Paper industry consultants EMGE & Co. recently held its 13th biennial event in Amsterdam, NL.
Around 95 delegates from 65 companies from across the paper supply chain attended the Office and Digital Printing Papers Conference. This year’s theme was ‘Looking Good on Paper’.
The programme also included talks on marketing, economics & China, supply and procurement, in addition to the usual office paper sector analysis.
Sappi Europe CEO Berry Wiersum opened the event with an emphasis on environmental issues and urged the pulp and paper industry to take advantage of the public backlash against the use of plastic.
Consequently packaging in paper and board is becoming more popular and will continue to expand, hence the conversion of capacity that was dedicated to commercial print magazines and catalogues to carton boards and corrugated. But there is hope, Wiersum told EMGE delegates, as print is undervalued in terms of influence, and as fake news, spam and concerns abut privacy increase, print is regarded as a more important and influential channel.
He highlighted the difficulties in recycling multi-layered packaging and focused on the benefits of fibre-based solutions that offer new functionalities and different forms of packaging.
At the same time industries are looking to make greater use of trees as a renewable resource rather than fossil fuels. The current policies and practices will not be enough to stave off climate change he warned, whilst comparing the average temperatures in the 1950s when his mother was a child, to the conditions when his daughter retires in 2060. Under the current scenario he said the average temperature will be 7ºC higher. This will cause major changes to climate and living conditions.
Meanwhile, and representing the “middlemen”, Angus Clarke, European Category Manager for Communisis, explained the remarkable survival of his company. In the UK, the number of merchants has reduced from several dozen in 2000 to just four today, but Angus explained that "With a high inventory level and ultrafast delivery times, we are not far from our goal of an average delivery time of three weeks from receipt of order. Today, Communisis has 15,000 product categories in stock, totalling more than 80,000 tonnes. Our goal is to be a true one-stop shop for our customers – just one address for all their paper and board needs. And as part of this strategy, we are strengthening our links with the mills who are our suppliers, so that they become not competitors, but partners."
A major theme running throughout the conference was the future growth of digital printing, which according to a number of speakers is set to be the dominant technology for information printing. Ricoh Europe Director of Commercial Printing Eef de Ridder spoke on the rapid growth of digital printing over the next four years. He estimated that between 2018 and 2022, the value of digital print in advertising will increase 23.4% to $60 billion, while commercial digital printing will go up 21.6% to $43.7 billion.
Wright Way founder Tom Wright compared the use of multichannel and omnichannel approaches to engage customers, and stated that the latter offered better consistency and focus.
As always, pricing issues were a topic of discussion and this year included the escalating tariffs on US and Chinese paper imports. APRIL Head of Paper Business Wanyan Shaohua looked at this in relation to pulp, and the potential for a fibre shortage caused by a stricter recycled paper import policy by China.
Marketing and communication experts, Jeroen Van Druenen and Andreas Weber, defended the role of printed paper in the marketing mix.
"Many positive aspects for the print media seem to go unnoticed and paper’s trend-setters do not seize the opportunities that a change of strategy could bring", said the latter, whilst Jeroen added: "The written press in all its forms will remain an indispensable catalyst for our cultural, social and economic development. It's something "digital leaders" such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple have long recognized. Indeed, these giants of the digital age are very skilled when it comes to using print media to their advantage."
Giving an update from EMGE, Senior Market Consultant Gary Thomson covered topics impacting the industry such as driving factors behind a change in demand. These included different office printing habits, as offices print fewer emails and other documents, the digitalisation of invoices as a result of e-commerce, and less demand from the public sector for budget reasons. He also provided an insight into the latest European Brand & Mill Image Study released a week earlier.