Why digital print for packaging is here to stay

At ThePackHub, we have seen a significant increase in the number of brand owners that are either implementing digital print for packaging initiatives or are in the process of planning future activities.

We have seen a number of our brand owner clients taking an increasing interest in what digital print can offer for them – be it personalisation, versioning, short runs, prototyping for market testing. You can deliver fast turnarounds and the quality is great. Brands can engage with consumers like never before, make a point of difference and create a significant competitive advantage. It is certainly an exciting time to be involved in digital print.

One of the trends we have identified as ThePackHub is very much facilitated by the digital revolution and we have called it ‘Made for Me’. This is packaging that is personalised for the end consumer and with digital technology now widespread, the digital print platform is perfect to help make this happen.

2013 saw digital print for packaging come of age with the Share a Coke campaign in a number of major markets. This huge undertaken from one of the most famous brands in the world opened many brand owners’ eyes as to what could be achieved through this dynamic medium. The activity was repeated this year with even more names and a seasonal twist – a great indication that the campaign must be meeting a number of objectives for Coke.

This year has also seen a number of stand-out initiatives hit the streets. Also from Coca-Cola came a launch in Israel of two million unique bottles. The creations are generated from 25 core ‘base designs’ and an algorithm cleverly mutates into two million different executions. Each bottle is individually numbered and sequenced. The opportunities for Coke to interact on a seemingly one-to-one basis with their consumers is limitless. Consumers can go online and order mugs, t-shirts and prints of their own unique design to keep. What a fantastic way to engage with consumers and all enabled through digitally printed packs.

Another digitally enabled packaging launch comes from Nestle Purina with their Just Right personalised dog food in the USA. Yes that’s right dog food! Not sure the pet is particularly bothered about having their picture on the pack but presumably the owners think it is great! What makes this even more consumer friendly is that the product inside is also personalised to meet the specific nutritional needs of the animal.

Another print example for this year is the Nutella personalisation campaign. Available online and through Selfridges’ three UK stores you can get a name of a loved one, friend of family member (up to nine letters – sorryBarrington) put on the pack. The jars cost £3.99 and have gone down a storm – even featuring in the Observer’s top 10 presents for Christmas. Great free PR for the Nutella brand and who would have thought chocolate spread would feature as a major gift idea in a UK newspaper! Again all because of the enabling qualities of digital print.

We are likely to see further creative executions in 2015 using the digital print platform. The future for digital print is bright and is definitely here to stay. We are likely to see a plethora of digital print opportunities working across a range of different substrates. The brands that will win are those that do not see digital print as purely a cost decision but rather appreciate the wider benefits that this medium can deliver. The ability to offer flexible, creative solutions that inspire, excite and interact with consumers in a way previously deemed impossible. The future’s bright, the future’s digital.


Paul Jenkins is co-founder of packaging innovation consultancy ThePackHub.

ThePackHub helps brand owners, retailers and packaging suppliers with a full range of packaging innovation services from concept to realisation. To keep up-to-date , you can subscribe to our weekly packaging innovation summary Innovation Zone.