march10
february 09 ·