In-mold labeling still a niche, but growing, application


While we've been talking about in-mold labeling (IML) for nearly two decades now, the technology is still a niche application, with a 26% share of the label market in North America. 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 Alexander Watson Associates (AWA; Amsterdam), in his keynote presentation at the annual IMLCON/IMDCON conference that was held in Miami, FL, on Feb. 18 and 19.

That said, it is a dynamic industry. Europe is dominant, with the largest share of the global IML market in 2014 at 54%. 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," commented Reardon.

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