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Focus On

Label Printing

As the label printing sector continues to grow, Carys Evans asks some of the businesses operating in this field about the latest kit available and how this can help printers to grow

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Put a label on it

The label printing sector was estimated by Smithers Pira to be worth $41.2bn (£30.55bn) in 2019, and since 2014 the market has grown 4.8% in value and 5.2% in volume (A4 prints). When you think of all the applications labels are used for (food and beverage products, beauty and skincare products, medical packages, tracking and barcodes on packaging, the list goes on) it’s no surprise the sector is such a busy one.

What’s more, the role of labels are incredibly important as they act as warnings for dangerous and poisonous substances, include lists of allergens which can potentially save lives, and also important information such as sell by dates.

With that being said, it’s clear to see why the label printing sector is one worth being in for print businesses with lots of opportunity to diversify and grow. In this feature, we take a look at some of the latest developments in kit, and the trends keeping demand charging forwards.

A world first

Based in Suffolk’s Bury, St Edmunds, Abbey Labels has been a label specialist printing company since 1982. The company supplies BRC grade and ISO 14001 approved full colour labels to the food, beverage, cosmetics, industrial, security, and pharmaceutical industries in the UK.

Abbey Labels has been providing specialist label printing solutions for four decades


Abbey achieves all of this with a fleet of digital and flexo narrow web presses along with a comprehensive finishing section. Last year, the company installed a new MPS flexo press with an integrated high-speed die-cutting module.

Tom Allum, chairman of Abbey Labels, explains: “This inline solution was a world first and more than doubled the cutting speed we can achieve on press. We also regularly upgrade our digital department to stay ahead of the curve with the latest Xeikon technology for the production of food safe, high-quality labels.

“Our finishing lines from AB Graphic offer a great range of embellishment options, which enables us to create labels with exceptional shelf appeal and add real value for our customers.”

When it comes to labels, Allum recommends investing in a complement of digital and conventional printing press kit in order to produce short, medium and longer job runs at a competitive cost level without compromising on quality.

Describing faster production times and just-in-time delivery as “now the norm”, Allum says it’s difficult to choose just one piece of kit because each machine plays a vital role in the making of a label. “Let’s not forget the press operators and the rest of our staff – we certainly wouldn’t be where we are today without them and their expertise,” he adds.

In terms of opportunities within the sector, Allum says that whilst most people can invest in a desktop label press to produce simple labels, stepping up to produce labels on the scale that Abbey Labels does is a little more complicated.

“You really need to understand the whole process from prepress to dispatch, including label substrates and how they behave on press, adhesive technology, inks, varnishes and coatings, foiling and embossing, and die-cutting and slitting.

“Workflow is a particularly important aspect because you can quickly lose money if you’re spending too long getting a short run job through the whole system, so you need the right set up and the software to support it. Finally, the application must be fully understood to ensure the label is fit for purpose whether that is on a bottle of shampoo or a drum of chemicals.”

Digital is the future

A company that produces technology for label printing is Xeikon (the Digital Printing Solutions division of the Flint Group). The company has over 30 years’ experience in digital hardware and software for label printers and converters. Xeikon’s portfolio includes web-fed digital colour presses using both dry toner and inkjet technologies, and also application specific finishing equipment. All of these are cloud connected and integrated with Xeikon’s X-800 Digital Front End.

“Digital printing technology is now regarded as the future for all sectors,” says Danny Mertens, corporate communications manager of Xeikon. He adds: “The significant rise in online ordering has accelerated the need for automation, faster production speeds and specialist quality colour controls. During the pandemic, Xeikon’s strategy was to continue to develop and bring to market new digital platforms, new presses, and digital innovations, both dry toner and inkjet technology.”