While the per capita consumption of labels is still far lower than Europe – Stierle estimates 0.5 sq/m label consumption per person in this part of the world, compared to 6.5 sq/m in Europe – Asia is where the growth is.
"Price is a large issue in Asia at the moment but that is changing. Quality is becoming more important," Kocher +Beck director Martin Stierle says. "Rotary equipment is entering increasingly into the Asian market and it is just a matter of time before Asia catches up."
Alex Tan of Metrographic says that the marketplace for labels is huge and is yet to be fully exploited. And it’s not just printed labels that provide the opportunity. Converting labels, like those used for baggage tags, mobile phones and disk drives, are proving to be a popular market.
Kocher + Beck was the inventor of magnetic cylinders, a technology which has gone on to become a significant part of the label and packaging industry.
The company invented the magnetic cylinder 22 years ago and have watched since as others take up the technology for their own use. The key, however, according to Stierle, is staying one step ahead of the competition. This is something the company does through continuous innovation, research and development.
In the long term, Stierle says, this could mean having a manufacturing facility in Asia.
"People are learning fast here and have the same expectations as everyone else. Service and delivery time, for example, are the same as everywhere else in the world," says Stierle.
In this regard Kocher + Beck already has a headstart over the competition from the United States at least. Delivery from the US to Asia takes around 10 days, while Kocher + Beck can deliver from Europe in three to five days.
According to Stierle, it is important to work with a good local partner as Kocher + Beck have done with Metrographic.
"The market is very diversified in Asia," Stierle says. "You cannot take Singapore as an example for the rest of the market. Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, for example, are all working to quite different styles."
In the company’s native Europe, the situation was quite different. While individual countries do have different methods in their work, they are fairly homogenous, Stierle says.
"That’s why it’s important to be working with a good partner who can attract customers from different parts of the region. Metrographic have the network and the people to support our product."
Despite the presence of good local exhibitions in the region, such as Labelexpo, Stierle says these events are still too "localised". They fail to attract a full range of customers from right around the region, he says, thus making it even more important to have a good local partner.
"Everybody is talking about Asia and how it is a booming market, but right at the moment, the active market is limited.
"Everybody wants a share of what is, at the moment, a small market. There is a risk of the market overheating. It will change though, it’s a growing market."