Sally Cousins, Packaging Journalist
Jan. 14, 2013
RISI's recent seminar on the future of graphic paper highlighted that new media and print can work alongside each other for the future. Dwindling market share, difficult global economic trading conditions and a constant battle to compete with new media can paint a bleak picture of the graphics paper industry. However the RISI annual seminar held last month in Brussels showed a more optimistic view with the focus on innovation and continual environmental awareness.
In his keynote address, Sappi Fine Paper Europe's CEO Berry Wiersum gave his view on the role of graphics paper and its place in the 21st Century. An observation of the current state and future of the industry highlighted the slow recovery of the Euro zone and the change in advertising spend.
Wiersum highlighted in particular the growing trend of iPads and other tablet technology on the graphic paper industry but called on the industry to think differently. "We need to stop thinking just about how to survive and start thinking how to convert challenges into opportunities and prosper."
"There is the problem of adaption. If there was ever an example of a Darwin's war going through an industry it is this one. Survival means we just stay alive but the industry needs to prosper.
Wiersum recognizes the need for greater consolidation with printers. "The ones that do well are the innovative companies who are finding their ways to the future."
Persistent demand decline
RISI's Rod Young, chief economic adviser, Fiber, offered a valuable insight into forecasts and trends. Young talked the audience through the complexities of the printing and paper markets. His presentation reflected the turbulent economic nature of the global market. Some key points from his presentation were the persistent demand decline in North America, trending down 3%+ per year. This figure, according to research was worse in 2012 due to weak economy and tablet growth. He also cited capacity shuts, conversion and restarts as having a big impact on the industry. Outlooks for this area of the global economy predicted that imports will drop from 3.9 million tonnes (12% of demand) in 2006 to 2.1 million tonnes (11% of demand) by 2014.
Young also commented on Europe's persistent demand decline, similar to that of North America, but which only showed a 4% decline in 2012 - very mild considering the economic state of Europe, according to Young.
He also outlined Asia's outlook for the printing and graphics market with the Chinese government trying to rein in excess capacity and forcing the closure of small, old and polluting paper mills and export focus shifting from coated to uncoated woodfree.
On the other side of the spectrum he also outlined that paper and board demand will pick up steam in 2013-2014 - mainly due to accelerating economic growth lead by China in the developing world and the USA in the developed world.
Containerboard, according to Young will continue to be the ‘star' on the demand side - mainly because of its environmental credentials and lack of significant competitive products.
Marketers have got it wrong about social media
A printer's perspective gave an insightful view of the industry. Managing director of UK-based Precision Printing, Gary Peeling was extremely positive that print still had a huge role to play but innovation is key. He said: "We are printers and innovation is in our DNA. Its emotional and emotions drive actions, but it has to interact with social media."
Passionate about developing print media, his business involves working and innovating to ensure the future of both by pioneering new techniques in digital print production, seamless print integration, automated workflow solutions, photo product production, litho and digital print hubs and web-to-print.
Peeling cited print as still having the ultimate power to get in front of the right audience. "Inboxes are warzones and print helps to personalize and prioritize," he explains.
In his presentation Peeling states that in his experience marketers tend to overestimate the impact of the new social medial while discounting dramatically some aspects of the old.
"Marketers are embracing SMS, mobile marketing, Twitter and social networks seemingly unaware that their enthusiasm is not shared by nine out of ten members of the public who say they do not want to be contacted by these routes."
Peeling explained that he feels that analogue will stand out in a digital world. "We already notice this when receiving personal letters amongst a sea of emails." At the heart of the seminar was the debate on the future of graphics paper. Sappi Fine Paper Europe's Wiersum gave a prediction of where the industry would be. "I think we'll be able to say that we came through it very well - those that are left."
The panel, also consisting of Frank Leerkotte managing director of Print Power and Susan Wright, managing editor of Whitmar Publications discussed how the industry needed to promote itself more readily. Leerkotte explained the benefits from the PrintPower and also Two Sides campaign at promoting what the industry is good at and dispelling myths surrounding forest depletion.
The panel also discussed the possible benefits of having one form of certification rather than FSC, PEFC and numerous other accreditations.
Unconfusing the green message
Later on in the seminar the focus on environmental issues was also brought to the fore. Terhi Koipijarvi, head of global responsibility at Stora Enso gave a fascinating insight in to the seriousness of its responsibility regarding paper production in new growth markets at its plantations in Bahia, Brazil and Guangxi in China. Koipijarvi explained that Stora sets strict sustainability requirements on its suppliers and compliance with the requirements through supplier self-assessments and sustainability audits. She gave a fascinating insight into work with local stakeholders about what to grow on the land.
The company aims to ensure a responsible supply chain resulting in all contractors complying with its environmental and social standards.
Carrying on with the environmental theme also involved Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI) forest and research director Bernard de Galembert explaining what the new EU Timber Regulations mean for pulp and paper producers. He showed how CEPI is helping producers to meet all aspects of the new regulation.
The seminar ended on a cautionary note with Andy Tait, senior campaigner for Greenpeace explaining the organisation's thoughts about the industry's attitude to sustainable paper production.
He explained that the industry did not help itself by using conflicting messages regarding using less paper will save the world's rain forests. He acknowledged that using less paper isn't going to save the world's forests but highlighted in some countries paper making does in fact destroy some forests.
He said that Greenpeace felt that certification should be about standards and forest management rather than a particular badge. He also highlighted why forests are still being destroyed for pulp and paper and questioned the motives of some of the Indonesian companies. Tait also explained that major companies like Nestlè and Kimberly-Clark are driving change through supply chain policies and taken action to exclude certain suppliers.