Winds of change are blowing across the packaging and labeling industry. Brand owners need to become demanding in terms of innovations and quality, says Anuj Bhargava, MD, Kumar Labels.
When it comes to starting a packaging revolution, only a handful of people are experimenting. In general, it’s always about ‘let someone else try and experiment first. If they succeed then we will adopt it,’ says Anuj Bhargava, Managing Director, Kumar Labels.“And those who are experimenting are generally getting it right. Look at Bira, Tiger, Rampur – all beautifully packaged ‘stand-out’ examples.” Elaborating further, Anuj says preferences are changing across categories and there is a clear trend towards ‘stand out’ rather than ‘me too.’ With premium packaging, perceptions are changing about a brand. For instance, “our SRTF technology, which boasts of 50% reduction in environmental pollution and a 20% total applied cost saving is getting more and more acceptance.” Today, Beam Suntory, Blue Ocean Beverages are already equipped and using this technology. More brands are engaging with Kumar Labels on this innovation. In November this year, Kumar Labels was awarded the “sustainability award” at LMAI Avery Dennison Label Awards for this technology With regard to technology upgradation, Anuj reveals Kumar Labels is possibly the only label company that has a wide variety of label printing infrastructure like letterpress, online/offline screen printing, gravure, label stock coater, multi-layer lamination, labeler manufacturing, and that all these facilities are available in-house. They are adding a 12-color combinational press from leading swiss machine maker Gallus in January, 2019. This would allow single pass SRTF production along with high value addition, discloses the MD.
What is the difference in outlook between foreign and Indian companies in terms of using new ideas? Spelling out his observations, Anuj says the ratio of label spending versus product’s MRP in India is typically 0.05%-0.2%. In Europe, however, such ratios go up to 1%- 1.5%, i.e. they are spending 10 times more on high quality, high value add labels. Gross margins for label printers there are over 50% whereas in India these are less than 25%. This is leading to consolidation of the printing industry. “Brand owners need to become demanding in terms of innovations and quality but also let the (generally family owned) printing companies make sufficient margins to grow and expand profitably.” Talking about the latest trends in the packaging industry, Anuj is of the view that smart labeling will establish trends in the coming decade. Though there are talks about such technologies in India, the MD is yet to see major brands invest in such 1:1 engagement techniques. Moreover, he reveals Kumar Labels has proactively set up a separate division to explore such opportunities in coming times.
What are the out-of-the-box ideas being expressed in the market? “Sensory effects, security, customization and smart labeling will be in demand in coming times. Brands that exploit these opportunities would be able to connect with the consumer and maintain solid connect.” He goes on to add that in such guarded marketing environment for alcobev segment, interactive packaging is a superb opportunity to not only increase sales but also improve brand loyalty. His forecast for the next five years? “Consolidation in print fraternity (along with liquor companies), more and more start-ups driving new ideas, price pressures to be relieved as bottom levels will graduate to next upper levels.” These measures, he points out will “drive better quality, quantities of nips to be taken over gradually by quarts as drink & drive will get stricter, larger sized and economical SKUs will become more popular. Overall, I feel there would be consolidation, focus on quality, and bigger sized SKUs.”