25 August 2021

Is custom printing on labels an upward trend in ME?

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By Shradha Mishra, deputy editor

Veterans of the print industry in the MENA region are seeing a rising demand for custom printing on labels and packaging.

A few years ago, Coca Cola personalized its cans allowing consumers in the Middle East and elsewhere to pick a can with their name on it. The idea of customizing Coca-Cola bottles was so powerful that years later it is still present in the consumer psyche. Was there a consumer demand for customization back then? The answer is no. But consumers loved the concept, which proved that customization could help brands communicate empathy with the buyer, encouraging them to purchase the product.
 
Customized printing on labels, tags and packaging adds additional value to products, and is seen across FMCG, cosmetics and apparel categories.
 
Nabeel Bishtawi, division manager of Gulf Commercial Group, agrees there is an emerging trend for customized labels in the Middle East region. GCG sells intek printers for customized printing in the United Arab Emirates in both roll and sheet formats.
 
‘We are seeing a new trend which is being driven by the market. Now we put specific information based on the region and the product on the labels,’ states Bishtawi.
 
The quantity of the order for custom printing comes to 5-8 per cent in ME but it’s increasing marginally
 
‘New manufacturers which have shorter production runs take the opportunity of personalizing their product labeling and packaging whether it is on cosmetics or food production. With digital they can customize their prints without a significant increase in cost.’
 
ME industry veterans state that cosmetics brands are engaged in heavy customization of product labels and packaging, especially for special occasions.
 
‘There have been signs of customized labeling in the cosmetic and FMCG industries as more and more new brands are launched in these categories,’ shares Jagannath M Wagle, MD, of UAE-based converter Sigma Middle East.
 
Ranesh Bajaj, director of Vinsak group, says ‘Counterfeiting of labels is a major reason for curtailing growth in custom label printing in the region. In ME there are innumerable premium and home-grown, new launched brands that opt for custom label printing for initial volumes. These are also the brands not much known by the mass market.’
 
‘Hence, converters must identify its customer’s authenticity by checking brand’s trade license for assurance purpose and then take a printing order to curb counterfeiting and increase the trend of custom label printing.’
 
‘Converters should also check on the order delivery address, if it does not match with the official address of the company and is a third-party warehouse then they should not deliver the order and make a complaint to the government authorities.’
 
The ME government is taking strict actions against counterfeiting products, even the FMCG and personal care brands have been cautious and adapting measures for the same.
 
Bajaj says that printing cost of custom labels on a digital press is very high as compared to conventional press. Vinsak sells lombardi flexo presses, AB graphics finishing equipment, inkjet systems and label printing machines.
 
Counterfeiting of labels is a major reason for curtailing growth in custom label printing in the region. Converters must identify its customer’s authenticity by checking brand’s trade license for assurance purpose and then take a printing order to curb counterfeiting and increase the trend of custom label printing.
 
Raja Kumar Gandhi, managing director, Hexxa Flexible Packaging, shares, that apart from digital printing, web-based offset and flexo printing process can print short runs of customized labels and packages because of its low tooling costs.
 
‘Web based offset process has low tooling costs and time frame for plates and die readiness are minimal. Flexo can be used if the printing requires value addition like screen, but output costs will be high. Plate and magnetic die cost will be higher as compared to offset and digital,’ shares Gandhi.
 
The quantity of orders for custom printing comes to 5-8 per cent in ME but is increasing marginally.
 
Not everybody sees customization as a major trend. BN Pandey, general manager of Al Maha Printers, for example, states that the company’s main business remains long runs of water bottle, oil bottle, dairy product, chicken, poultry and dry fruit labels in BOPP, PVC and paper.
 
The company has recently forayed into the flexible packaging, laminate and shrink wrap segment, catering for clients across water, juice, and dairy brands.
 
There is an organic growth for custom label and package printing for sure in the region but not extensive new business. But, if the factors responsible for the slow growth is considered to resolve then it will turn out to be a fruitful business trend as custom label printing promotes usage of digital printer.
 
Other growing trends for business in ME
 
Outside the labels and packaging segment, customization is also an important trend.
 
GCC’s Bishtawi says book printing on demand is booming in UAE, printing of books with customization and in smaller quantities. ‘A printer needs to have the right equipment to produce in a very short time without sacrificing the quality.’

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