Chris Tonge is Sales and Marketing Director of Ultimate Packaging Ltd who are experts in the production of printed flexible packaging.  He writes:

The installation of the first wave of HP Indigo wide web presses for flexible packaging around the world in the last few months, has caused a significant shake up in the flexible packaging industry. Although actual print speeds are slow in comparison to flexographic, gravure and lithographic presses, the potential to do something completely different with this new technology is opening upon an entirely new market within the industry.

Up until now packaging has held a functional role but by using digital print it's promotional potential is a powerful tool that brand owners and retailers are already recognising. Several forward thinking brands are now starting to see packaging as a truly interruptive media that allows them to connect in unique ways with their consumers and deliver a premium experience to them.

As the millenial generation are craving a personal experience in as many ways as possible this is a perfect opportunity for brands to communicate and interact with them, using different forms of packaging, linked quite often to interactive, social media campaigns.

The best examples to date have come from Coca Cola with their highly successful Share a Coke customised name campaign and the 2 million unique bottle promotion in Israel, produced using algorithms ripped to a digital press. Many other notable brands have seen great results from customised or personal campaigns, Heineken, Nutella, Absolut Vodka and Famous Grouse to name a few.

At my own company Ultimate Packaging which is traditionally a high volume wide web flexo print business supplying mainly the fresh and chilled food sector, we started our digital journey 5 years 



Personalised Tesco packs produced by Ultimate using digital print and Smartflow

ago. Initially installing a narrow development HP Indigo press, we have just started production on the first wide web digital press in the UK printing on flexible films.

As well as allowing us to produce really short print runs, small volume range extensions, shelf ready packaging for test marketing and consumer research projects for brands and retailers, the fact that every print impression can be unique from a digital press makes customisation and personalisation 



Personalised Walkers Crisp packs produced by Ultimate using digital print and Smartflow


campaigns on flexible packaging a reality.

The potential for digital print for packaging is enormous and as running speeds increase other technologies will be replaced, but for the next few years although actual volumes will be small the impact on shelf and through exciting social media campaigns will be dramatic.

Although Ultimate Packaging is a major producer of flexo printed film in the UK approved by every food retailer and supplier of many brands, our new digital print capability has seen the business attracting new customers and it has actually allowed us to engage with global brands on flexible packaging projects linked to promotions, customisation and personalisation. It is a vibrant place to be, with digital our conversations are with marketers and brand owners not packaging buyers.

Brands are already throwing away the old printed packaging rule book and it is going to be an exciting time within the packaging sector, as more become involved in packaging focused marketing campaigns.

A real game changer for the packaging industry, many unique projects will be launched across the world demonstrating this step change in digital technology to its best potential.

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