Global print industry recovering post-Covid, packaging strongest: drupa report

Eighth drupa global trends report

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global print
Commercial, publishing, and functional markets all show signs of recovery in 2023. Photo Unsplash

The global print industry shows post-Covid recovery and resilience in the face of fresh challenges, states the eight drupa Global Trends report. The results from the survey show that the industry is on average across the globe a little more confident for the future than when last surveyed in 2019, before the pandemic.

The packaging market is the strongest, but global print, commercial, publishing, and functional markets all show signs of recovery in 2023. Regionally, confidence levels vary, e.g. Asia and South America expect better trading in 2023 while Europe is downbeat given the Russia/Ukraine war and its consequences, the report says.

Investments fell inevitably during the last two years, but printers and suppliers both reported strong plans for capital expenditure. Sabine Geldermann, director of Print Technologies at Messe Düsseldorf, said: “Global printers and suppliers know they must innovate to succeed in the longer term. The shocks of the last two years pegged back investment, but the survey indicates that the industry expects the recovery to start in 2023. All regions and markets forecast higher investment in the coming year.”

The findings come from the eight Global Trends online survey when more than 500 senior decision makers on the part of print service providers and machine manufacturers/suppliers worldwide completed an extended survey in spring 2022. The survey was conducted by partners Printfuture (UK) and Wissler & Partner (Switzerland) on behalf of drupa.

Confidence depends on market and region

Globally 18% more printers described their company’s economic condition as ‘good’ compared with those that reported it as ‘poor’. For suppliers, the net positive balance was even stronger at 32%. As always, confidence varies between regions and markets. The packaging market is thriving with publishing and commercial facing structural changes from digitization but with signs of confidence returning.

Regionally the picture is mixed with Europe clearly concerned about the consequences of the Russia/Ukraine war but others such as Asia and South/Central America, expect trade to pick up further in 2023 as economic momentum builds post-pandemic.

Print volume and investment plans

Analysis of print volume in 2022 by press type shows a continuing decline in sheetfed offset among commercial printers matched by increases among packaging printers. Flexo volumes continue to accelerate for packaging printers. All markets reported increased volumes using digital toner cutsheet color and all but publishing with digital inkjet roll-fed color.

Despite the active decline in the volume of sheetfed offset in commercial markets, this was the most popular press type for investment in 2023 across all markets except packaging, where flexo led, followed by sheetfed offset. Digital toner cutsheet color was the second-most popular target for all other markets. Finishing equipment is the second most popular target for investment after new presses.

Web-to-print

While there was virtually no increase in the proportion of turnover won by web-to-print installations between 2014 and 2019, over the last two years the proportion won by that means has shot up for those with such installations. Globally, since 2019, there has been an increase from 17% of turnover to 26%, and this major increase is reflected in varying degrees across all markets.

Socioeconomic pressures

Socioeconomic pressures are having a major impact across the globe, although they vary in influence between regions. For example, 62% of printers in Asia chose pandemics as the biggest threat, while in Europe this was chosen by 51%. And while 32% of European printers chose physical wars, this was chosen by only 6% of those in South/Central America. Instead, 58% of them chose the threat of economic recession. Richard Gray, Operations director at Printfuture, stated: “Socioeconomic pressures are increasingly important to printers and suppliers alike, so much so that 59% thought these were now either as important or more important than print market pressures.”

The global economic market has experienced more shocks in the last two years than at any time since the Second World War. Yet this survey shows that print is still a central means of communication in all markets and regions and that while there are challenging times ahead, the industry has both the confidence and the determination to succeed. Wise strategic investment will ensure that global printers and their suppliers will thrive.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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