As products compete for consumer attention on shop shelves, creating the right first impression has never been so important for brands. While multi-channel marketing undoubtedly plays a key role in building this image, product packaging is at the fore when it comes to point-of-purchase consumer decision making.

It’s no wonder, then, that digital is the fastest growing segment in the printed packaging technology arena, outrunning the likes of gravure, flexo, and web and sheet offset. From increasing sustainability credentials and personalising products, to reacting to trends faster and improving time-to-market, could digital printing be the solution of the future for packaging?

According to Doris Erhardt-Freitag, managing director of Germany-based print specialist company Folienprint, it certainly seems so: “With digital we are opening doors which were closed with conventional printing. Mind-sets within our customers’ market are being challenged and require an openness to change in order to fully realise this innovative technology.”

Strategic partnership

Working with HP, Folienprint uses a range of printing machines to produce short and medium quantities in film printing for flexible packaging and shrink-sleeves as well as laminating and plastic slitting. The company works with a number of key brands, including world leading food company Danone Aqua d’Or.

The company’s partnership with the Danish manufacturer stemmed from Danone’s ambitions to strengthen its position as a creative and premium brand, while attracting a new audience of millennials. To achieve this, each bottle of Aqua d’Or mineral water was to include a unique label designed by Danish artist Emil Kozak.

Kozak created 11 top layer designs of water cues, drops, waves, skies and flows which were added to geographically themed base layers. These seed files were used by HP Mosaic software at Folienprint’s factory to create unique design outputs which could be printed on an HP Indigo digital press and applied as labels to each bottle of Aqua d’Or.

Some 3.2 million one-of-a-kind Aqua d’Or bottles were sold through traditional retail in the Danish and Swedish markets throughout September 2018. The campaign was a success for the brand, and just one of the many examples of Folienprint’s successful ongoing relationship with HP.

“Digital is going to grow it is going to open a number of new doors to our customers. Even the combination of printing technologies such as hybrid, might be an option for the flexible packaging market.”

According to Erhardt-Freitag: “We have been working with the HP folks for more than two decades. Constructive discussions and ongoing push-and-pull discussions are at the heart of this fruitful business relationship.”

An ongoing connection

While the benefits of digitally-printed packaging are growing clearer, Erhardt-Freitag is keen to point out that it’s not for every application: “Digital is not the solution for everything. Customers and converters need to understand its potential.

“However, it can open a number of opportunities. For example, it is certainly a solution for small runs and digital is supporting us and our customers to creating these runs with perfect cost control.

“Plus, with regards to the discussion of continuous waste, there is a clear advantage by using digital sources and to reduce waste.

“Digital is going to grow it is going to open a number of new doors to our customers. Even the combination of printing technologies such as hybrid, might be an option for the flexible packaging market.”

Other benefits that HP’s digitally-printed packaging solutions have provided for Folienprint customers include the ability to test markets, a reduction in cost hurdles, a quick realisation process, an increase in promotional activities, and the potential to personalise packaging.

Says Erhardt-Freitag: “No other printer manufacturer supplier has this level of ongoing connection with us and we are focusing on further progress to make our company visions come true. Within any partnership, it is always the people that make the difference and we enjoy working with all of the HP team.

“Knowing we are not always easy, we appreciate how HP supports us. In a few words, I would describe HP as powerful, enriching, visionary, supportive and passionate.”