Digital print for packaging is worth $13.2 billion in 2017, and will climb to $23.2 billion in 2022, according to the latest exclusive research from Smithers Pira. As such it represents a key growth area for the print industry, as well as opening new market opportunities for packaging converters and their brand customers. 

Smithers Pira’s new report – The Future of Digital Print for Packaging to 2022  – tracks how demand for inkjet and electrophotography print in packaging will evolve across 2017-2022. This will see an 11.2% annual increase in value across the forecast period and annual 15.4 growth in volume output (A4 sheets equivalent) – up from 163 billion A4 sheets (equivalent) in 2017 to 334 billion in 2022. This reflects the arrival of new higher throughput equipment.

Penetration for digital print technology is not uniform the labels sector is the early adopter and mature in some regions. Consequently future expansion will rest heavily on less-developed packaging formats principally. 

•    Corrugated board

•    Folding cartons

 •    Flexible plastics 

Dr Sean Smyth, author of the report, states: “Growth is forecast in different applications and regions at varying rates. In packaging, it will be rising sharply as more players get involved, make investments and see how these benefit their customers.

“There will be new campaigns, which will be copied. Converters will also provide new services in response to their customers, which will allow significant supply chain efficiencies – some of which are not clear in early 2017, but will open up over the next few years to better suit the final packaging consumers. The goal for all parties is to satisfy buyers.”

In 2017, the mainstream corrugated sector has a real appetite for high-volume inkjet liner and postprint systems, to provide new functions and gain plant efficiencies. Implementation is being led by some of the largest companies in the corrugated sector – as well as by more agile independents – leading to the arrival of new dedicated equipment that will enable volume production at a much more economical price.  

Digital printing will enable packaging supply chains to develop, providing advantages in cost, time and flexibility for buyers and final consumers. In 2017, the great majority of packaging and labels is produced by specialist converters, delivering to fillers and packers. These fill the packs and apply labels, adding any coding, and complete packs are then delivered into the retail distribution chain. 

Fundamentally, using digital printing in packaging enables brands and retailers to make decisions later that are closer to the end consumer. The result is making packaging and labels more relevant to the end consumer who ultimately determine the success or failure of brands and retailers.

The Future of Digital Print for Packaging to 2022 consolidates two of Smithers Pira’s strongest areas of expertise. Our research methodology continually checks our findings against new sources for refined and better data. Primary research for The Future of Digital Print for Packaging to 2022 was based on interviews and visits to label and packaging converters, design houses, brands and retailers were conducted, together with in-depth discussions with equipment manufacturers and integrators, finishing, workflow and consumable suppliers across the supply chain.  Feedback from many contacts based in different regions across the world is used following the Delphi technique to provide sense checks and further refine the accuracy of data.