The Xeikon Café wants to become a must attend event for label and packaging printers interested in digital printing. For the second edition at its headquarters in Lier, the company attracted more partners than in 2017 and delivered an interesting series of presentation from Xeikon customers and brands that are using packaging.
The only fly in this ointment was the Mondelez presentation, given by Patrick Poitevin, predicting the eventual demise of the printed label as decoration is applied directly to the bottle or jar during the filling process.
It comes as Xeikon itself is on a growth path. The user base has grown 17% in the last 12 months, even without the addition of EFI’s Jetrion user base according to Xeikon CEO Benoit Chatelard. He was ever present during the four-day event, speaking to customers from Walsall, Warsaw and Sri Lanka. There were able to see seven press lines in operation including the first inkjet press to carry the Xeikon name, the Panther PX4000. It will not be the last.
The company has set up an inkjet competence centre at the Lier factory close to Antwerp to support expansion in inkjet printing. This will include a machine that will succeed the Jetrion for those users looking for an upgrade path.
As well as labels, inkjet opportunities will include carton and corrugated package printing. The company has outline plans for a post print corrugated single-pass machine printing across 1.6 metres and with the same high quality Xeikon has been associated with in dry toner printing, says Chatelard.
There is no launch date, name or price for the project, nor anything on view. Around 1,000 delegates were able to follow production of different products along each of the press lines with embellishment in the partner area.
As well as inkjet, the line up included the CX500, its 500mm wide 30m/min press for labels initially but with clear potential for flexible packaging and in a duplex or twin tower configuration for commercial printing. Chatelard is saying little but his ambition and that of owner Flint Group is clear and long term.
Expansion in the US, aided by being part of the Flint Group, has helped grow the business in North America driving the organic growth in the last 12 months. The acquisition of the Jetrion user base with more than 200 users will provide a platform for both dry toner and inkjet sales.
Xeikon now has 700 users producing labels digitally Chatelard says, cementing the company’s position as the second largest supplier to the sector with clear water between itself and the third largest supplier.
The growth has come from selling to accounts that have used a rival supplier and to UV flexo houses expanding into digital. The association with Flint and access to the Jetrion accounts has clearly helped unlock Xeikon’s potential. It will also help grow the business in Asia.
There will be an edition of the Xeikon Café in North America and Asia to surely follow. It is a high level event delivering both provocative content and perfect networking opportunities.
Lisa Sohanpal’s presentation was typical of the content delivered. Like many mothers with a young family Sohanpal despaired of finding food for the growing children that was both wholesome and tasty. Unlike most mothers she decided to take action. The result is Nom Noms World Food, a range of convenience meals using quality ingredients from around the world and packed into meals for a family or for children.
But as with many start ups in the food sector, translating the ideas and insight that she had had into reality was far from plain sailing. The meal packs would include meals using fresh spices where possible and mixed to create authentic dishes from around the world. “Tastebuds love to travel,” is the company’s slogan.
The main meal would be accompanied by dipping sauces, chutneys and the like to create an all round experience. Coming up with these combinations was not a problem: finding a way to package them to reach consumers was, Sohanpal explained.
“I tried to find packaging formats to fit with what I wanted to deliver,” she said. “And that was extremely challenging. The big companies do not want to work with start ups. Nobody could pack the main, the side dish and the chutney in the same box. I needed to source the different elements of the packaging.”
The design was influenced by the contents. Nom Noms needed to stand out. The message needed to be clear, the colour needed to enhance the message and it needed to be simple. The pack should have a hinged lid and be styled like a suitcase for a trip to the originating country.
But she found that wherever she looked, the sector is set up to serve large companies. “The minimum order for trays was 1 tonne – how is a start up supposed to cope with minimum quantities like that? And we needed everything to be recyclable, compostable or biodegradable which was the biggest barrier we faced. And whatever we chose, the packaging had to survive the packing processes.”
For three years Nom Noms worked with a consultant to get to the point where its concept could be launched on the market. Today the boxes have the colours and look and feel of a travelling case, perhaps not the one originally envisaged, but the hinged lid to display the food is in place.
The packaging is already engaging, printed with information about the country where the recipe originally came from, with quizzes and stories aimed at the young consumers.
Now she wants to bring this story alive through video. “We have sent 360º cameras to India to capture their stories,” she says. The short videos will be posted on the website and will be triggered through a mobile phone and link embedded in the packaging. “That’s the next step,” she says.
She stayed to listen to the next speaker explain how Packly’s approach to purchasing packaging might have suited her young business. Packly is a web to print operation enabling a customer to select, adjust and apply artwork to different styles of carton.
It is an offshoot of Printgraf, an Italian company where Giuseppi Prioriello was not going to allow the lack of available technology prevent him achieving a dream. The first attempt at a web to pack tool did not work.
He took the idea to a web accelerator event in the Netherlands, gaining a huge amount of experience into what would make a strong business case for investors and those using the website.
“We pitched the project to as many people as possible,” he says. “The key advice was to engage with the potential customers – they will provide valuable feedback. As a result I built Packly.
“You have to interview your potential customers, locate your office close to them and throw a party. You have to find the decision maker for your customer: everything else is just chaff.”
The mission statement is clear: “This is the easiest way to create packaging and have it printed.” The user is invited to select from one of 50 box types that can be edited to achieve different sizes and to cope with different materials. Each can be edited by the customer, changing dimensions by 0.5mm to get as close a fit as possible. The software copes with this dynamically working out fit on a plate or the digital press and thus the price per unit.
There are six full time developers on board creating and improving an application that runs in a browser, has an API available to hook into other systems and works through an Saas model.
Options on the material will depend to some extent on the box format. Then with the carcass decided, artwork is uploaded and applied to the dieline file. This can be viewed as a 3D file, rotated and twisted by the user to check all sides are as anticipated. “The users love this aspect of being able to see what will happen before placing an order,” he adds.
The number of boxes is added and the order confirmed. If only a small number is needed, the job will be printed on a Xeikon and cut and creased on a Highcon Euclid II. If the numbers are high enough to justify offset litho printing, the job is directed to a KBA Rapida and then to a Bobst. Everything is under one roof, including lamination and foiling.
“The problem is that buying custom boxes in a traditional way is expensive and time consuming because cardboard design is complex, then combine that with short print runs that are vital for product testing and evaluation. It can take four days to return a quotation.
“We have learned a number of lessons on the journey,” he says. “Firstly, understand the user and frame the problem and focus on this problem, not the additional features; only do this if you love the job; make mistakes fast and learn quickly.”
Lisa Sohanpal was a keynote speaker at the Xeikon Café event, and explained how she overcame packaging issues when starting her Nom Noms World Food convenience meals business. The packaging sector is not geared to helping start ups she said.
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Giuseppi Prioriello informed Xeikon Café delegates of Packly's web to print packaging operation, which enables customers to select, adjust and apply artwork to different styles of carton. After a slow start, the business is coping with a growing volume of orders.
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The Xeikon Café wants to become a must attend annual event for label and packaging printers interested in digital printing. The 2018 event was its second and showed off the expanded demonstration area in Lier where there are seven press lines in operation.
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Xeikon Café's high level provocative content and perfect networking opportunities means a similar event will be held in North America with Asia to surely follow.
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