Global package-printing market to exceed $550 billion in 2027: Smithers report

Labels and printed packaging continue to increase in demand, and represent a strategic priority for press OEMs, ink suppliers and print service providers across the next five years. 

A new dedicated study – The Future of Package Printing to 2027 – on how this sector is emerging from Covid-19 and will evolve in the medium term is now available from Smithers. Its data forecasting charts how a global market worth in $456.3 billion in 2021, will increase to $473.7 billion; and then grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.1% to reach $551.3 billion in 2027 (constant 2021 prices).

Across the same period the volume of corrugated board, folding cartons, rigid and flexible plastics, metal, and labels stocks printed worldwide will increase from 13.0 trillion to 15.4 trillion A4 print equivalents.

Flexo will remain the most widely used print process – due to its popularity in long-run corrugated board, labels and flexible plastics work. It represents around 36% of the contemporary market and natural expansion gives flexo a positive growth outlook (+2.4% CAGR, by value) through to 2027. Other analogue processes, including offset litho (+2.5% CAGR), will see similar organic growth across the five-year Smithers study period, mainly from developing markets.

The greatest expansion however will come from digital print for packaging – with a CAGR of over 10% forecast through to 2027. Print service providers are poised to reap the benefits of very significant R&D investment by digital OEMs, delivering improvements in productivity, reliability and expanding the number of print commissions where digital is price-competitive with established analogue production.

Packaging print is becoming increasingly competitive and will be the focus for further technical innovation through the 2020s. Among the main challenges are:

  • Improving the sustainability of print systems by minimizing waste, optimizing the energy efficiency of print equipment, and developing systems that can print on an array of new more sustainable packaging substrates, including flexible barrier papers, moulded fibre, and monomaterial polymer constructions 

  • Adapt to new legislative requirements to move away from single-use plastics, and improve recyclability of all formats

  • Reacting to post-Covid print buying patterns, by reducing turnaround times, embracing print-on-demand business models, and enabling more economic short promotional and versioning commissions

  • Make print supply more resilient and agile to withstand disruption, including following the post-pandemic trend to re-shore or near-shore of production of certain essential FMCGs

  • Evolve print technologies and business models to capitalise on opportunities in the booming e-commerce segment, innovating with print designs and graphics to optimize engagement with home delivery customers

  • Implement the latest automation advances in both digital and analogue production. These Industry 4.0 technologies have the potential to simultaneously reduce the need for skilled print room labour; while increasing responsiveness and overall print quality, consistency and uptime

  • These factors will contribute to further the penetration of digital printing – especially inkjet – in packaging and labels work. A trend that will also benefit from advances in workflow software making printing more streamlined and cost-efficient; thereby allowing more low-run jobs to be produced.