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Taste For Success

Speciality Paper Evolution

If you think speciality paper refers just to the latest design fad for business stationery, read on. Russell Hicks investigates this rapidly evolving and creative world

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Celebrating the creative potential of speciality paper, Antalis used Origin Evolution to create this funky artwork

Your own special way

Figures for the world market suggest that demand for speciality paper and paperboard is continuing to rise, and will reach close to 25 million tonnes this year, and grow a further 3 percent into 2015. Although it accounts for just 6 percent of the global paper and paperboard market, it is growing at the expense of both newsprint and standard printing papers. Printers should take note.

We begin our view of this topic with a look at a UK mill that will entertain creating a unique substrate for a customer with an order of just 3 tonnes. Consider, if you will, that modern, high-speed paper production machines will churn out some 45 tonnes of regular stock per hour, and you can immediately see that the term ‘specialist’ hardly does justice to such a small quantity.

Chocolate wrappers

Speciality paper is not only about producing a pretty, striking, or just plain different letterhead. The demand for premium packaging is doing its bit to fuel the market as well. Speciality papers are at the heart of green, environmentally-friendly solutions, and are not necessarily produced in the ultra-small quantities that the name ‘speciality’ might imply.

Environmentally-friendly packaging surely never got more ‘chummy’ than this, and speciality papers rarely more special: chocolate wrapped in chocolate. UK-based speciality paper manufacturer James Cropper has produced a product that could literally save the skins of 3.5 million tonnes of cocoa beans produced each year, turning waste into paper.

Chocolate wrapped in chocolate: mainstream suppliers might have their own speciality divisions, but it is the smaller mills that are likely to come up with the bigger surprises

The tasty bit, the cocoa shell, represents only 12 percent of the fruit itself, making the production of a substrate from the remnants a potentially significant breakthrough for the packaging industry. The finished light brown stock utilises the cocoa as a natural colorant, avoiding artificial dyes. The finished product, predominantly made up of unbleached cellulose fibre from sustainable crops, features 10 percent cocoa husk content.

Experts at the 168-year-old, family-run paper mill examined the potential for the material following discussions with the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality cocoa and chocolate products, Belgium-based Barry Callebaut. The product is now in production and certified for use in the food supply chain.

Mark Cropper, chairman of James Cropper, comments: “Creating paper from cocoa shells, and achieving food industry certification for its use in packaging edible products of all kinds, is a great achievement and is another example of James Cropper developing industry-leading solutions for even more sustainable methods of paper production.”

The cup that cheers

This is by no means a first for the company; James Cropper also announced last year a new technology that enables the recycling of disposable coffee cups into high-quality paper products. After four years of development, the company can now not only recycle the fibre content in cup waste but also the plastic coating, creating a closed loop on disposable cup waste.

In the UK alone, an estimated 2.5 billion paper cups go to landfill. Until now, the plastic content of cups has made them unsuitable for recycling: disposable cups typically contain some 95 percent high-strength paper with a 5 percent polyethylene coating.

The Kendal-developed technology enables the recycling of disposable cups into high-quality paper products. The innovations led to the company opening a £5m reclaimed-fibre plant at its production mill. The development was recognised and applauded at Luxepack, Monaco, with the trade exhibition’s annual ‘In Green Award’, recognising the most innovative, eco-friendly paper production development of 2013.

Creating paper from cocoa shells, and achieving food industry certification for its use in packaging edible products of all kinds, is a great achievement

James Cropper can now recycle the fibre content in cup waste and also the plastic coating, giving a sustainable solution to the global problem of cup waste. Once the plastic and impurities are filtered out, the process leaves a high-grade pulp suitable for use in luxury papers and packaging.

Wear it with pride

Perhaps the company’s most famous ‘green’ paper, however, appears right alongside a similarly famous ‘red’ product. James Cropper’s best known speciality paper is the material worn by millions of us every year in November: the product that creates the nation’s 40 million poppies.

Phil Wild, chief executive officer of James Cropper, comments: “All of us at James Cropper are honoured to have worked with the Royal British Legion for more than 30 years, and fully support and respect the fantastic job that they do for our veterans and their families." 

James Cropper is best known speciality paper is the material worn by millions of us every year in November: the product that creates the nation’s 40 million poppies

“We feel that we are contributing in some small way to this valuable cause, and are very proud to play a role in the creation of the 40 million paper poppies produced each year by the Poppy Factory to support their fund-raising campaigns. At this time each year, we are once more reminded of the sacrifice that our veterans have made over the years and mindful that 2014 represents 100 years since the start of world war one.”

Lifeless packaging

Packaging, it would seem, has become the latest sector of the print market to take a shine to speciality stock. William Studstill, director of graphic paper at RISI, the information provider for the global forest products industry, comments on the packaging arena: “Despite lacking certain inherent properties such as grease or moisture resistance, paper has become an increasingly attractive option for food service use. Many applications used for ‘take-out’ pack-aging are disposable products such as bags, wraps, bakery sheets, and cups, making paper a more sustainable option compared to other competitive materials.

Printed bags produced on recycled cups: James Cropper announced last year a new technology that enables the recycling of disposable coffee cups into high-quality paper products

“Because this is a growing market, opportunities may exist for commodity graphic paper and packaging producers to convert their equipment to make these specialty food service grades.”

RISI’s recently published study, Specialty Food Service Papers, prov-ides a detailed analysis of the growing food service paper sector. It focuses on barriers and opportunities facing potential entrants to the sector. The study examines global usage of this sector’s key specialty grades and identifies the key companies producing in this market.

Get commercially creative

Creative options continue to inspire in the more general commercial print sector. The big producers are keen to have their own speciality paper section, and these seem to be growing.

A specialist in fine Italian papers for designers and printers, Fedrigoni is a manufacturer of high-quality papers and boards distributed to over 80 countries worldwide. Its products are chosen as the key components for a range of creative applications, a recent example being a limited edition, hand-drawn leporello publication entitled London Fashion Week an Illustrated Panorama, by London-based illustrator Lo Parkin.

Pick a colour, any colour: at a time when some areas are experiencing a decline, the creative and speciality paper sector is witnessing a revival. Pictured: Curious Matter from Antalis is one of the company’s flagship speciality brands

This hand-rendered labour of love took 593 hours to complete, consisting of 57 illustrations lithographically printed onto Fedrigoni Tintoretto in Gesso paper (140g/m) and Sirio Color in Limone (80g/m). Some 250 copies of the leporello publication are signed by the illustrator to make her debut into the industry as an emerging artist.

Commenting on the growth in general of speciality papers, Emma Linley, creative papers product mana-ger at Antalis UK, says: “At a time when some areas are experiencing a decline, the creative and speciality paper sector is certainly witnessing a real revival of interest. Our creative papers business at Antalis enjoyed a particularly successful year in 2013, and we anticipate this to continue throughout 2014 as interest continues to grow.”

The constant need for differentiation is cited as the key driver for this. Both end-users and the design community are seeking creative substrates to give print the edge over on-screen offerings. Print still has the opportunity to be different because of touch and feel.

Julian Long, national key account manager, Arjowiggins Graphic, adds his thoughts: “For those speciality papers manufactured by Arjowiggins Graphic the market is showing significant growth. Amongst others, there are three areas of particular interest at present: digital inkjet papers, specific papers for more luxury carrier bags, and recycled envelope papers. The growth in these areas is driven by an ever-increasing desire for specifiers and consumers for more environ-mentally-friendly products.”

London-based illustrator Lo Parkin made her debut with her unique response to London Fashion Week, printed onto Fedrigoni Tintoretto in Gesso paper (140g/m) and Sirio Color in Limone (80g/m)

Why the success? Linley of Antalis explains: “We are able to offer one of the most inspirational ranges of creative papers, which constantly capture the imagination of designers and end-users. In addition, we have a dedicated team of highly-experienced consultants that are constantly working with design agencies, end-users, and printers to provide their expertise and advice in choosing papers and introducing new ranges that will make a real difference to their work.”

From the designer’s perspective, Darran Porter, owner of Porter Clarke Design, suggests that digital is the area where speciality papers are more likely to score: “One area of work where we have been promoting speciality paper heavily is on short-run digital printing. Equipment such as the MGI Meteor can handle a wide range of materials, including plastics, and this press allows for the creation of some really interesting print effects. With a short-run, clients seem far more willing to pay for more creative and exciting stock.

O Factoid:  A host of interesting ways to create paper are coming out of the woodwork, including potato-based and banana-based paper O

“The other area currently seeing a return to the speciality product is business cards. Again, it’s a short-run job that makes the use of out-of-the-ordinary substrates possible. Businesses are again realising the importance of a card that makes a striking first impression.”

As a final note to printers yet to switch on to the benefits of speciality stock, Linley suggests: “It all comes down to the ability to do something out of the ordinary.  These substrates really offer designers and printers alike the opportunity to do something that will really differentiate themselves and give them the edge in an increasingly competitive market.”


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