UK corrugated packaging companies are jumping on the digital bandwagon, driven by a combination of shorter run lengths, the dramatic rise of the discounters, emergence of online shopping and brand customisation.
The Corrugated Packaging Industry needs to keep pace with a challenging retail landscape and is investing significantly - almost £500million in new technology and plant over the last two years - to help support retailers and brand owners with enhanced merchandising productivity, whether in transit, back of store or on-shelf.
The Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) says that part of this significant outlay has been in cutting edge digital printing equipment to offer innovative solutions for display packaging and personalisation, which can provide a critical edge in a fiercely competitive market.
Whilst the black text printed corrugated box remains the de facto mode of transit packaging, contrastingly highly colourful and functional retail-ready solutions are now the norm on-shelf.
Corrugated is a flexible material that already protects, is colour-printable, merchandisable and the most recycled packaging medium. The latest advances in digital printing from a number of suppliers allows corrugated to align with labels and flexible packaging by providing tailored print runs with no minimum requirement.
Investing in print digitalisation is adding value for brand owners and retailers by catering for seasonal or event-based promotions that require short-run or variable print capabilities, as well as mass customisation. By offering different printing techniques, the industry provides considerable choice for brands.
Most of the major retailers are benefiting from these improvements in print quality but this has been particularly evident in discount stores like Lidl and Aldi which require functional, display-ready packaging and are big users of corrugated as it offers eye-catching designs and efficiency of shelf replenishment. Shelf-Ready Packaging reduces handling and waste and has a positive impact on branding - it is used for many of the discounters' products. Print-on-demand offers cost-effective, personalised marketing campaigns to raise a brand's profile to meet the aspirations of leading companies for generating innovative sales and marketing potential. This latest advance gives corrugated another string to its bow, enabling the industry to become even more effective at engaging consumers.
CPI's Director of Packaging Affairs, Andy Barnetson, said: "Whilst the impact of digital on-shelf is self-evident, it's the added value it brings to transit packaging that's arguably even more exciting; a hitherto untapped potential, especially so in servicing the rapid growth of online shopping.
"The Corrugated Industry has made significant investments in digital technology which is becoming increasingly important across so many forms of everyday activities, not least in social media and communications, to ensure it is perfectly placed to capitalise on additional opportunities as they arise."
Corrugated is meeting the modern requirements of many consumers and retailers for convenient, attractive and sustainable grocery and food packaging, while still delivering the supply chain with a highly functional solution that enables both suppliers and consumers to benefit from improved product marketing and presentation.
The Corrugated Industry is already a pioneering force in sustainable, lightweight, recyclable packaging that does not compromise the integrity of the goods, while innovative developments and investment in digital printing have led to new types of even more efficient and decorative corrugated packaging solutions.