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How Is Digital Printing Affecting the Packaging Industry?

The digital printing market is increasing at an impressive 15% across all formats and is transforming the packaging industry. The packaging industry was valued at more than $13 billion in the past year, with most of the revenues being generated through digital printing. By 2022, the packaging industry would have grown by 13% every year, enjoying an overall value of $22 billion. Though technology is new in many parts of the world, there are still quite a few areas where digital printing processes for the packaging industry have become mature. The label sector particularly has been fast to adopt and has already established itself. Carton printing is also being digitised, but at a slower pace.

Newer technologies now offer a more effective way to engage with potential customers, contributing to revenues. Creative agencies, retailers and brands are unleashing their creativity, coming up with new models that deliver greater value.

So how exactly has digital printing service impacted the packaging industry? Let’s find out.

aspirin uk Key Advantages

Utilising digital printing in the packaging industry possesses the following main advantages.

  • Streamlined product launches
  • Faster and more affordable setups
  • Practical and economical shorter runs; this also allows brands to micro segment and produce custom packages for each
  • Lower levels of packing inventory

master Analysing Packaging Segments

Folding cartons are widely suited for digital printing. Most of the content is printed on only one side of the carton without any concerns of coming in contact with food.  Generally, the size of a B2 sheet is stable for folding cartons.

Modern presses increase productivity levels by as much as 30% and can perform numerous folding jobs in a day; synthetic media, polyvinyl chloride and polyethylene terephthalate are often used as the print material.

Flexible packaging features thin films, which can often be a challenge for digital presses. Also, most of these are used for packaging food, so toxicity concerns do exist. Still shorter run brands utilise digital printing techniques.

Corrugated packaging tasks are achieved through shorter runs. Many OEMs exist in this segment, printing corrugated material in multiple passes. Single pass systems are more expensive.

The Food and Beverage Sector

The food and beverage sector has probably utilised digital printing the most for packaging purposes. Other industries that have followed their lead include electronics, pharmaceutical and personal care. Though both small and big firms can enjoy benefits, it is the Tier 2 companies that will have the most significant impact. Such companies often use packaging to differentiate themselves, standing out among the other players in the market. Differentiating product packaging generates brand appeal, which interests more consumers. Also, digital printing allows Tier 2 brands to compete with Tier 1.

That being said, per unit costs may be greater, but the overall costs and shorter setup times make digital printing service a more economical choice for smaller firms.

Shorter Runs That Are More Economic

Just like other print products, the lengths for packaging tasks are becoming shorter. Analogue processes are often utilised for medium and long runs because they reduce overall efforts and costs. Versioning and fragmentation are changing the situation further, with many new players entering the market. This has led to more shorter runs, but sometimes, the pre-pressing and finishing cost can be on the higher side. Often these are charged as a lump sum amount when an order is placed with a digital printing service.  

Shorter runs are mostly seen in the label sector right now, but they are rapidly spreading to other packing segments as well. While some of the packaging companies in Toronto are offering custom product packaging design service might set limits on the minimum order quantities, the offered quality will be higher and costs in the longer run would be lower.

When used for short runs, digital is a better choice because it eliminates plate costs. Also, online web-to-pack platforms are utilised which have reduced administrative working and pre-pressing costs involved in producing artwork.

Greater Engagement Levels

Digital printing stepped into the mainstream and gained designers and brand’s attention after some of the companies utilised it effectively for their marketing campaigns that were conducted on a massive scale. Especially, many printing companies in Toronto have taken the benefits of having greater engagement levels.Coca Cola, for instance, customised PET bottle labels, supplementing the designs with specific names that were printed on glass hobble bottles. Names could also be printed on demand through a website that offered custom product packaging service. Coca Cola made it clear that packaging can drastically improve customer experience, generating much higher engagement levels. When used as part of the branding strategy, customer approval can be sought as more prospects spend a greater amount of time interacting with the brand.

If a digital printing service is utilised for packaging, greater emotions and engagement levels can be generated while the brand enjoys a status boost.

Inkjet and Electrophotography

Traditional package printing processes like lithography and flexography are still vital, especially for longer runs. But as digital printing advances and revolutionises the packaging industry, the popularity of traditional approaches will decrease.  Inkjet and electrophotography processes are characterised by a higher degree of quality and greater speeds, making them more preferable.

Variable Data Packaging

Digital presses have variable data capability, which enables personalisation and versioning.  Runs can either be short or long, but shorter runs are a more preferable choice.

Printing On-Demand

On-demand printing reduces waste, ascertaining that new designs, product details and changes don’t introduce redundancy in the current inventory.  Electrophotography and inkjet technologies have simplified processes, making on-demand printing a realistic choice.


Variable data printing is a popular feature of a digital printing service, but it is new to packaging. It does appear promising for many applications, though. Studies claim that personalised packages can increase sales to a massive 1000%. Personalisation can be based on several factors such as region, demographics, past purchasing styles or seasonal events.

Author Bio:

Marinos is the founder at MGS, a marketing, design and printing company in Toronto. His skill set and experience in the print and graphics industry stems 15+years and his greatest expertise revolves in the worlds of interactive design. Connect with him on LinkedIn.