Brands often face evolving and diversifying consumer demands, which present hurdles to efficiency. As such, digital package printing enables a rapid response to meeting these fracturing needs. Equipped with advanced capabilities, these technologies power product differentiation in micromarketing campaigns and small batch personalization while simultaneously improving efficiency in the supply chain.

Furthermore, companies adding such solutions to their repertoires are able to trim warehouse costs and waste while improving speed to market. These advantages contribute to significant growth in the digital package printing space, which is expected to exceed $45 billion globally, increasing at a CAGR of 14.26% by 2026. 

Here, three experts from around the industry weigh in on the latest trends, technologies and practices that brands can leverage to effectively tackle multiplying stock keeping units (SKUs) and bolster efficiency, sustainability, security and brand experience through customization and personalization.

Meeting Diversifying Consumer Demands with Efficiency

Tom Egan, Vice President, Industry Services, PMMI

Consumers increasingly prefer a more personal experience when purchasing products — whether it be personal care, food and beverages, clothing or other items. In fact, 70% of consumers reported they would be willing to pay a 10% premium or more on personalized products.  Although brands have begun to consider and slowly implement more personalized packaging, they often encounter a few common challenges. Firstly, diverging consumer demands have prompted the proliferation of SKUs, requiring businesses to supply a greater variety of products at smaller quantities. Traditional presses are designed to run larger batches, which would force manufacturers to commit to a greater than necessary — and potentially wasteful — number of units for a certain promotion, seasonal item or customized design. Additionally, the growth of e-commerce presents new branding opportunities for companies to engage consumers during the first contact with cartonboard boxes. To meet these new demands, operate on smaller, less wasteful batch runs and capitalize on new opportunities for branding, digital package printing provides a well-suited, more agile alternative. 

Digital package printing also allows companies to produce high-quality, detailed images that support a stronger brand image with greater flexibility for faster changeover between designs. These capabilities expedite time to market, enabling brands to stock shelves in a timely fashion with products tied to seasons, holidays and special events. In addition to satisfying the need for managing multiple SKUs, faster changeover also empowers manufacturers to market products that have a shorter shelf life. That’s good news for any brands looking to offer products free of chemical preservatives.

Enhancing Serialization and Sustainability

John Ingraham, Marketing Manager, Hanglory USA Inc.

Booth C-4900

The explosion of SKUs and e-commerce growth accelerate demand for not just highly personalized products, but also for regionalization of packaging. As digital printing expands brand capabilities, enabling smaller runs, shorter turnaround times and easier job changeovers in comparison to traditional flexo printing methods, the technology can also enhance efficiency in serialization.

Typically, companies will use a separate printer to serialize products and print barcodes as a label on products. However, digital printers can do so directly on the box, permitting manufacturers to control inventory from the machine’s monitor. This can be useful in cases where manufacturers must locate products with issues without the use of an additional label by using the technology’s software, which can cut costs and reduce the impact on the environment.

While digital printing can increase productivity, brands should expect their personnel to experience a learning curve when implementing the technology. In addition, companies should carefully select the right ink for their products. Digital printers often use ultra-violet (UV) ink, which can work on a wide range of substrates, but poses some health concerns when in contact with food. As an alternative, brands have begun to explore water-based inks, which are safer for food packaging and more environmentally friendly.

Leveraging Late-Stage Customization

James Mackenzie, Sales and Marketing Director, Hapa AG

Booth C-4400

Forecasting product volume to meet demand is a key challenge for companies — particularly in healthcare. This is due to several factors. For one, different regional markets present different product demands that may not follow similar trajectories as they evolve. It can be difficult enough for drug companies to predict which product they must manufacture for certain markets, let alone the volumes.  In an unpredictable market with varying demands, brands looking to fulfill individual patient needs must decrease batch sizes to better address this shift. Another factor for consideration is the need for companies to meet diverse language and product information requirements, which can change over time with new regulations or as challenges with patient adherence become apparent.

To help companies make better forecasting decisions, late-stage customization allows manufacturers to be nimble while observing demand and responding accordingly. It is especially useful for serialization, traditionally viewed as a more efficient way to track and trace products. Digital printing helps to solve this challenge, allowing for flexibility and last-minute customization and enabling companies to provide packaging for product on an as-needed basis, thus reducing inventory, cutting costs and reducing overall waste.

Innovations at PACK EXPO Las Vegas

SKU proliferation, micromarketing efforts, sustainability, traceability, as well as small-batch concerns are driving companies toward digital package printing applications. The latest digital printing innovations for folding cartons, corrugated and flexible packaging, labeling, coding and marketing will be on display at PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2019 (Sept. 23-25, 2019), produced by PMMI. The show’s PACKage Printing Pavilion, launched in 2018, brings together digitally focused suppliers and end users and serves as the industry’s mainstage for package printing innovations.

Co-located with Healthcare Packaging EXPO, PACK EXPO Las Vegas will bring together top consumer packaged goods companies from around the world to explore state-of-the-art packaging technologies, equipment and materials as well as exchange ideas and build professional relationships with 30,000 packaging professionals in attendance. For more information and to register online, visit