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The Asia-Pacific ink market: the packaging ink segment continues to shine in the Asia-Pacific region as the economy prospers and population increases.

In recent years, the Asia-Pacific region has become the largest geographic market for printing ink. Five of the eight largest ink manufacturers--DIC Corporation, Toyo Ink Group, Sakata INX, T&K Toka and Tokyo Printing Ink--are headquartered in Japan. Through its Micro Inks subsidiary, hubergroup, the sixth-largest ink global supplier, is the largest ink manufacturer in India.

As is the case in the Americas and Europe, the Asia-Pacific region is made up of smaller areas with their own characters. China, the largest economy in the region, will be the subject of a separate Ink World report in our September-October 2017 issue. Japan and India are key markets, and South Asia, Southeast Asia and ANZ (Australia-New Zealand) are growing rapidly.

Leading ink manufacturers report that their industry is enjoying expansion, particularly in packaging, and added that Vietnam and Indonesia are seeing excellent growth.

"Due to economic growth and an increase in population in the Asian region, the demand for packaging ink grew," said Yuichi Kataura, International Operations Division GM at Sakata INX. "It can also be said that ink for paper media and packaging increased--especially in India--based on its high economic growth." Kataura added that India and Vietnam are particularly strong growth areas for printing in the Asia-Pacific region.

"Overall the market grew, but the conventional sheetfed offset market was tough competition," said Mr. Hinataya, president of Toka Ink International (Hong Kong) Ltd. He added that Vietnam is doing particularly well.

"Generally speaking, we had a fairly good year in 2016 because of the natural growth in countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam," a DIC spokesperson said. "Stable raw material prices during the year also contributed to the good results. Flexible film printing for packaging is the strongest growth area for us in the Asia-Pacific region."

"hubergroup is a relatively new entrant in Southeast Asian region, yet we have already created a strong footprint in many countries," said Ashwani Bhardwaj, management, Asia and North America. "We now have local set ups in Indonesia and Thailand. Our focus is on introducing hubergroup's global solutions for safe food packaging. With an overall strong economic sentiment, we see growth opportunities in all countries."


In terms of packaging, gravure has long been the dominant liquid ink technology, but that is starting to change as flexo makes headway.

"Flexo printing in the paper carton field is increasing, but gravure printing in the film packaging field is still the mainstream," Kataura said.

"Gravure is still the dominant technology in the Asia-Pacific packaging printing market, but more and more flexo printing machines are being introduced in China and India," the DIC spokesperson said.

"Gravure is the dominant system in this region," said Bhardwaj. "Flexo is coming in but slowly."

"Unlike European countries, Korea and Japan, the gravure ink market is bigger than flexo for film packaging," said Charlie Lee, head of the Overseas Sales Department's team at Daihan Ink. "We can say that only the gravure- ink and UV ink market is increasing nowadays. Here in Korea, mostly corrugated box and tissue, like for simple printing, flexo ink is used. Ink companies are trying to develop water-based gravure ink and develop flexo ink even for film packaging."


The UV market is an important technology for the region's printers, and UV LED is making headway, beginning in Japan. "UV LED is important, and the number of UV LED presses are increasing," Hinataya said.

"UV LED is an important technology in the region," the DIC spokesperson said. "In Japan, almost half of the UV ink sales is already now coming from HUV/LED-UV type. Although it is still slow, this movement will surely come to other Asia-Pacific markets."

"Not only UV LED, but conventional UV is also an important technology," said Lee. "We also focus on UV inks, and keep improving."


With growth occurring throughout Asia-Pacific, ink companies are investing in the region. For example, Sakata INX and Siegwerk added manufacturing facilities in China, while Daihan Ink opened its new facility in Vietnam.

"Since last October 2016, we started operation of our Vietnam factory. Even though it's just started now, we will expand the market shares to the Asian market," said Lee.

DIC streamlined its production of liquid inks in Australia/ New Zealand. "Although currently we do not have any specific major investment plan, we continue to make small investments for rationalization and 'de-bottlenecking' throughout the region," the DIC spokesperson added. "We are ready to make further investments as the demand increases in certain countries, especially in the packaging area."


Digital printing is also an area of interest in the Asia-Pacific region. "Digital printing is gradually increasing, but the printed matters circulating in the market are predominantly printed by conventional methods," Kataura said.

"Installation of digital presses is increasing," Hinataya said.

"Our customers also show keen interest in digital technology," the DIC spokesperson said.

"The digital printing market is growing, but not for commercial printing, slightly for label first," said Lee. "Here in Korea, there are some players, of course, HP, Xeikon, Mark Andy, FFEI, Nilpeter, Screen, etc... There are already many players competing for the growing market. In terms of quality and speed, it's getting better and better."


Ink industry leaders anticipate a strong year ahead in the Asia-Pacific region.

"We will expand sales in this region with expected further economic growth," Kataura said. "With improvement in living standards and the literacy rate, we expect steady demand to continue for newspaper and offset ink in newly developing countries. We also believe that the packaging ink market will expand with economic growth since there is steady demand for this product."

"It's very unpredictable," said Lee. "Due to over supply and less demand, competition will be higher. For some companies who prepare well for larger population countries or rising countries with their specialties, they can survive in the Asia-Pacific region. We are trying to develop markets where we haven't been strong or only where our competitors are strong. Hope we will survive in this harsh market, hope we develop new items for the printing market."

"The Asia region looks promising. Due to the increase in population and improvement of living standard, we are confident about the bright future of the packaging market," Hinataya said.

"DIC expects steady and continuous growth in the packaging business in the coming years," the DIC spokesperson said. "As purchasing power increases in the developing countries, especially populous countries like China, India, Indonesia and Vietnam, the demand for packaged products is expected to grow further. Meanwhile, the demand for publication printing, such as books and newspapers, will decline even in those developing countries. Although the growth rate is not as large, commercial printing will still grow."


Caption: Sakata INX's headquarters in Osaka.

Caption: Toyo Ink's new headquarters in Tokyo.

Caption: Daihan Ink's factory in Pyeongtaek, South Korea.
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Title Annotation:Asia-Pacific Ink Market
Author:Savastano, David
Publication:Ink World
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Jul 1, 2017
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