Ann Hirst-Smith reports on AWA's recent Label and Labelling Technology Conference, held in Amsterdam

According to Corey Reardon, of AWA Alexander Watson Associates, packaging buyers – particularly in the FMCG field – are moving away from the traditional approach to product labelling. “What we once defined as ‘labelling’ can now better be described as ‘product decoration and identification’, and buyers are choosing to achieve this via a variety of technologies today,” he said in his opening speech at AWA’s Label and Labelling Technology Conference 2003, in Amsterdam. He previewed new market research from his company which heavily underlines the strong competition among the product decoration methods available today.

Dominant share

While self adhesive labels still have the dominant market share, glue applied labels are only a few percentage points behind. And other ‘young’ technologies are taking significant business – particularly sleeving (wraparound, stretch and shrink sleeve) and in-mould labels – and direct printed flexible packaging (pouches), where the label is integral to the pack. Different technologies may be used on different product variants and sizes, according to which solution provides the best performance/price ratio. A paper from packaging solutions provider Alison Vincent Associates presented a thorough checklist of the label buyer’s thinking behind making a choice in labelling technology to meet design, technical, marketing, production, and purchasing needs.


The conference is only in its second year, but is already proving a useful overview of the industry. It took as its context every type of label technology, providing a balanced evaluation from which delegates at all levels of the industry supply chain could benefit.

The programme embraced a number of unusual topics related to current industry trends and concerns. They included an aide-memoire on anti trust issues within the packaging industry from Amsterdam law firm Houthoff-Buruma; and a paper from Dr Belinda Winder, senior research psychologist at Sheffield University’s Ibberson Centre, which dug deep into the psychology of packaging, branding and the consumer.


Mainstream topics included Steinbeis Packaging Group’s evaluation of global brands, and the need they create for labels that meet customers’ global quality expectations; and the Masterfoods Europe graphics team, who create 11,000 new pack items/year over 15 world leading brands through a network of designers, suppliers and printers.

Self adhesive labelling was covered in depth by Avery Dennison Roll Materials Europe (looking at markets, materials, trends, and threats); and Fuji Seal Europe provided a parallel view of shrink sleeves and the reasons for their popularity today. Cham Paper Group and Stora Enso Speciality Papers presented the case for continuing healthy growth in paper labels – which remain economical, environmentally friendly, and versatile carriers.

Today’s advanced label presses can do much more than simply run self adhesive labels, as Gallus showed in a paper on its servo presses. The benefits of in-line digital print and converting were covered by Mark Andy, and Akzo Nobel Inks showed how inks are matching the innovation of the narrow web press manufacturers with products for low odour UV flexo and a ‘general purpose’ narrow web ink range. Label applicator specialist Harland Machine Systems completed coverage of the converting chain with an evaluation of the its integrated systems for the conversion and application of thin and ultra thin self adhesive films.

The future

Innovation was the topic of two ‘crystal gazing’ papers. One from Tetra Pak focused on the consumer’s needs, wants, and characteristics across the globe; the other, from Avery Dennison, gave some fascinating glimpses into future developments, from low cost RFID to time/temperature indicators and other ‘active’ labels.


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