A lot of women in the office have been getting engaged recently, and judging by the way people group together to gawk at the hands of the newly betrothed one thing is certain: shiny things attract attention. This axiom holds true in many areas of life, including those where the presence of the ink industry is felt. The commercial and packaging industries in particular rely heavily on attracting attention to generate sales, and metallic inks are right at the forefront in helping to grab the attention of consumers.
Like all markets, the metallic ink market did not have its best year in 2001. Opinions on the market’s performance vary depending on which company you ask. According to Oliver Crowhurst, director of business development at Eckart America, metallic inks had a strong year, whileNick Rink, product manager, graphic arts at MD Both, Inc., said that the market experienced a drop in performance in 2001. Despite this difference of opinion, it is generally agreed upon that the metallic ink market is one of the stronger markets in the ink industry.
“Overall, the market for metallic inks is growing,” said Mr. Crowhurst. “This may be supported by product improvements and the use of metallics in areas where metallics were not previously used.”
“Metallic ink market growth continues to be positive due to continued interest in ‘effect’ packaging,” said Peter Stone, marketing development manager at Silberline Manufacturing Co., Inc.
Though the market is still growing, this growth is not as large as in previous years. “The general economic situation has had a negative effect on the market,” said Mr. Rink.
The effects of the terror attacks of Sept. 11 must also be included among the factors contributing to a slower market in 2001. “The tragic events of Sept. 11 had an immediate impact on business for that month,” said Mr. Rink. “The long-term effects, however are unknown at this stage.”
“I estimate business was down 10 percent – 20 percent for September and October,” said Mr. Crowhurst.
In spite of these conditions, the belief is that things will be better in 2002 for the metallic ink market, and the ink industry in general. “We anticipate 2002 being significantly better than 2001,” said Mr. Rink.
Mr. Stone agreed, saying that Silberline “expects sales to be modestly higher.”
“I expect modest growth for existing products,” said Mr. Crowhurst. “Growth is also forecasted for new product introductions as well.”
Know the Market
In order to make this projected growth into actual growth, there are issues that need to be resolved. First and foremost among them is the need to ensure the production of a quality product. “Silberline is active in various cooperative programs with organic and inorganic pigment suppliers to develop unique and appealing colored metallic products and starting point formulations,” said Mr. Stone.
“We work very closely with our partners to develop new pigments that will enable us to keep improving our product range,” said Mr. Rink.
In addition to producing a quality product, a company must also know the proper market to direct its efforts toward. According to Mr. Crowhurst, metallic inks do well in “every printing segment where aesthetics are important. Metallic effects are used to enhance the appearance of printed items, and are able to evoke the image of quality.”
“Markets traditionally using large volumes of metallics include gift wrap, folding cartons and commercial work, such as annual reports,” said Mr. Rink. “These areas are important to us, but we are trying to expand the metallic market by introducing new ways of using the inks, such as our WISE Adobe Photoshop tool for integrated metallics.”
“In the ink market, the primary end use market for our aluminum pigments is the packaging industry,” said Mr. Stone. “Our other major markets include automotive and industrial coatings, plastics and other special effect markets.”
To achieve success in the market, it is also important to know the issues that face the metallic ink market and to address them in the formulation and production of pigments and inks. “Many articles have outlined some of the issues with metallic ink formulation and performance,” said Mr. Crowhurst. “Generally speaking, appearance and performance of these products are continuing to improve. However, the intrinsic nature of metallic pigments will require that the inks be handled under special conditions or with extra attention. Eckart is working hard to eliminate the reluctance to use metallic inks based on performance issues.”
“The main difficulties with metallic inks can be attributed to their physical size,” said Mr. Rink. “We are working with our parent companies to find the optimum size of pigment that will give all the attributes our customers are looking for – printability, metallic brilliance, gloss and color strength. There are also difficulties such as gassing when dealing with aluminum pigments in water-based systems. We have solved this particular problem with a range of passivated aluminums designed specifically for water-based ink vehicles.”
“Silberline continually works to develop metallic pigments of smaller particle size that have very bright aesthetics,” said Mr. Stone. “There is a defined market need for the appearance of a leafing grade with improved adhesion,” he said.
Product Development And Improvement Are Key
Product improvement is an important tool in addressing issues in the market. “Product improvements are being sought in all product lines that facilitate the use of metallic inks in a given segment,” said Mr. Crowhurst. “Eckart offers new ink formulations that address traditional problems inherent with metallic inks, such as UV sheetfed metallic ink for plastics with excellent adhesion characteristics and water- and solvent-based metallic inks with improved adhesion that facilitate lamination in flexible packaging.”
While improving upon existing products is a great way to address issues for consumers, new products are extremely important in today’s market. Silberline has introduced the StarBrite vacuum metallized pigment line. “These productscan be used to produce inks with mirror-like reflections that offer excellent adhesion,” said Mr. Stone.
“Mirasheen is the new product we are most excited about,” said Mr. Rink. “This product utilizes a leafing vacuum metallized aluminum pigment and is available for conventional and UV sheetfed inks as well as UV flexo. Mirasheen can be used as an alternative to foil and metallized substrates,” he said.
Eckart has introduced UltraStar metallic silver inks, available in solvent- and water-based and UV curable formulations for gravure and flexo printing, and exhibit unprecedented brilliance, rivaling metallized substrates and foil stamping, according to the company.
Another issue that faces the metallic ink market and all markets is pricing. With the economy in a downward trend, and companies fighting for their share of a pie that is growing smaller by the day, pricing is perhaps even more important now than before. According to Mr. Crowhurst, “pricing has become more sensitive, particularly in some of the more competitive areas.”
“While there is always downward pricing pressure in every market,” said Mr. Stone, “we believe the products we sell provide significant competitive advantage to our customers.”
It’s a tough market for ink companies right now. But there are companies everywhere that are looking for a way to make their products stand out on the shelf from the rest of the pack, and as long as there are, metallic ink companies will be able to weather any storm.