Global print industry recovering post-Covid, packaging strongest: drupa report

Eighth drupa global trends report

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global print
commercial, publishing, and functional markets all show signs of recovery in 2023. Photo Unsplash

The global print industry shows post-Covid recovery and resilience in the face of fresh challenges, states the eight drupa Global Trends report. The results from the survey show that the industry is on average across the globe a little more confident for the future than when last surveyed in 2019, before the pandemic.

The packaging market is the strongest, but global print, commercial, publishing, and functional markets all show signs of recovery in 2023. Regionally, confidence levels vary, e.g. Asia and South America expect better trading in 2023 while Europe is downbeat given the Russia/Ukraine war and its consequences, the report says.

Investments fell inevitably during the last two years, but printers and suppliers both reported strong plans for capital expenditure. Sabine Geldermann, director of Print Technologies at Messe Düsseldorf, said: “Global printers and suppliers know they must innovate to succeed in the longer term. The shocks of the last two years pegged back investment, but the survey indicates that the industry expects the recovery to start in 2023. All regions and markets forecast higher investment in the coming year.”

The findings come from the eight Global Trends online survey when more than 500 senior decision makers on the part of print service providers and machine manufacturers/suppliers worldwide completed an extended survey in spring 2022. The survey was conducted by partners Printfuture (UK) and Wissler & Partner (Switzerland) on behalf of drupa.

Confidence depends on market and region

Globally 18% more printers described their company’s economic condition as ‘good’ compared with those that reported it as ‘poor’. For suppliers, the net positive balance was even stronger at 32%. As always, confidence varies between regions and markets. The packaging market is thriving with publishing and commercial facing structural changes from digitization but with signs of confidence returning.

Regionally the picture is mixed with Europe clearly concerned about the consequences of the Russia/Ukraine war but others such as Asia and South/Central America, expect trade to pick up further in 2023 as economic momentum builds post-pandemic.

Print volume and investment plans

Analysis of print volume in 2022 by press type shows a continuing decline in sheetfed offset among commercial printers matched by increases among packaging printers. Flexo volumes continue to accelerate for packaging printers. All markets reported increased volumes using digital toner cutsheet color and all but publishing with digital inkjet roll-fed color.

Despite the active decline in the volume of sheetfed offset in commercial markets, this was the most popular press type for investment in 2023 across all markets except packaging, where flexo led, followed by sheetfed offset. Digital toner cutsheet color was the second-most popular target for all other markets. Finishing equipment is the second most popular target for investment after new presses.

Web-to-print

While there was virtually no increase in the proportion of turnover won by web-to-print installations between 2014 and 2019, over the last two years the proportion won by that means has shot up for those with such installations. Globally, since 2019, there has been an increase from 17% of turnover to 26%, and this major increase is reflected in varying degrees across all markets.

Socioeconomic pressures

Socioeconomic pressures are having a major impact across the globe, although they vary in influence between regions. For example, 62% of printers in Asia chose pandemics as the biggest threat, while in Europe this was chosen by 51%. And while 32% of European printers chose physical wars, this was chosen by only 6% of those in South/Central America. Instead, 58% of them chose the threat of economic recession. Richard Gray, Operations director at Printfuture, stated: “Socioeconomic pressures are increasingly important to printers and suppliers alike, so much so that 59% thought these were now either as important or more important than print market pressures.”

The global economic market has experienced more shocks in the last two years than at any time since the Second World War. Yet this survey shows that print is still a central means of communication in all markets and regions and that while there are challenging times ahead, the industry has both the confidence and the determination to succeed. Wise strategic investment will ensure that global printers and their suppliers will thrive.

Packaging South Asia — resilient, growing and impactful — daily, monthly — always responsive

The multi-channel B2B in print and digital 17-year-old platform matches the industry’s growth trajectory. The Indian, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Middle East packaging industries are looking beyond the resilience of the past three years. They are resuming capacity expansion and diversification, with high technology and automation in new plants and projects.

As we present our 2024 publishing plan, India’s real GDP growth for the financial year ending 31 March 2024 will exceed 6%. The packaging industry growth will match the GDP growth in volume terms and surpass it by at least 3% in terms of nominal growth allowing for price inflation in energy, raw materials, consumables, and capital equipment.

The capacity for flexible film manufacturing in India increased by 45% over the past four years. With orders in place, we expect another 20% capacity addition in 2024 and 2025. Capacities in monocartons, corrugation, aseptic liquid packaging, and labels are grown similarly. As the consumption story returns over the next six months, we expect demand to return and exceed the growth trajectory of previous years. The numbers are positive for most of the economies in the region – and as shown by our analytics, our platform increasingly reaches and influences these.

For responsible and sustainable packaging, with its attendant regulations and compliances, there is significant headroom to grow in India and the region. Our coverage includes the entire packaging supply chain – from concept to shelf and to waste collection, sorting, and recycling.

We target brand owners, product managers, raw material suppliers, packaging designers and converters, and recyclers. This is a large and complex canvas – the only thing that can work is your agile thinking and innovation together with our continuous learning and persistence.

The coming year looks to be an up year in this region, and this is the right time to plan your participation and marketing communication – in our rich and highly targeted business platform with human resources on the ground. Share your thoughts and plans to inspire and mobilize our editorial and advertising teams!

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– Naresh Khanna (25 October 2023)

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