From July 16th to 22nd, Sao Paulo, Brazil, was home to Expoprint Latin America, the largest printing trade show in the Americas this year and now the third largest in the world.  Organized by Afeigraf – the association of suppliers of printing and consumables to the printing industry – the show took place in a 400,000 square foot site with 300 exhibitors representing more than 600 brands. A total of 45,000 visitors (each individual only counted once) attended the show. This included 5,000 foreigners mostly from other Latin America countries but also including North Americans, Europeans and Asians. The fair was sold out since the end of last year.

The Brazilian Printing Industry is estimated at US$20 billion/year with 20,000 printing companies and is consistently importing +US$1 billion per year primarily from Germany, Japan, China and the U.S. Those numbers by themselves sustain a trade show like this.

Mix of Exhibitors.

Visiting Exproprint brings back the same sensations we felt visiting U.S. trade shows some years ago. It included huge booths featuring Heidelberg, KBA, Komori and other offset presses that we don’t see in U.S. shows today. The difference is that these offset presses are now sharing space with digital printing presses, including a surprise: the biggest digital printing booth at the show was Kodak’s despite the fact that HP demonstrations were split among four different spaces. All of the major international brands related to prepress, software, finishing and consumables were represented at the show. Small and mid-sized U.S. suppliers debuted at the show or participated in the NPES booth, prospecting the market with reasonable results. Additionally, Chinese companies populated the floor as they do in printing shows all over the world.

You do not expect to see any brand-new technology in this kind of show; it’s the confirmation and development of technologies presented and launched at drupa and Print but also available and updated for the region. Strategically designed to happen every four years, the show is a half-step between drupas on the right timeline to bring available solutions to a developing market such as Brazil and Latin America in general.

In fact, before the show, many wondered how the market was going to react to a show like this when the Brazilian economy is not performing with the shine of two years ago. Notwithstanding any concerns about the possible success of the show, all of the vendors, including international offset vendors, bet that it would be a good investment.  Considering the mood observed during the event, it’s very possible their bets will pay off. Enthusiastic sellers were celebrating a very reasonable number of intention letters and some confirmed orders. For most of them, 2014 has finally begun as the World Cup faded away.

Changing expectations.

The Brazilian printing market is likely changing more than any other in the world but at its own pace. After experiencing a boom in the last decade with the incremental consumption of traditional printed products like supermarket tabloids, inserts, popular magazines, bank and telecom statements, payment cards, text books and so on, the Brazilian printing market faces the same challenges seen in other parts of the world: economic downturn along with structural changes has had a negative impact on printing consumption and the growing popularity of digital applications is forcing many print service providers to restructure their businesses or simply close their doors.

But the good news is that Brazil—and Latin America as a whole—is not a small market, and as opposed to many other geographies, there are still plenty of opportunities and niches where the surface has only been scratched. This includes on the growing use of web-to-print, personalized and customized printing, and, of course, packaging and labels. The show reflects the strengths of these markets. That’s probably why so many reservations are already being placed for exhibitors to participate in Expoprint 2018!