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Unilever Talks Trends, Growth Areas And Challenges CPGs Face With Digital Adoption, 2018

As one of this year's speakers, John recently joined us for an exclusive Q&A to not only discuss what he is looking forward to most, but also gave us insights into trends going on in commodity product packaging that are impacting digital print community, three potential growth areas of digital print, and more. 


What are some technical challenges CPGs face with digital adoption?

There is still a lot of detailed viewing applied to artwork (loops and scrutiny) and where new technology may not provide the exact same “quality” it is deemed not comparable even though on shelf, in hand, no one would really see a difference.  I have yet to see a shopper with a magnifier, with exception of trying to read small text, checking the graphics and colour detail in store.  Accounting plays a challenging role with the cost impact on a component level verses the link to total value.  It is difficult for some companies to look at total cost, big picture.  If the component cost goes up, margins go down, which makes it tough to implement even if your total cost, supply chain and other areas favourably impacted, goes down.  A third challenge is the management of expectations as the capability differs across printed materials.  For example the cost of what you can do today with labels is not necessarily what you can do with cartons or tubes.

Where are some potential areas of growth for digital, and what would you like see in the future from digital printing?

Growth is definitely in the future across all printed materials for digital.  As the capability improves, speeds increase, supply and demand take shape and costs come down it is going to continue to grow significantly.  In many categories the customer and consumer demands are moving run sizes from the mega print run to more specific, focused quantities.  Speed to market, to respond to competitive threats, to launch faster, are all value enablers that grow the potential of digital print.  Sustainability impacts are going to shape the growth with reduced waste and turn around speed being quantified and valued much more then they currently are.  

What are some trends going on in commodity product packaging that the digital print community needs to know about?

The reality of what customers and consumers want changes continuously.  Many suppliers touting the digital capability continue to drive the “name on here” aspects which is fine but it is really an extremely small element of the value opportunity.  The ability to localize, customize, and itemize for brand messages, targeted sales, cultural/language differences and security far out weigh the value of putting someone’s name on their detergent or deodorant label (I do not suggest this as a gift for your partner).

What are you most excited to hear about at Digital Print for Packaging 2018?

Developments in cross material capability.  Reduction of some of the key cost drivers as supply/demand takes effect.  Hybrid advancements combining the best of both worlds.  Development of visual and other attention grabbing features and capabilities.