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Package printers: A split personality

As the commercial printing market becomes more competitive, printers and trade shops are looking for new services and markets to boost their revenues and sweeten their bottom lines. Package printing is one such opportunity.

According to a report released recently by TrendWatch Graphic Arts, a sister company to Packaging Digest, the package converting market can be approached in one of two ways: the “toe in” approach, using existing capital investments; or the “full body” approach, adopting packaging-specific workflows, output options and skill sets. These two entirely different approaches come with two vastly different potential returns on investment. Where do printers and trade shops fall along this continuum? “Printers & Packaging 2006” clearly shows that, when it comes to packaging, there's definitely a split personality.

Quick printers are among the most likely to see opportunities in the package converting market, but they are also the least involved in the market and the least likely to be making packaging-specific investments. On the other hand, trade shops are solidly vested in the packaging market but the majority are using wide-format ink-jet printing rather than offset. Shops with digital printers are not heavily involved in packaging.

The majority of printers in the study say that packaging comprises 25 percent or less of their overall mix, but 10 percent of the converters are doing more than 50 percent of their volume in packaging. A significant number of those companies are using flexographic presses, but large-format printers, in-line flexo and gravure presses are also in use. In addition to folding cartons and labels, many printers are producing blister-packs, flexible packaging and other nontraditional applications.

“Packaging appears to offer significant opportunities for graphic arts firms, which are facing an increasingly competitive marketplace,” notes Heidi Tolliver-Nigro, TrendWatch GA analyst and author of the study. “But the realities of this marketplace mean that, in order to succeed, graphic arts firms must either make an investment in skill sets, workflow and hardware, or have a keen eye for where they can apply existing workflows with only minimal retooling. Clearly, a certain percentage of graphic arts firms have figured out the right balance for their businesses and are capitalizing on the available opportunities, but there are clearly missed opportunities and unrealistic expectations, as well.”

The full 37-page report can be ordered at or by phone at 866/873-6310.

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