Printing industry shifts to packaging in digital era

The digital revolution has affected almost all sectors including the printing industry. This has meant only one thing: either to innovate or die.

For the printing industry, where fortunes are shrinking at one of the fastest paces, players are increasingly shifting focus to packaging in order to stay afloat.

“With digital age, there is more market in packaging. The growing middle class in countries like Kenya has increased the demand for fast moving consumer goods and these have to be well-packaged,” said Lau Larsen, the managing director of printing and allied industries technical services provider, Gazelle Limited.

The firm says it is betting on a growing middle class to expand its packaging business in this uncertain digital era. In East Africa, 200-year old printing and packaging brand Koenig & Bauer Group (KBA) senior sales manager Falk Sparbert says there is an increasing number of clients who are investing in packaging equipment. He adds that there is some level of internet printing and e-commerce that is also boosting business.

“Packaging is the only sector where we realised an annual increment of 4 to 6 per cent in revenue. In this region, we see more supermarkets and other retail outlets opening and this will require more carton boxes,” said Mr Sparbert.

According to him, the shift to packaging has seen reduced investment in printing equipment. He says that sale of newspaper printers is declining by at least one per cent annually as digital printing market grows.


“Newspapers and printing market are shrinking. It is slowing down though there are still many companies willing to invest in printing equipment. But most of them are changing their products towards digital media,” said Mr Sparbert.

This change, he said, has also come as an opportunity for its after sale and support service department since there are many firms seeking upgrade on existing printing materials.

For Gazelle Limited who solely distributes printing and packaging brands such as KBA, Meccanotecnica, Kolbus and Perfecta, a growing middle class is offering packaging opportunities as printing remains relatively unstable. Mr Larsen, who was involved in developing the printing industry in East Africa since 1970, says the establishment of more retail outlets and shopping malls has meant that shops selling fast moving goods have to package them well. Speaking in Nairobi during the East Africa packaging, printing and plastics exhibition and conference, Mr Larsen said that with many companies with similar goods coming up, consumer goods producers are feeling the heat of having better packaging strategies to attract customers.

After sale services

To remain competitive, Mr Larsen, whose firm is involved in sale of new and pre-owned press and post press equipment, printing consumables, spares and accessories, said it has had to strengthen its after sale services. “We send engineers overseas for training so that we have a team that can help customers reduce time spent on every machine installed,” he said.

However, in Kenya, KBA remains with some key printing business both in public and private sectors. It is the one that supplied printing equipment to Kenya Literature Bureau (KLB), Department of Defence and Survey of Kenya. Also, its machines are the ones used by De la Rue in printing Kenyan currency, just as is with Japanese Yen, Euro and the Dollar. Kenya’s leading media houses- The Standard Group and Nation Media- also run on KBA press. —[email protected]

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