Commentary & Analysis
Latest Trends in Packaging Create New Opportunities
Brand owners rely on packaging to not only carry their products to market, but to represent the quality and desirability of those products on store shelves. The package is typically the first interaction a consumer has with a product or brand, and from then on serves as a visual reminder of the experience.
By Jean Engelke
Published: March 17, 2014
Editor’s Note: This content is sponsored by Kodak
Brand owners rely on packaging to not only carry their products to market, but to represent the quality and desirability of those products on store shelves. The package is typically the first interaction a consumer has with a product or brand, and from then on serves as a visual reminder of the experience. The images and colors must be vibrant and consistent to create a positive and memorable customer experience. In addition, the manufacturing of the package must be efficient and cost-effective. Brand owners rely on experienced package printers and converters to deliver the results they need, and more and more, advances in technology are fueling this process.
One of the most common production processes in package printing is flexography—a technology which until recently had remained relatively unchanged for decades. However, in the past few years, significant innovations have made it possible to achieve dramatically enhanced image reproduction, consistency from image to image and job to job, and a richer color gamut using fewer plates. Flexo printers are discovering a host of new opportunities and are attracting new clients who are looking at flexo in a whole new way.
Package printers are always under pressure to reduce production costs while delivering packaging that drives consumer sales—an almost impossible task in traditional flexo printing. While brand owners and packagers expect quality to improve continuously, most have not been willing to pay a premium for premium quality. For example, color may be the most critical element for generating shelf appeal and brand recognition, but adding spot colors can be expensive, so often the customer or printer settles for less.
Things are changing, and changing quickly. A number of manufacturers have introduced high-definition flexo technology designed to enhance the quality of printed packages. There are several different approaches to high-definition flexo, and each has its own unique benefits or advantages.
The introduction of high-definition flexo plate technologies has dramatically increased image quality capabilities and made it possible to achieve high-quality results. Brands enjoy more freedom in package design and are able to rely on eye-catching photography without worrying about the traditional hard breaks and highlight limitations associated with flexo.
For applications such as labels, flexible packaging, folding cartons and others, one of the additional opportunities is to not only increase quality but drive toward a more efficient manufacturing process by adopting a predominantly process color workflow and reducing the number of special inks used. Challenges arise when trying to achieve comparable color gamut to hit specific required brand, or Pantone, colors, or the ability to achieve consistent color and optimal reproduction balance between line and tone work. Typical solutions in flexo have been to add colors and separate line and tone work, but that raises design, prepress and ultimately, printing costs. That’s why some value-added high-definition flexo solutions are so appealing—providers are able to achieve high quality while keeping production costs down.
One such solution can be found in the combination of the KODAK FLEXCEL NX System and KODAK SPOTLESS Flexographic Solution. The unique capabilities of the FLEXCEL NX System enable flexo printing with high-definition reproduction, as well as print stability and a wider color gamut. Combine that with the ability of SPOTLESS Software to characterize a specific print condition and generate accurate recipes for spot color reproduction, and customers are gaining confidence in the move to a predominantly four-color process workflow.
Users cite the outstanding ink transfer capabilities of the KODAK FLEXCEL NX Plate, a direct result of the imaging technology of the Kodak solution, as a “major game changer.” Higher densities, without the use of more ink, drive the color gamut expansion that’s required, and serve to bring greater control and stability to the printing process. Tests in both narrow web and wide web printing on film have demonstrated significant gamut improvements over traditional digital flexo plates and other high-definition flexo solutions.
For prepress and printing providers in the flexo space, high quality with a reduced number of printing colors is one of the core goals for production improvement, but it’s not the only one. These professionals also are looking to do things such as print higher density solids without laying down more ink, print with higher line screens, print high-density white in a single pass, reduce press downtime and run presses faster, with reduced makeready waste and less ink consumption. Kodak’s value-added high-definition flexo enables all of these benefits, leading to new opportunities across the board.
The results are increasingly impressive as four-color printing in flexo takes on a more and more significant role in package printing. Industry leaders now recognize that four-color flexo printing can increase production efficiency, reduce costs and meet stringent quality requirements. As a result, providers are able to do more with less and uncover exciting new opportunities for revenue and profit growth.