Trendwatch Graphic Arts Mini-Report Reveals Industry's Split-Personality on Packaging

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As the commercial printing market becomes increasingly competitive, printers and trade shops are looking to new services and markets to boost their bottom lines. One of these is packaging. The packaging market can be approached 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 are two entirely different approaches, with two different potential levels for return. Where are printers and trade shops along this continuum? In this report, we’ll take a look at who’s offering packaging services, their attitudes toward those services, what volume of their overall services they comprise, and what print processes shops are using to output this work and what types of work they are producing.

TrendWatch Graphic Arts has released a detailed mini-report on the status of packaging as part of commercial printers’ overall service mixes. Priced at $249 rather than TrendWatch GA’s standard $995 pricepoint, “Printers & Packaging 2006” is a 37-page report that looks at who’s doing packaging work, for what applications, in what volumes, and on what devices. The result is an industry that clearly has a split personality in its approach to this market.

Key conclusions from the report…

Nearly one-quarter of graphic arts firms, both printers and trade shops, indicate that they are currently producing packaging work of some type in-house. The dynamics within the graphic arts segments and employee size categories revealed some interesting surprises. For example:

•Despite the popular “talking point” of using toner-based presses for short-run packaging, shops with digital printers were among the least likely to be involved in the packaging market.

•Quick printers were among the most likely to see opportunities in the packaging market, but they were also the least involved in this market and the least likely to be making packaging-specific investments.

•Trade shops are solidly vested in the packaging market, but the most popular output method is not offset or even toner-based press printing. The plurality — 43% — are using wide-format inkjet printers.

“Printers & Packaging: 2006” also takes a look at the percent of shops’ overall service mix given to packaging. While the overwhelming majority say that packaging comprises 25% or less of their overall mix, 10% are doing 50% or more of their volumes in packaging, so there are some major players in here. And while most shops are using offset or digital presses, a significant percentage of respondents are using flexographic presses. Large-format printers and inline flexo or gravure units are on the radar, as well. In addition to the traditional packaging applications adopted by commercial printers, such as folding cartons and labels, we also see significant percentages of respondents producing blister packs, flexible packaging, and other non-traditional applications.

“Packaging appears to offer significant opportunities for graphic arts firms, who are facing an increasingly competitive marketplace,” notes Heidi Tolliver-Nigro, TrendWatch GA analyst and author of the report. “But the realities of this marketplace mean that, in order to success, graphic arts firms must either make a significant 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.”


TrendWatch Graphic Arts Special Report "Printers & Packaging: 2006" is available for purchase by visiting the secure TrendWatch Graphic Arts eStore online at or by phone at 866-873-6310. The About TrendWatch Graphic Arts...

TrendWatch Graphic Arts specializes in the assessment of trends and changes in graphic communications markets by providing timely and strategic information, hard-hitting market analysis and concise expert opinion. The reports have earned the reputation for containing the most reliable and timely industry intelligence in the graphic arts and graphic design marketplaces.price for the 37-page report is $249. TrendWatch Graphic Arts eStore customers can download this report in PDF Acrobat format immediately after purchase.

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Judie Ryer

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