• GMP-compliant solvent inks and aqueous inks deliver outstanding print quality throughout the life of the print cartridge, helping brands realise low maintenance coding and marking, while also making progress towards their sustainability goals.
    GMP-compliant solvent inks and aqueous inks deliver outstanding print quality throughout the life of the print cartridge, helping brands realise low maintenance coding and marking, while also making progress towards their sustainability goals.
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As the print and packaging industries evolve to adapt to shifting consumer preferences as well as new ways of doing business, executives at HP Inc, have identified four key drivers to watch – personalisation, sustainability, productivity and 2D barcodes.

1 Personalisation

As we look at 2024, the surge in demand for personalised packaging and in-line printing is set to redefine the way brands engage with their customers. Brands are expected to place an even greater emphasis on tailoring packaging to meet the specific needs and preferences of individual customers. The era of generic, one-size-fits-all packaging is rapidly giving way to a more personalised and targeted approach. For instance, in the realm of e-commerce, where both the recipient and the contents are identified, the potential for personalised messaging and advertising printed directly onto the packaging itself is boundless.

“As e-commerce booms, so does the demand for bespoke packaging and in-line printing. Brands will increasingly tailor packaging to cater to individual customer needs,” says John Meiling, senior director, Marketing, OEM Inkjet for Specialty Printing & Technology Solutions at HP.

According to Meiling, the integration of in-line printing technologies such as HP thermal inkjet (TIJ) technology further streamlines the process, allowing brands to adapt and modify packaging designs in real-time. He says this agility opens up new possibilities for targeted promotions, and even interactive elements that respond to the evolving tastes and preferences of the customer base. As consumers increasingly seek unique and meaningful experiences, personalised packaging will serve as a tangible expression of a brand’s commitment to meeting individual needs and preferences.

E-commerce is forecast to constitute 41 per cent of global retail sales by 2027, a more than 100 per cent increase from its share of just 18 per cent in 2017. This escalating growth of e-commerce has brought about a paradigm shift in consumer expectations and preferences.

2 2D barcodes

In 2024, the evolution of technology is set to propel 2D barcodes into the forefront of consumer-brand interactions, marking a significant transformation in the way we engage with products.

HP’s high-resolution high-speed thermal inkjet (TIJ) printing technology is helping machine manufacturers address the need for complex, dense 2D codes and data matrices for coding and tracking purposes.
HP’s high-resolution high-speed thermal inkjet (TIJ) printing technology is helping machine manufacturers address the need for complex, dense 2D codes and data matrices for coding and tracking purposes.

“As technology advances, 2D barcodes will offer consumers more engaging and informative interactions with brands. High quality inks will be in demand more than ever before,” says Kristy Sheng, Asia Pacific and Japan Region sales manager of Specialty Printing & Technology Solutions, HP.

Sheng maintains that pioneering printing technologies, such as the HP Thermal Inkjet gen 4.0 with a 1200dpi resolution, are poised to establish themselves as the new standard, ensuring “unparalleled clarity and precision” in 2D barcode representation.

In alignment with the need for high resolution printheads, GS1, the global authority shaping barcode standards, is at the helm of the GS1 sunrise 2027 initiative. This endeavour anticipates the widespread integration of 2D codes on all consumer-packaged goods by 2027. Beyond meeting the rigorous demands of global supply chains and distribution networks, these 2D barcodes will serve as conduits of information for consumers. From detailing the origins of ingredients and nutritional facts, to facilitating the verification of product authenticity, 2D barcodes are destined to become integral to brand protection and quality assurance.

HP anticipates 2D barcodes, driven by cutting-edge printing technologies and the demand for high-quality inks, to further emerge as key components fostering a more engaging, informative, and secure relationship between  consumers and brands. 

3 Sustainability

“Amid regulation and growing environmental concerns, sustainable packaging will be at the forefront of innovation with a surge in eco-friendly materials over harmful plastics,” says Philippe Lesage, vice president and general manager, Specialty Printing & Technology Solutions, HP.

Consumers are sending clear signals too. Recent research shows that consumers expect brands to reduce unnecessary packaging, to eliminate single-use products wherever possible, and to offer refillable and/or reusable options.

However, Lesage notes there remains a major disconnect between the importance placed on sustainability and the actions taken to achieve it; among the 75 per cent of global packaging companies surveyed that have made sustainable-packaging commitments, fewer than 30 per cent are well prepared to meet their environmental goals.

Sustainable packaging manufacturing requires products to be designed with environmental impact in mind from the start, whether that’s through the use of eco-conscious inks, or the adoption of direct printing on corrugated packaging instead of using adhesive labels. Both methods maintain packaging material homogeneity, facilitating a more straightforward recycling process, without the challenges of adhesive residue and potential contaminants from label and print materials and processes. Lesage says modular solutions like HP’s thermal inkjet technology – which can be integrated directly into any manufacturing line seamlessly – will help more packaging manufacturers across verticals maintain regulatory compliance, while also meeting growing consumer demand for more sustainable practices.

4 Productivity

Looking at the trend of productivity, Paul Barton, Americas Region sales manager, HP, says “Post-pandemic labour costs and shortages will have packaging manufacturers opting for tech that can seamlessly integrate onto the factory floor with minimal training and maintenance needs.”

Still recovering from losing roughly 1.4 million jobs during the start of the pandemic, in addition to managing the impact of rising costs on operations more broadly, the US manufacturing industry will be laser-focused on finding and deploying technological solutions that are low touch and easy to use, and without sacrificing on productivity.

Barton says reputable thermal inkjet technology, like that of HP’s TIJ print cartridges, can not only be seamlessly integrated into the production line, but it also has the added benefit of being start and stop, snap-in and snap-out, without any calibration or real special handling required. “This makes it easier to train workers of all skill levels quickly and hassle free. It also frees up their time for other tasks on the production floor considering minimal maintenance is required once the solution is up and running.”

For packaging and digital printing specifically – two areas where tremendous growth will persist in 2024 as e-commerce continues to boom and more businesses expand their reach globally to meet growing consumer demand – getting the most out of a manufacturer’s investment in technology will be crucial in order to drive efficiencies across the supply chain, minimise downtime, and maximise profit margins heading into an uncertain economic climate.

This article originally appeared on page 42-44 of the PKN Packaging News magazine.

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