From the latest Gipea conference, market trends in Italy and Europe, the Observatory with its analyses on company performance, the exchange between operators on new products and technologies and the association’s programs for the year to come.

A lot of useful information, a lot of participation, no ritual without contents, not even in the customary speech, held in opening of the proceedings by the current President, Alberto Quaglia (Aro SpA). Gipea’s 28th Technical Conference, held last Friday, November 28th, at Novotel, Milan Linate, kept up the high levels of information that we are now accustomed to expect at Assografici’s labelmaker’s group encounters. A standard that is based on three fundamental choices, easy to say but not to put into effect or maintain in time: demanding from (and offering to) the association concrete services, to be clearly and transparently shared; the start up shared cooperation, that mobilizes the best energies and the good will of the members; the overcoming of  the natural mistrust of exchanges between competitors and the conversion of the equally natural rivalry into a stimulus.

And if Gipea is not the only associative field that measures up to these objectives, all the same it stands out for the results obtained over these latter years, fruit of the “acceleration” applied by a new generation of entrepreneurs who have revamped the national association and woven a fine web of international relations (first and foremost via the federation Finat). We here relate some of the information transmitted during the encounter that, as well as president Quaglia and the speakers cited below, also featured the Gipea secretary Italo Vailati (who also coordinated the afternoon panel discussion); Alessandra Calemme (Fidocart) who spoke on the theme “End of product lifecycle: new legislative orientation in Europe and Italy”; the speakers and animators of the technical section, dedicated to updates on new materials and to the rating of UV led.

Europe and Italy compared 2013-2014
To make best use of the market data gathered in time, Finat has activated Radar: a twice yearly publication dedicated to associates, that updates on growth trends in the European narrow web supply chain, and links market analyses with the performance of converters, brand owners, materials and instrumental goods suppliers. The idea is a great one and, under the initiative of its president, Gipea has decided to do much the same. The first study of this type was publicised during the Milan conference by past President Alfredo Pollici (Notarianni), and offered much food for thought.

Europe. Aboveall, considering the figures for 2013, if the US shows two digit growth in all sector segments, in Europe the demand for labels shows a lot more modest average growth of +3.5%, with different materials showing different rates (plastic growing twice that of paper). Starting out thus, Pollici divided up the geographic areas of Europe into homogeneous macro areas and drew up a classification of growth, dominated by the East (Russia, Poland, Hungary, Czechia etc at +6.9%). The South though (and who would have believed it!) is in second place: France, Italy Spain, Greece – or that it’s the old PIGS grouping plus France – totalling an average growth of +3.5%.

The others follow suite: North and Central Europe with the UK, considered an area in itself, featuring lowest growth. That is to say, Italians have good reason to cheer on their industry… Not only that. Looking at figures for 2014, as far as they are limited to the first months, we see Southern Europe at the top of the rating (+9.9%) with the North close behind (+7.2%) followed by the East (+6.8%), the UK (+3.7%) and Central Europe (+2.9%). Poignant the speaker’s advice to “wait and see the balance at the end of the year”. Pollici also gave information on the run of materials, where plastics has grown more than paper considering rolls, and viceversa paper is ahead if we look at sheets (and between sheets and rolls the latter show the greatest growth). On top of that, the figures show Southern Europe more inclined to consume paper with the North more plastic oriented.

Italy. Extrapolating the figures for Italy from the total, in 2013 the Italian market was worth 740 million euros out of a European total of 5,000 million, corresponding to a share of 14.7% that makes Italy fourth (in value) with a growth trend over the last 5 years of 5.8%. As well as that, in the period June-September 2014 the turnover of the Italian industry in the sector grew by 8.8%, aboveall thanks to the larger sized companies (over 5 million euros). As rightly remembered at this point, Gipea for now has a limited statistical base (the monitoring was limited to turnover, and involved less than half of its associates); the potentials of this study though are very high because the Assografici labeler group includes 84 companies that represent 74.7% of the Italian domestic market.

Is it worth ones while investing in a labeling works?

If you were given a few million euros on condition you invested the sum in manufacturing activities, would you start up a labeling concern? The question, formulated by that experienced communicator Federico Visconti (lecturer at SDA Bocconi and founding partner of Partners SpA), was broached at the end of the presentation of the third Gipea Economic Observatory, constituting the highpoint of the end-of-November meeting. This thus enabled a compendium to be made of the results monitored in the sector, publicised by Gianluca Cinti and commented on by Visconti with spirit and clarity.

The answer is clearly to the affirmative, also considering the telling comments of the two economists and the answers to the questions from the audience (with the past presidents in the front row anything but “retired”), that enabled avoidance of an excessively flattering presentation of the study. Here are some of the main points.
Aboveall the Italian labeling industry is showing a strong recovery of turnover and profitability, and appears supported by the drop in raw material prices. The causes, the analysts state, margins: a shift in product mix, a change in stable clientele, the drop in costs, reductions in manpower… it can be can seen that without concrete information as to the daily running the companies, the data can be interpreted very differently…
Cinti and Visconti reviewed the many significant parameters of the state of health of the companies, among which operating income (Ebit), that in this sector shows a recovery in efficiency though without reaching the peaks of the best years; income statements, with the number of companies operating with negative results dropping from 26 to 16; the mix of constant costs, that corroborates the consistency of the results in earnings; improved capital gains; an average tendency to invest of 6.9%, rated as a good result. Interesting the considerations on the reduced indebtedness (sign of strength or inertia?) and the appreciation of the growing financial solidity of the sector companies, that show a constant and considerable increase in company equity, bearing witness to the  entrepreneurs’ growing attention to their concerns.
That is to say, yes: investing in a labelling works today in Italy one can do good business. And being able to consult the complete version of Gipea’s Observatory undoubtedly gives one a further edge. 

Prospective orientations
Having made a snapshot of the sector, what does the Observatory suggest to companies committed to drawing up a growth strategy? The need for a strategy, president Quaglia states “seriously joking”, and a more decided orientation towards exports. In fact, even though no immediate correlation between exports and growth is made, the most successful labeling works are those with an international vocation. If hence the SMEs already show notable commercial capacity and a great commitment to R&D, it is now time to extend prospects in time and broaden them in space. Perhaps by growing even further in size, and not necessarily alone.  

The role of Gipea and the projects for 2015
The market is growing but companies, especially small ones, risk missing the boat, or rather, risk not managing to do everything that would enable them to catch it: investment, innovation, mergers, internationalization, nothing less and no exceptions. The burden is large and business associations can play an important role to help and support concerns. As the new president Alberto Quaglia explained, he first of all interprets Gipea as a commitment to provide more information and favor the sharing of the same, promote technical training, monitor the new technologies, ensure adequate legislative consultancy.
The program of social activities for 2015 has been drawn up accordingly and provides for the organization of a conference in the spring in Tuscany, participation in the annual conference Finat in Amsterdam, the launch of new training courses and the revisiting of the Gipea Papers on the standards of production and on labels in contact with food. The new board of directors drew up the same after defining a set of priorities, laid out in eight points: improve data collection on the Italian and European markets; start training for sales personnel and management; increase counseling  on legal issues; start new working groups; increase the involvement of materials and technology suppliers, enabling ad hoc workgroups; establish a relationship with the academic world; stimulate contacts throughout the supply chain to enable projects for increasingly sustainable products; consolidate the representativeness of Gipea.     

Technology: information, not advertising!
The afternoon session of the Gipea conference was dedicated to updates on new features regarding technology and products in terms of media (materials) and polymerization (UV LEDs). Original the communication formula: having decided give up on the classic business presentations, a concise and concrete information was opted for, factually anglosaxon in style, certainly more interesting and “digestable” even after the lunch break. So Quaglia and his predecessor Tessera Chiesa took turns in a presentation marked by the latest, most evolved media proposed by Arconvert (paper treated against oils; film for squeezable containers; special paper for inkjet printing, and more), Herma-Fornietic (labels with new removable adhesives); Lecta Group (washable adhesives, glittered faces, thermal paper without bisphenols et al.), Mactac (resealable hot melt adhesive), Avery Dennison (new acrylic based adhesives combined with thin and conformable faces and various green solutions range), Ritrama (Linerless Solutions), UPM Raflatac (range of FIT compatible faces). After them, the spokesman of Phoseon Technology and the Italian representative of Radtech Europe discussed UV LEDs, highlighting features, pros and cons and areas for improvement of a technology with many interesting aspects.
Far from being marginalized, the presence of the materials-, equipment and aids producers and labelmaker service providers, welcomed in Gipea with the title of “sympathiser members” in view of an (increasing) chain cooperation and in the audience with the faculty to speak is seen to be thus very much appreciated.