This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.
As we reflect on the last year, we can be proud of the role that the pressure-sensitive label (PSL) industry has played throughout the pandemic. Across all parts of the value chain, we have been supporting essential businesses and segments. We have been coping with the fluctuations of high-demand that have tested parts of our supply chains. And, as a first priority, we have protected the health and safety of our people. We owe a big “Thank You” to all of the industry employees. The pandemic brought to light the important role that labels play across nearly every industry, from letting a consumer know their food delivery wasn’t tampered with, to the labeling of hand sanitizers, medication and vaccines, to the labels on e-commerce packages.
If we look at the demand from a segment perspective, the PSL industry benefited from the shift to at-home consumption of food and beverages. Health and personal care labeling grew, especially in hand sanitizers, and curbside pickup, home delivery and e-commerce accelerated as a new way of retail. In addition, I think it is also fair to assume that the PSL industry also benefited as a decoration technology from the need for speed and late-stage differentiation. More SKUs and products were launched in new categories.
But we did not see growth in all categories. For example, we saw an adverse impact in the demand for durables, wine and spirits, and even some of the pharmaceutical categories in mid-2020, although those categories recovered later in the year.
If we look at the demand from a geographic perspective, we mainly saw strong 2020 growth in North America (+10%) and mid-single-digit growth in most other regions. It seems that the American consumer has been very resilient despite the region being severely impacted by COVID-19. At the start of 2021, we are seeing very strong demand, but I expect that the full year 2021 will see a low to mid-single-digit growth due to the high baseline in 2020 and, hopefully, a post-COVID normalization.
If we split the demand up by product type, it is interesting that film grew by almost 15% in North America. Paper & VI grew at approximately half of that rate. It seems that the COVID-19 pandemic generated recognition for the role of plastic packaging, versus the pre-COVID plastic bans, due to an increased importance in hygiene and food safety. Moving forward we will probably see a more balanced approach to plastic materials, but with renewed pressure that it does not end up as waste in the oceans or even in landfills.
We can all be proud of what the PSL industry has been able to accomplish over the last year. The resilient nature of our trade was brought to light during trying times and we were able to deliver on the demand. I hope that strength and perseverance follow us into 2021, but that we are also looking forward to some sort of post-COVID normalization.
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