In-mold labeling is the process of applying labels to products such as containers or bottles during the manufacturing process. In-mold labels are known as automated packaging systems. This system places the printed films or paper inside the cavities of molds or containers using vacuum before starting the molding process, which merges the product with the label. This type of process eliminates the need for labeling post production. In-mold labeling is used in three types of applications: injection molding, blow molding, and Thermoforming & IML processes.
Sandlerresearch.org reports the global in-mold labels market is expected to post a CAGR of 5.81% during the forecast period of 2014-2019. In-mold labels provide flexibility to the F&B manufacturers in terms of printing processes and color selection to enhance the product visibility and brand identification in the market. The rise in consumer preference for lightweight and highly aesthetic packaging is expected to motivate the vendors to invest in technology in the global in-mould labels market during the forecast period. The increase in environmental concerns and the need to reduce pollution have led to more emphasis being placed on sustainability, i.e., the use of recyclable materials, especially plastic, in labeling and the use of resins derived from renewable resources. Vendors are increasing their investment in the development of eco-friendly label products and promoting environmental sustainability. The key market drivers are reduction in labeling cost, sustainable material, increased demand for packaged F&B. The key trends in the market are increase in demand from emerging countries, increase in demand for sustainable labels, growth in digital printing.
Alexander Watson Associates (AWA) reports that in-mold labels are used in a diverse range of FMCG (Fast-Moving Consumer Goods) and industrial packaging. Growth in GDP is a prime indicator of the potential for growth in any given label market. Sovereign debt levels in Europe, coupled with austerity programs in the region’s leading economies, continue to impact GDP growth and this is evident in the relatively low growth of the packaging and labeling markets when compared with other regions. This continuing lack of confidence among European consumers as a result of the macro-economic positions across Europe is reflected in a low actual and forecast rate of growth for all label formats and technologies. The North American label markets continue to show higher levels of buoyancy than for Europe. But, softening label markets in the final quarter of 2012 and overall growth rates generally in line with GDP are indicative of a mature market with slowing potential. The historical growth of Asian and South American economies has been a feature of the 21st century. This economic growth has, to a degree, been a driver for high levels of growth in the respective label markets. However, these economies also are impacted by the reduced trade-related effects of the economic and financial turbulence emanating from the developed nations. In certain of these countries, on-going economic growth is supported by more market-orientated structural reforms and a higher focus on private, domestic consumption. The market shares enjoyed by in-mold labels on global and regional levels are consistent with those of a niché label format. The market for in-mold labels presents a mixed picture with regards to the technologies used and the regional potential for each technology. However, the growth in in-mold labels compares well with that of competitor technologies where growth is lower and, in some cases, where actual volume declines are noted. Overall, the future prospects for the volume development of in-mold labeling technologies remain mixed. The relative stagnation of IML-EB in North America and Europe, the maturity of IML-IM in Europe coupled with the slow but accelerating growth of the format in North America influence the overall global growth rates. However, there are opportunities for both formats in emerging economies such as Russia, Middle East and Asia.
For nearly two decades now, the technology is still a niche application, with a 2% share of the global labeling market. With all of the advantages of IML, one of the biggest deterrents is the long, complex supply chain that often means greater up-front costs. "The supply structure is complex with myriad suppliers," noted Corey Reardon, President and CEO at AWA. However, it is a dynamic industry. Europe is dominant, with the largest share of the global IML market in 2014 at 54%. North America has a 26% share. The Asia-Pacific region has 13% of the global IML market, Brazil holds just 3%, and Africa has 4%. "With an IML growth rate of 5.1%, North America has the most attractive growth opportunities," said Reardon. "It's less in Europe (1.8%), where there are high penetration levels of the technology." The majority of in-mold labels are injection molding applications (69%), while thermoforming represents a mere 1% of the market. The extrusion blow market is doing well with 30% of the in-mold label market. Extrusion blow is seeing higher growth potential for in-mold labels. Some of the trends in IML include increasingly higher expected growth rates for the IML injection molding format in North America and higher growth rates for the IML extrusion blow format expected in Africa and the Middle East, "but this has to be placed in the context of the low starting volumes," Reardon noted. "In Europe, both IML extrusion blow and IML for injection molding growth are modest in line with a mature market profile. The region is still the single largest market for in-mold labels."
North America continues to develop domestic production of IML injection molding and enjoys high growth rates for this format, while the IML extrusion blow market is stabilizing. In Asia, growth for both IML injection molding and IML extrusion blow is expected to be lower in 2014 than in 2013. South American growth for both formats is also expected to be lower than in 2013. In Africa and the Middle East, growth rates look promising with a forward-looking CAGR of nearly 5%, but that is partly due to the low starting point, Reardon explained. In spite of the complex IML supply chain that includes the mold designer/moldmaker, label maker, molder, resin supplier and customized automation supplier, Duncan Henshall, Market Director for Taghleef Industries Inc. (Dubai, UAE), sees good opportunities in the pipeline. Taghleef develops, produces and markets BOPP, OPP and BoPLA film for the graphics arts industry, food packaging and label applications such as pressure-sensitive and self-adhesive labels. Henshall remarked that the expanding North American market for IML applications is driven by big brand promotions, new IML functions, new brands coming into the market, new product segments and even an increase in popular consumer items such as baby diaper brands. New IML functionality along with innovation will allow IML to meet new technology demands such as its use in barrier packaging; creating marketing appeal such as textures, metallic looks and tactile labels; and variable information. "We're also seeing greater teamwork amongst suppliers with a focus on integrated IML solutions," said Henshall. "Innovation is a result of a network of connected ideas and knowledge. It's taking an idea and turning it into a customer solution." Henshall noted that he's also seeing new packaging applications in high-value markets such as paint pails and neutraceutical containers with in-mold labels in high-impact, decorative and eye-catching metallic colors, which also allows differentiation among family groups of products.
The market for in mold labels is projected to grow from US$2.58 bln in 2015 to US$3.23 bln by 2020, at an estimated CAGR of 4.54%, as per Markets and Markets. This growth is due to the increasing technological advancements leading to cost-efficient manufacturing processes and increasing awareness among the consumers about the sustainable labels and their pace of adopting the products. Growing food & beverage industry also provides an opportunity to the market to grow further, especially in the emerging Asia-Pacific and Latin American regions. Polypropylene is a raw material used in the manufacture of in-mold labels, which is extremely versatile as a plastic material. It can be used in a wide range of plastic containers and labels. They can be softened sufficiently to bond with other polymers, hence reducing the need for other additives. Because of superior characteristics, performance, and low cost compared to other polymers and resins, PP fibers are widely used in this industry and dominate the In-mold Labels Market. It is used in packaging and labeling of various consumer and industrial products such as foods, cosmetics, hand tags, bar code labels, retail labels, and no label look. The demand from the food & beverage sector is expected to experience a higher growth rate, mainly because of the growing demand for packaged and branded products, and consumer awareness toward the authenticity of the product. Beverage manufacturers are widely using in-mold labels on bottles owing to technological advancements such as injection molding, thermoforming, and extrusion blow molding that offers cost-effective solutions. On the basis of key regions, the market for in-mold labels is segmented into North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and the Rest of the World (RoW). The European region held the largest share among all the regions in 2014. This is mainly due to increasing demand for in-mold labels from France and Germany due to the increasing manufacturing output, rising income and consumption level, and growing demand for effective and efficient labeling solutions.
TechNavio's analysts forecast the Global In-mold Labels market to grow at a CAGR of 5.81% over the period 2013-2018. While Research and Markets expects the global in-mold labels market to grow at a healthy CAGR of 0.6% over the period 2014-2019. This growth is mainly due to an increase in demand for F&B products in the emerging markets of China, India and South America. A key trend identified in this report is that printed package labeling is gaining popularity because it is seen as a front-line marketing and branding tool for consumer goods manufacturers. Printed package labeling, especially for consumer goods such as F&B products, is gaining popularity because it is considered as a front-line marketing and branding tool for consumer goods manufacturers. According to the report, the reduction in labeling costs is a major contributor to the market growth. The IML procedure eliminates the need for separate post-decoration, which leads to a reduction in additional labor and raw material costs. Further, the report states that the increased use of printed labels is a major hindrance to the market growth because of the increase in demand for flexible packaging such as pouches and films and the increased use of convenient packaging solutions.