6 Trends that impact Thermal Transfer Ribbons

Thursday, January 28, 2021
We share 6 trends that can impact Thermal Transfer Ribbons sales. Find out what you need to know to stay ahead in the thermal transfer industry:

1. Evolving Application Demands  
It’s a myth that once your solution is spec-ed, you’re set for life. Specified materials should be reevaluated on a regular basis. Legacy label stock may get discontinued and the production process can change with increased chemical exposure or more aggressive handling. To avoid surprises, don’t take the long-standing label and thermal ribbon business for granted. Has decision-making changed from the site to corporate? Are new thermal printers being installed? Get a plant tour to see the application in action and bring your supplies vendor. Ask questions about the printer settings and maintenance. Understand how the end-user interacts with the label. What is important to them? Leverage your natural curiosity to find ways you can provide value.  

2. The Decline in Buyer Loyalty  
According to the TLMI Index and Trend Report, nearly 60% of end-users surveyed stated they would be putting their label business out to bid in 2019. Compared to survey results from 2015 this represents a clear downward trend for label vendor loyalty. Bidding situations are more prevalent in general purpose applications that require wax ribbons and paper labels. Don’t just lower the price. Strategize with your supplier about Standard Wax vs. Resin-Enhanced Wax ribbons. Often, warehouse and distribution labels are over-specified, and a more economical ribbon can be highly effective for the end-user AND help give you a competitive edge.  

3. Positive Outlook in US Manufacturing  
The National Association of Manufacturers reports that US manufacturers’ optimism for the year reached 92.4%. While general-purpose wax barcode labeling is common for shop floor materials management and logistics, wax resin and resin ribbons are outpacing GDP growth and are being used more for product identification. These higher durability ribbons, like our Prime Mark, SP330, and SP575 perform well on BOPPs and polyesters used in automotive, industrial, chemical and outdoor applications.

4. Rise of Personalization  
According to Labels & Labeling, printing solutions are expected to become even more consumer-focused with packaging personalization and customization at the forefront. How can a thermal transfer ribbon provide customization? Printing color tags and labels can reinforce brand recognition and add visual highlights using existing thermal transfer equipment. We’ve seen TTR customization on pre-printed labels in cannabis, personal care products, and even hardware. Label converters can stay ahead of this trend by taking advantage of our Color Match program. Color Match enables label converters to supply brand owners with thermal transfer ribbons in any exact color match and is a perfect solution for brand owners requiring smaller, even micro-sized, label runs while still maintaining brand integrity and corporate colors.  

5. Niche Market Growth - Flexible Packaging
Smithers Pira predicts flexible packaging will grow +4%. A high percentage of packages require variable date coding and lot traceability – printed with thermal transfer, inkjet, or laser. The new generation of vertical form-fill systems (VFFS) is capable of faster production speeds, greater versatility, and improved sealing techniques. Label resellers who look beyond the shipping room can find add-on ribbon sales on the production floor, particularly in food manufacturing applications. Some want alternatives to OEM consumables and faster delivery. Thermal ribbons for flexible packaging printers that offer excellent print quality and durability at fast print speeds will remain in demand.  

6. Changing of the Guard  
As label industry experts are retiring, the need to educate a younger generation that doesn’t yet have the product knowledge is vital. It’s up to sales representatives to ask the right questions in order to provide optimal solutions. In this regard, resellers should lean on vendor partners to provide helpful resources such as training, technical support, print testing, and marketing collateral. These valuable services are key to building up business relationships that lead to buyer loyalty.