It seems, then, like an unusual time for a major international sheetfed ink manufacturer to decide to open U.S. operations. However, in the eyes of Neusäß, Germany-based Epple Druckfarben, the 15th-largest ink manufacturer according to Ink World’s 2009 Top International Ink Companies, the opportunity for high-quality inks has never been better.
“I think it is the right time for our products to enter the North American market,” said Joachim Erlach, a member of Epple’s executive board. “We think quality will continue to increase, and that the market needs our high-quality products.
“People need the best consumables to use in their equipment, especially with the new G7,” Mr. Erlach added. “We have strong relationships with Heidelberg, KBA and manroland, and we are bringing new technologies to meet the needs of these new presses. With high-speed presses reaching 18,000 sheets per hour, there is a need for even better quality, and for food packaging, there are new and very strong regulations for the food industry.”
This is part of Epple’s plan to become a global force in sheetfed inks.
“We are also looking into Asia, seeing what is possible,” Mr. Erlach said. “We need production worldwide. Today you need high performance and investment in development, and smaller ink companies can’t be competitive in terms of quality. I think you will see that smaller ink producers will struggle.”
In order to develop more business in the U.S., Epple has set up its new subsidiary, Epple Printing Inks, Inc., which is headquartered in Pooler, GA. To head up the new operation, Epple has brought in Joerg-O Seeger, who previously was president and CEO of Hostmann-Steinberg Inc., USA. Mr. Seeger definitely sees strong possibilities for Epple in North America.
“Epple is very strong in sheetfed inks, particularly in food packaging,” Mr. Seeger said. “We are looking forward to servicing the U.S., Canada and Latin America with our sheetfed and UV sheetfed inks for paper and plastic. There are good people out there, and we expect to have 12 to 15 people by the end of our first year.”
Quality and service are two of the major drivers for Epple Druckfarben, and Mr. Seeger believes that there will always be opportunities for companies that stress those qualities.
“We believe that with our quality and service, there is still an opportunity for a new ink company to enter the market,” Mr. Seeger said. “Epple’s inks are excellent quality.”
As for service, Epple Printing Inks is quickly moving forward to provide local service, opening blending facilities in Atlanta, GA and Tampa, FL in the beginning of the year, and bringing on two distributors. Mr. Seeger added that the company anticipates three more blending operations coming on line in early 2010.
“Everybody else is reducing their service,” Mr. Seeger said. “Our long-term goal is to have production lines in North America in the next three to five years.”
Both Mr. Erlach and Mr. Seeger stressed the importance of maintaining Epple’s reputation for quality in its new market.
“We have to protect our name,” Mr. Erlach said. “We are the market leader in sheetfed in Germany. For us, the most important thing for Joerg is that we don’t want hundreds of suppliers offering it under different brand names and labels.
“We are very pleased to be building our new organization,” Mr. Erlach added. “There is a difference between commodity and quality, and we want customers to see the advantage and value of our inks and our service.”
Mr Seeger said that Epple Printing Inks is focused on its core markets.
“We want to concentrate on our special areas,” Mr. Seeger said. “We would fail if we tried to do everything at once.”