HP customers took questions from the audience

HP opens doors for digital packaging forum

Kalas Packaging director Matt Evans (R) took questions from the floor
Kalas Packaging director Matt Evans (R) took questions from the floor

HP gathered customers and Indigo experts at its London office yesterday (12 October) for its first-ever UK Packaging Forum event.

The event, intended to inspire early adoption of digital print technology for folding carton and flexible packaging markets, saw the OEM host two sessions of presentations and panel discussions, with existing customers invited to share their experiences.

“We want it to be about having a discussion, as opposed to being all about our technology,” said Peter Jolly, HP Industrial’s UK country manager.

He told Printweek: “We’re talking about people trying to do new and innovative things, compared to, say, adding a label press to a fleet of label presses, or a cut-sheet press to a commercial print room.

“This is, for most people, new ground. I’m a big believer in conversation, because sometimes a question sparks another thought.”

A major theme of the day was the explosion in cottage industries over the past several years that has propelled a surge in demand for short runs of packaging.

Justine Rexer, HP’s B2B marketing product manager for packaging, had flown in to London for the event from HP’s Barcelona office.

She said: “Every time I come to the UK, they say that packaging is only fit for big volumes, and there is little opportunity for digital. With Covid, this has all changed.”

The proliferation of small, often craft-based businesses, she added, has opened up demand for fast, easily-ordered short run packaging in the UK.

She said: “We used to have brands that knew how the industry worked – these new customers are used to Amazon. They want their orders to arrive tomorrow, and they don’t want to have to send 50 emails back and forth to check the artwork.

“And they will pay for that privilege.”

Josep Isart, HP’s EMEA packaging business manager, added that digital-first companies had an advantage over existing packaging converters.

“This is not about moving boxes from conventional to digital, this is about selling something different to the customer,” he said.

A sales team used to chasing medium and shorter runs would find itself making significantly higher profits, Isart added.

“The shorter a run is, the more profit you will have. But you need to be selling.”

The event did not just hear from HP’s own team, however: CS Labels’ co-MD Adam James, and Kalas Packaging’s director Matt Evans took to the floor for question-and-answer sessions about their own experiences launching packaging businesses with Indigo kit.

Both confirmed Isart’s advice, with Evans – whose business was entirely conventional printing until 2017 – adding that having separate business units can make it easier for sales teams to focus on the correct type of clients.

CS Labels went live with its pouch-printing business in 2019, first with Xeikon, and then in 2022 with its seven-colour Indigo press, accompanied by Karlville finishing kit.

“Start basic,” James advised.

“If you do buy a piece of equipment, the kit is modular – so build it up gradually.”

The day’s discussion saw the two customers give even more frank advice to those considering setting up in a market that – in the UK at least – is not fully developed.

For James, that meant that while the journey was not an easy one “at all”, the profit margins could be extremely rewarding, with pouches sold at up to ten times the price of labels.

An important result from the day, according to Jolly, was that it helped to drive collaboration between printers, and open up the conversation on digital packaging production.

“Just think back to our labels journey – it started in exactly the same way, with people working with people who already had the technology – so then they had enough to work to then invest in a press. 

“For us, our volume and our ink sales are very important, and I think while today maybe won’t trigger multiple press purchases, it will help start that journey of working with Indigo technology through collaboration, which for us is very, very important.”