According to AWA Alexander Watson Associates’ recent report, AWA Global Labeling & Product Decoration Annual Review 2019, pressure-sensitive labeling continues to hold the largest share of the global labeling technologies market, with a 40% share, while glue-applied technology claims second place, with a 35% market share. Coming in third, with a solid 19% share of the market—and growing—is sleeve labeling.
In 2018, AWA estimates worldwide demand for all label types was approximately 64 billion sq m (210 billion sq ft)—a healthy growth of 4.4% over 2017 volumes, in line with global GDP. The largest regional market continues to be Asia, with a 44% market share; the leading growth areas around the world are China, India, Southeast Asia, and the eastern European countries.
Variable-information labels are a major contributor to the growth of the labeling market, due to increased activity in e-commerce and transportation and logistics. This is particularly true for pressure-sensitive labels, which command the majority share of VIP (variable information printing) labeling.
According to the report, sleeve labels, particularly heat-shrink sleeves, continue to be the main source of competition to pressure-sensitive and glue-applied labels in the food and beverage market segments, and also to in-mold labeling (IML) formats in household chemicals.
However, all label technologies are now competing with direct-to-package print, especially for flexible packaging, which is growing strong in both developed and emerging markets. An additional competitor is direct digital print on plastic, glass, and metal containers, which offers brand owners the option to create limited-edition and personalized packaging. The current focus on sustainability is also favoring renewed growth in printed carton board packaging. These alternative technologies are all benefiting from growth rates higher than those for traditional labeling.