Bobst reflects on a year of ups and downs for the packaging industry

Bobst’s financial performance – strong in 2021

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Bobst Novafoil 106 is a versatile and cost-effective solution for premium cross and inline foiling
Bobst Novafoil 106 is a versatile and cost-effective solution for premium cross and inline foiling

Bobst’s financial performance is strong in 2021, with a big increase of order entries compared to 2020. Taking into account the impact of the Covid-19 lockdowns and the resulting 2020 decline, the net growth since 2019 is over 40%.  

In terms of geography, North America, Southern Europe (France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece), Germany and Poland performed very well. Bobst also saw good results across the South American market. Although there is a slow-down in China, overall results from the country were still very positive. South East Asia remains a complex and fragmented region, but one with great opportunities for the future, Bobst said. 

2021 however also created upheaval within the entire packaging industry. The shortage of skilled labor in some regions, on top of unprecedented price rises in paper, board and flexible substrates, has created unexpected challenges and uncertainties for many of the company’s clients.

Bobst Days – a showcase for the biggest virtual packaging industry event ever, with 28 unique webinars which have attracted 8,491 attendees – was one of the highlights of the year.

Bobst leading the folding carton and corrugated board

In 2021, the folding carton market continued with a steady growth driven by the pharma and food industry. Bobst noticed a growing demand for more automatized production lines with enhanced quality control solutions. It also observed a migration of some commercial printers entering packaging production.

The corrugated board industry had a record year driven by global eCommerce growth, which has now expanded into new sectors such as food delivery. Large converters, and many others, decided to invest heavily in new equipment or green fields to answer this new demand. Converters are looking at more productive production lines with more automation and more in-line machinery enhanced with quality control systems, Bobst said.

Bobst continued to lead the folding carton and corrugated industry segments with new machines and innovation, from printing to embellishment to cutting and folding-gluing. The Novafoil 106 is a versatile and cost-effective solution for premium cross and inline foiling, the market loves it. The Accuregister ‘new sheet to cut register’ system reduces setting times and feed-related stops, boosting productivity and delivering outstanding blank register quality. 

The Expertfold 110 A3 version, which offers greater versatility and unrivalled time-saving benefits to packaging converters, had great market acceptance with units sold in Italy, India and UK.

In the corrugated board industry, the Masterline DRO was launched to answer the urgent requirements of eCommerce. The Speedpack was introduced in September. 

Labels and flexible packaging

Labels saw solid growth with the company’s all-in-one solution combining flexo and digital printing systems. Within digital, inkjet is making significant inroads with the highest growth rate as it delivers high quality combined with high productivity and low operating costs. 

However, the labels market remains a melting pot of different technologies, each of them best for specific applications. All converters are facing the rise in short runs and they all look for more automation, especially as manpower is more difficult to find. Substrate prices increased significantly, and some became more complex to source. 

In flexible packaging, the entire market is facing the ‘plastic reinvention dilemma.’ Recyclability and food compatibility are high priority topics, with strong demand for new high barrier and mono-material solutions or even paper metalized solutions. There is a strong demand driven by eCommerce home deliveries and in-home prepared foods. The highest growth rates are in stand-up pouches, flow wraps, and single-serve packages. The industry is growing at a stable rate but cautious on how new regulations may impact plastic production.

In 2021, Bobst Digiflexo automation solutions accounted for over 40% of the deals signed, reflecting the digitalization and automation requirements for more flexible production lines. In July, Bobst acquired the remaining 49% of Mouvent, integrating the digital printing competence centre for Bobst. 

The Master DM5 – first announced in 2020 – is ramping up, demonstrating the value of solutions integrating flexo and digital capabilities in modular All-in-One, All-in-Line solutions, Bobst said..

2021 saw another major milestone for Bobst with the opening of the Atlanta Label Competence Center, where it hosted many clients and achieved repeat sales of its new digital printing solutions. 

In flexible packaging, the entire packaging industry is looking for a new ‘sustainable face.’ Bobst sees some folding carton and glass production moving towards plastic for a lower environmental and transportation impact. At the same time, the company is seeing some flexible packaging moving towards paper-based packaging. But the biggest trend is the move from multi-material packaging to mono-material solutions, although the waste collection and recycling capacities are not solved yet. Bioplastic material and recycled film usage needs to ramp up to be competitive.

Bobst said it is ready with mono-material solutions – from the right barrier level to printing to lamination. The company said that 2021 has been the breakthrough year for its oneBARRIER solutions, including an EVOH-free, topcoat-free transparent solution for full PE barrier, achieved using the Bobst Nova SX 550, the Expert K5 and the Vision D850. This delivers a high barrier mono-material full PE transparent solution as an alternative to metallized polyester film.

Sustainability solutions have been deployed internationally. Sparsh Industries was the first company in India to deploy the new environmentally friendly solution AluBond on a wide web machine. Polibak in Turkey was the first to remotely install a Bobst K5 metallizer.

In Q4 2021, Bobst acquired the assets of the Italian gravure press manufacturer Officine Meccaniche Giovanni Cerutti SpA and Cerutti Packaging Equipment SpA, including its service and some R&D capabilities, which is in line with its strategic goal of further consolidating its technology and market leadership in the global gravure printing market.

Looking ahead to 2022, digitalization will be the main driver for labels – converters will look for complete end-to-end digitalized solutions to optimize their production floor. All that can be digitalized, will be, enabling converters to deliver faster, with better quality and less waste, answering the growing demand for on-demand label production.

In flexible packaging, Bobst expects the oneBARRIER solution to be available for paper-based usage leading towards more sustainability. Bobst’s Extended Color Gamut printing solution – oneECG – will continue to make inroads into production sites, replacing ink mixing and related waste. “Overall, we strongly believe that plastic packaging, well produced and well recycled, has a future and we are ready with commercially available solutions,” Bobst said. 

 

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