Flexographic Printers Tell All in Latest Flash Poll

FTA Printer Members Discuss Trends, Capital Expenditure Plans, Business Outlooks, What They’re Printing, Digital & Multiprocess

Flexographers are confident in their positioning, evaluating new opportunities, diversifying applications, building the bottom line and committing to doing all that’s necessary to remain viable and valued, all the while proving more versatile in the face of continually changing demands and operating conditions. To say they’re adept, adaptable and ambitious puts it mildly.

Those are the major findings of the most extensive FLEXO Magazine Flash Poll conducted to date. The survey, targeting those FTA member printers who categorize their focus as label, flexible packaging and the sub-elements associated with them, launched Aug. 1 and was concluded Aug. 10. Results were compiled immediately upon poll closing. The target audience represents 72 percent of printers/converters listed on FTA’s member roll. Significantly relevant results stem from a highly respectable response rate—35 percent.

From segments served to substrates utilized, to today’s business climate, growth patterns, print production results, lingering challenges, the digital divide, tariff troubles, in-plant capitalization and select market shares, FTA members eagerly evaluated all that’s happening, speaking in unison to unfolding trends, strategic directions, factors influencing their business and potential next steps.

Print & Production

Business Climate

What They See

Eighty-nine percent of those surveyed see positive implications for the business. Thirty-six percent describe the operating environment as “healthy, dynamic and thriving,” while another 26 percent look at it as “highly competitive.” To that, add 26 percent who believe business is stable. Being a bit more flippant, 8 percent report wild fluctuations in activity, yet just 3 percent see volumes retracting.

As a group, flexographers indicated that they by and large agree with industry forecasts put out by market analysts in recent months. Those projections cite compound annual grow rates (CAGR) of 2.3 percent to 3.1 percent for package print from 2018 clear through 2023. FTA members said their experience holds to, meets and often beats predictions.

Yearly Growth Patterns

Beat or Match Analysts’ Forecasts

Forty percent of survey respondents reported current CAGR at between 2.5 percent and 3 percent. An identical 40 percent placed CAGR at 2 percent to 2.5 percent, while the remaining 20 percent are breaking the 3 percent barrier. At 87 percent of the plants responding, job numbers are up. Only 13 percent maintained that the number of projects taken in has slid.

What They Print

Multiple Segments Served

Of the survey sample, 88 percent print flexibles, 53 percent labels, 2 percent stand-up pouches, 23 percent shrink wrap, 15 percent tags, 10 percent shrink sleeves, 9 percent stickpacks and 9 percent decals. Some print all of that and more.

Media Matters

What They Print On

Similarly, 76 percent print on film, 57 percent paper, 33 percent foil, 33 percent synthetics and 19 percent cartonboard—all of which means multi-substrate capabilities exist in the majority of FTA member plants, where a wide-ranging variety of package print is produced day-in and day-out.

Factors Influencing Production

What They Believe

What’s influencing production? FLEXO put the question to its printer readership. Of those willing to answer, 81 percent pointed to SKU proliferation, 60 percent customization, 57 percent multiprocess print and 50 percent personalization. One noteworthy finding: 37 percent held that every one of those choices was exerting its own impact.