Observations after LabelExpo 2022

As we are beginning the last quarter of 2022 and the holiday season, it is a good time to reflect on trends we are seeing in our industry:

State of the Label Industry

  • Demand for labels is up
    • As customers are able to solve supply chain issues and hire more personnel, they are producing more products that require labels
  • Flexible packaging demand continues to be strong
    • Continued growth in “Grab and Go” products which are a good fit for wraps
    • Many consumer facing companies are switching to or emphasizing flexible packaging to reduce landfill space
  • As inflation hits consumers, more are shifting focus to buying food at groceries stores rather than restaurants
    • Alcohol packaged for retail sales rather than kegs or bulk for restaurants
    • Produce packaged for grocery channel rather than food service similar to what we saw in early 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic
  • Delivery services to home has peaked
    • We are seeing more packaging being designed for retail channels rather than specifically for delivery via services such as InstaCart
  • Delivery vs Price
    • Although price is always a consideration, purchasing decisions are currently being driven by ability to deliver by needed date
    • Supply chain Issues are present for our customers in a lot of areas other than labels. An example is food grade CO2 for beer
  • Reshoring
    • As large manufacturers deploy capital to shorten supply chains, opportunities for label converters emerge.
  • Hiring is easier
    • Labor markets are beginning to loosen up in a lot of areas, including the Upstate
  • Supply chain has returned to pre-pandemic levels for many supplies
    • We are able to purchase most items at pre-pandemic lead times
    • Paper continues to be a challenge. The Supply Chain is still not recovered from the UPM Raflatac strike yet, and may not before the middle of 2023.
  • Freight/Transportation continues to be a challenge
    • Delivery lead times continue to be longer than pre-pandemic
    • Costs much higher
    • Lead times expected to extend as we move into the holiday season
  • Digital Print is increasingly a good fit for a larger variety of jobs
    • Able to run multiple skus for brand owner without plate changeover
    • Small runs for seasonal/cost, cost specials

What sets us apart from our competitors is our commitment to the success of our clients. We view each customer relationship as a partnership, and want to leverage our 25+ years of experience to help solve labeling and packaging challenges.

Century Printing and Packaging is still a family business, locally owned and operated that believes in building relationships with customers in order to meet or exceed their expectations by focussing on customer support and service while implementing the most innovative and creative printing and packaging technology available.

“Enjoy our website and know that we are a value-driven company that works hard every day to earn the respect and trust of our customers.” Ben Waldrop, President

Revolutionary Butter Wrap

There is a new cutting-edge material available to dairies and butter producers in the U.S. The metallized paper is from AR Metallizing, a Nissha company located in Italy. Currently, it is exclusively offered in the United States by Century Printing and Packaging located in Greer, South Carolina.

This innovative product is grease-proof for butter and other dairy based products. Grease in handling butter is one of the biggest complaints from restaurants and consumers. Water-based inks adhere very well to the product which further attests to its sustainability and a continued commitment to environmentally friendly products. The new wrap also provides a light barrier which preserves the aging of the butter. Traditional butter wrappings allow light to penetrate the butter and promote faster aging of the product.

Foil is the traditional film used for butter wrapping by a large number of dairies and until recently it has been the industry standard. However, this new material preserves the butter longer, and is sustainable unlike traditional foil.

Providing higher sustainability and product wrapping for regional dairy and butter producers is something Century Printing and Packaging has made a significant commitment to for the industry. Butter producers need to ensure that their product can be protected from light which affects and progresses product aging. Water-based inks are good for food safe products. Century has a 25 year track record of using water based inks which are environmentally friendly.

Century Printing and Packaging will be exhibiting this ground breaking product for the butter industry at the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA) being held in Atlanta in June. We are proud to promote and display this revolutionary product for the butter and dairy industry.

We have plenty of this material in stock to fulfill regional dairy orders. This material from our Italian partners is revolutionizing the butter industry in terms of product integrity, preservation and sustainability.

Regional dairies contact us today about possibilities for your butter products and wrapping. We look forward to seeing you at the IDDBA in June and showing off this cutting-edge wrapping material. There is nothing like this material in the U.S. for dairy and butter producers so don’t miss the opportunity to engage and contact us regarding the possibilities for your dairy. Stand out and emerge from the competition with this incredible wrap that preserves your product.

At Century Printing and Packaging, our metallized paper runs with an added part to our Corona Treater allow us to treat this type of material for better printability and ink adhesion. Metallized paper can run at faster speeds than foil increasing productivity for a greater ROI and high-quality sealing.

Having the ability to run short volumes which is good for the slow movers of a product family, seasonal items, and test marketing is an advantage. Combined with medium and large volume capability, we are a great fit for companies using this brand new material.

Ben Waldrop
Century Printing & Packaging
Greer, SC 29651

Neil Waldrop, Century Printing & Packaging Chief Operating Officer

Neil, how did Century Printing and Packaging Begin?

My Dad and I started the label printing business while my brother Ben and Dad were already running a business related to the textile industry. I had graduated from Clemson and worked there for a couple of years then left as I was looking for something different. Dad, who had never seen a flexo press and I, who knew nothing about running a business, bought our first press for $54,0000. During the day I would make sales calls and in the afternoon and evenings, I would run the press.

In 2001 we built our current facility and we had eight employees. At the time we wondered what we were ever going to do with all this space, but since then we have filled it slam full with equipment, materials, presses, offices and we currently have 26 employees.

How have you grown in terms of production?

We’ve seen quite a change in growth and I never thought we’d ever get this big. We currently have five presses and we’re going to replace one and upgrade to a bigger, more sophisticated, higher quality, and faster press. We continue to grow and we’ve always been careful about growing too fast, but we have also taken advantage of opportunities before us. Most of the growth is just taking care of our customers and fulfilling their needs on time and solving their problems which is what we do well and enjoy. We always strive to give our customers a fair price with quality service and outcomes. One of our goals in production is to find ways to solve customer problems or challenges and make their life easier.

25 years ago did you ever think it would be on this scale?

No! I never thought we’d be doing this type of high-quality work and the volume we are currently doing. And that is to the credit of our employees, they are the ones who strive to continually improve quality and get the jobs done on time and to exceed customer expectations.

Neil, you’ve been doing this a long time, walk us through the changes you’ve seen.

The plates, the ink, and the quality of the substrates we work with today are much higher than when we started. They are easier to maintain and yet print a higher quality which allows us to provide our customers with the end results they want so their product pops off the shelf and grabs the consumer’s attention. What you see on the shelf in a product is often what sells it. Consumers don’t want to buy a bad-looking product whereas if you have an appealing label that clearly identifies what’s in the package or product it stands out from the rest of the competition.

The latest major change in the industry is digital printing. It has been around for about ten years, but within the last five years it has escalated in terms of speed, quality and the ability to print more substrates has allowed it to really explode, which has pros and cons. Some work can’t be done on flexo and has to be done on a digital press. Traditionally, digital has been a higher cost in long production runs but the prices are coming down which is why we are securing new equipment. To be competitive we’ve got to be able to produce the quality at the price our customers need.

What is the new equipment or press?

It is a Mark Andy modified press that has a flexo base, but a digital unit built in the middle of the press which allows us to use a couple of flexo stations to print or add features that do well through the flexo method, but then the digital can print the main body of work to provide high-quality images and fine line screens. It allows us to do it all in line so we don’t have multiple pieces of equipment to run it through. It will also die-cut in line. Some companies try to die cut offline, but we like to do as much as we can inline. It requires fewer people and the more you move jobs through multiple pieces of equipment the higher your scrape and the greater risk there is for problems. If you can do it all in line and come out with a great finished product on the other end that simplifies the process and boosts the quality of the finished product.

Describe your production team right now if you don’t mind.

We have a really good team that works well together and communicates. They understand that what they are doing is going to impact the people in front of and behind them. They understand that quality is critical and you are only as good as the labels you print today. Tomorrow is not a given, you’ve got to prove from order to order for the customer that you can do the work. Our team supports one another and I feel really good about it if someone is struggling and another team member is more experienced in that type of job will jump over and help them.

How has cross-training the team in production helped your business?

We have really worked hard at this for several reasons. I think if someone understands what other people in the company have to deal with and their struggles with a job it allows them to see it firsthand and appreciate their coworker’s contributions so when they are doing critical work they may feed information to the next person in a different way so they can speed up the process, eliminate mistakes and improve the finished product. It has enabled us to shift people around if we are slow in one area and minimize downtime to focus on more pressing orders. Everyone stays busy with this approach to meet our customer’s deadlines and specifications.

What are some of the things you are seeing in the future of the printing and packaging industry?

The versatility of products we can print upon continues to grow because of the quality of the inks, substrates, and the presses can handle more of them. Quite honestly, the customers want and are demanding different substrates to help their product stand out from the competition. For example, what we call “brushed steel,” is a silver-looking material that has a marking in it and looks like a raw, steel material that helps a package pop out on certain products. Being able to provide that look and feel for customers is exciting. The whole combination of bringing flexo and digital together and utilizing both to produce a well-rounded product for customers is really exciting.

What are some of the new materials that you’re excited about?

Printing on unsupported film which is used to wrap products like protein bars or small pieces of candy, snacks and natural foods is a really fast-growing market. It has its challenges as we have to understand what the customer needs from a packing standpoint. It can be a little more complicated so from a technical standpoint, I enjoy figuring out the needs of the customer, the format, and how to produce it for them. The variety of printing and packaging we are providing today is exciting. We can go into just about any store and have a good chance of seeing our product on the shelves. To me that is fun! Knowing our team produced something that is in front of everybody is exciting.

So what’s ahead for you in the future?

I think continuing to challenge myself in the industry and do things we’ve never done before personally and continuing to grow and be challenged is something that never gets old for me. The day I think I know it all I might as well quit because I won’t be challenging myself and our team and we aren’t moving forward. For me personally, I never would’ve thought 20 years ago that I’d be doing what I’m doing now. As long as I’m staying challenged, that’s what I want.

Describe the dynamic of being a family and locally owned business.

A lot of people say, “I could never work with my family.” However, we all understand as family members that anything we do suggests whether right or wrong is always for what’s right for the company. We don’t let that get in the way of success. If we disagree, we don’t hold grudges which is the key. If we have a disagreement we just hash it out and come up with a decision that’s best for the company. The key is to know that we are all thinking about the business and nothing is personal. The advantage is that we are the board and decision-makers and we can make decisions fast. If we have to turn the company in a different direction for whatever reason or take advantage of opportunities we can jump on it quickly and make the adjustments down the line faster than the competition. Other companies have to go through multiple levels which delays outcomes and we are small, nimble, and adjustable as a family-owned business. Customers can get to us directly and the same for our employees, they don’t have to go through layers of decision-makers.

So tell us about your family

I’ve got a 20-year old son who is a junior at Furman University studying music and specializing in trumpet. My daughter is a senior at Riverside H.S. and we are exploring college options. We are a very active family. I do triathlons and my wife has done them along with competitive weight lifting. Our kids are very athletic and enjoy being outdoors. We just like to stay on the move and have an active lifestyle. We enjoy the beach just hanging out and enjoying the water.

How has your training and competition as a triathlete impacted your work?

It keeps me focused. When I’m working out it’s my time to de-stress and my time if you will. I’m on a rigorous training schedule so I know when it’s family time it’s family time and I don’t answer the phone unless it’s a crisis. When I’m at church it’s church time. I think it has taught me to be in the moment and the full Iron Man has taught me to focus on what I can do in the now and don’t worry about the past or the future, but deal with what’s in front of me.

Neil, as you enter the 25th year of your company what would you say upon reflection?

It’s been a heck of a ride, a fun one. It’s been challenging, we’ve gone through economic challenges, Covid and yet we adapt and adjust to the times. We gained and unfortunately lost customers in the past, but we keep learning from it and moving forward. I do find pride that we live, work, and play in Greer. It’s a great community, people interact well and I’ve enjoyed getting to know people through the Chamber of Commerce and the business side, the personal and athletic side. We enjoy this being our home and we are proud that we are able to provide employment for 24 other local people in this community so they can provide for their families.

Neil has been a constant in our company and family. He is my brother, friend, and confidant. As we enter our 25th year in business together it’s hard to believe how far we’ve come and he has been an integral part of our growth. I’m so very proud of the work he has done and our partnership together! Being locally and family-owned means something incredibly important to us at Century Printing and Packaging.

Century Printing & Packaging
Greer, SC 29651, 800.344.7509

Inflation Is Hitting Every Manufacturing Sector

Everyone is feeling the pain of inflation from rising prices in goods, materials, chemicals, fuel, and supplies. Whether you serve B2B/B2C every sector is experiencing the avalanche from inflation, supply chain disruptions, Covid19, labor shortages, and a lack of available materials. A trip to the grocery store with empty shelves or purchase limits on certain products is proof enough. It is cliche, but all of these factors have produced the “perfect storm”.

Manufacturers are scrambling to find new supply lines and vendors. Shortages from food, chemicals, lumber, metals, microchips, rubber goods, paper, laminates, and countless other goods have moved businesses from a competitive price focus to sheer availability. Shortages and availability only tighten the vise grip of competing manufacturers. Auto manufacturers are now competing with consumer electronics for computer chips. Before the storm, each had different suppliers and there was no shortage. During the storm, you may produce cars, but your computer or television producer has landed in your backyard competing for the same chips.

The printing and packaging industry is not immune to this economic reality. The supply chain gridlock and inflationary pressures have created a challenging environment for the industry. Previously fully stocked vendor’s distribution centers of paper, ink, boxes, laminate, substrate materials, and film are running empty. Lead times of these materials have drastically expanded. Shipping costs due to rising fuel prices and container shortages have only added to the inflationary pressures. These dynamics are unique because the combination of factors has impacted every aspect of business regardless of category. In the past, Wall Street cycles have come and gone, but typically it’s been one industry or just a few that have experienced serious disruption and challenges. Today, EVERY industry and business is affected by these colliding factors.

The interdependency within the global economy can best be explained by dominoes falling one over the other throughout a massive display. Everything relates to the other. Loaded ships sit in harbors and can’t get unloaded, a pandemic wiped out 700,000 people in the U.S. alone to date. Many of those were workers and paying taxes. The printing and packaging industry is experiencing supply and material increases between 7-12%, if not more. Polypropylene resin has increased 150% since January of 2020, and PET resin has risen over 20% in the same period (CDI October 2021 Report). Some Industry experts are projecting continued shortages of raw material and polymers to last through Q4 2022.

No reputable and successful business enjoys price increases. Their success is built upon providing a high-quality product/service at a competitive price backed with extraordinary customer service. These companies thrive on long-term customer relationships by exceeding customer expectations. However, there is a point at which even the strongest cannot resist anymore because they start losing money.

Craig Austin writing for PBS said: “Economists surveyed by Bloomberg in October expect inflation to slow to 3.4% next summer and hit 2.6% by the end of the year. While that would be encouraging, it’s still well above the pre-pandemic average of 1.8% and outside the Fed’s target. It’s unclear whether economists are recalibrating their expectations after the October Consumer Price Index report. Regardless, consumers should get used to the higher prices. They’re the new normal.”

Smart companies and businesses are concentrating on minimizing price increases while extending their vendor partnerships to have access to the materials and supplies they need to do their jobs. Increased costs are inevitable given the global market, but smart and reputable suppliers and manufacturers are working with their clients and suppliers to keep prices as low as they can. Material and supply shortages can be expected well into 2022. Plan way ahead to get ahead of this troubling trend. Hopefully, supply, logistics, and labor will self-correct in 2022.

At Century Printing and Packaging we have worked internally to increase efficiency and deliver the same high level of quality that helped us earn our customer’s trust during these challenging days. This combination has allowed us to only raise prices on products once this year. We are well aware of the market fluctuations and we are working with our customers and suppliers to provide solutions despite price increases to supply and rising material costs. We have been printing labels that stick, but have great eye appeal and consistently tell your brand story. We don’t mind tackling a challenging problem if it means we can help you produce something that is more appealing and of higher quality. We have produced labels and packaging for almost 25 years, so trust us to work with you as a partner instead of a job number.

Ben Waldrop, President
Century Printing & Packaging
Greer, SC 29651
Tel: 800.344.7509

Sustainable Packaging

New minimal impact, airtight custom glass component packaging is available. School House and Tata Harper partnered to create the brand’s iconic Supernaturals collection opening the door for the entire sustainable packaging market. The new packaging maintains product quality and, “compliments the air, elevated quality of the luxury product.” When it’s taken out of the box the light hitting the bottle creates a picture of the potent plants within and the ingredients contained within.

Other products like Radio Roaster’s new single-use Steeped Coffee Bags employs guilt-free, biodegradable packaging that is fully recyclable and environmentally friendly. The packaging has a six-month shelf life which is a bonus for hikers, travelers, campers, and diehard coffee drinkers to get their fix while on the road or at home.

Both products demonstrate the hunger and need for sustainable and recyclable products in today’s “green” obsessed market. Maintaining brand identity, logo, color, and quality is essential in providing sustainable packaging.

One of the first things to consider when thinking about a printing and packaging vendor is their experience with producing biodegradable and “green” friendly packaging. Asking hard questions about the ink used in the process is important. For example, water-based inks are environmentally friendly. Does your vendor provide water-based inks to ensure environmentally friendly resources? Is the packaging rated? Does it meet EPA standards for recyclable materials?

If you are considering a packaging design and solution that meets recyclable or biodegradable packaging it’s important that you protect the product within the container to ensure sustainability. Rigid plastics offer a strong alternative. 90+% of the U.S. has access to retail bag takeback initiatives, the primary outlet for recycling flexible plastics. But recycling rates for curbside rigid plastics are higher than for flexible plastics according to the EPA.

The majority of recycled content comes from rigid packaging. There are a variety of factors that enter into the end process such as PCR supply, manufacturing technology, government regulation, and customer specifications.

Plastic packaging is lightweight and in comparison to glass, or metal it weighs significantly less reducing costs. The sustainability of rigid v.s. flexible packaging is just too close to call. Both have advantages and drawbacks. This is why it’s important to have a printing and packaging vendor with experience in sustainability and recyclable packaging.

At Century Printing and Packaging we have been working with clients to provide creative and sustainable printing and packaging solutions for years. Eco-friendly papers for labels, water-based inks, and recycling solutions to protect and sustain the environment have been at the forefront of our products for several years. We welcome enviro-friendly packaging clients and are eager to help them seek sustainable solutions to their packaging and printing needs. We also have a commitment to environmentally responsible policies in our own facility, such as motion sensor lighting, replacing fluorescent bulbs with LED, and minimizing scrap to help reduce waste sent to the landfill.

At Century Printing and Packaging, we support and affirm environmentally friendly resources and products. We use water-based inks and have access to FSC certified papers and compostable films. We provide labels and print packaging for a variety of products and we are eager to explore compostable and recyclable product options with our clients. Contact us today to discuss your unique printing and packaging needs.

Ben Waldrop
Century Printing & Packaging
Greer, SC 29651