Production network Craft Worldwide is part of advertising agency giant McCann Worldgroup. Production director Geoff Harris said the initiative came about due to shifting dynamics in the gravure market, where paper consumption has fallen substantially as the demand for very long run products typically produced using gravure has declined.
“The reduction in capacity in the gravure print and paper market drove this project,” he explained. “We have a need for quality, consistency of supply, the right environmental credentials, and of course cost always a factor.
“So, we looked at what we could do that would deliver all those components, and Leipa started to look at whether it was possible to produce a hybrid paper to bridge the gap between offset and gravure.”
Germany-headquartered Leipa specialises in the manufacture of recycled papers including LWC magazine paper. It stopped making its own gravure-specific grade last year due to a combination of falling demand and rising production costs for that type of paper.
David Heine, Leipa UK managing director for publishing paper, said the hybrid paper had the same specification as the firm’s existing UltraMAG Plus grade, but with a modified surface hardness that made it suitable for gravure.
It is manufactured on PM 4 at Leipa's Schwedt mill.
“It’s a brighter sheet than our old gravure grade, and more cost-effective than a gravure paper because it’s the same price as heatset. Geoff and his clients set a high benchmark in quality and we’re really pleased to have worked with them successfully on this project,” Heine said.
Craft Worldwide head of print production Paul Delaney managed the project which involved experimenting with pre-press settings, paper finishes, and finally ink on paper.
“Paul really knows his stuff in gravure and his whole reason for being is about delivering quality for clients,” Harris said.
“All the work had to be done upfront using test reels before we actually started to print on-press.”
Prinovis UK in Liverpool and the technical department at its German parent group worked together on adapting the pre-press specifications for the hybrid paper, which involved deeper engraving cells on the gravure cylinders.
“The paper ran well and works across a wide range of subject matter,” said Prinovis commercial director Mark Pfeiffer.
Both Pfeiffer and Heine said they would recommend that clients trial the paper before use.
Harris praised the three-way cooperation and said Craft Worldwide’s UK operation had now moved all its weekly production onto the Leipa hybrid grade.
“Runnability is brilliant and it’s delivered what’s required in terms of ink on paper. From a disaster recovery perspective we are really focused on mitigating risk for our clients. Previously, gravure makings were every six-to-eight weeks whereas this paper is being made every day. And we can switch to web offset if needed so that gives us real flexibility,” he said.
“It’s a brave, bold step. I know many European retailers and printers have been waiting to see what the results were so they could follow suit.”
Craft Worldwide works with a number of high-profile global clients and produces millions of printed promotions on a weekly basis. The firm’s client list spans retailers and brands and includes Aldi, Coca-Cola, Ikea, Nespresso, Sony and Telefonica.