Packaging Innovation
September 26, 2019

How digital printing redefined the role of packaging in the age of social media

Although it feels familiar, the digitization of the packaging printing industry has only been going on for about 20 years. Digital printing paved the way for big brands to address the consumer in a more personalized way through packaging.

Digital printing of packaging brought the high quality that is usually expected from conventional printing methods. At the same time it opened the door to print on demand and at run lengths that would even go as short as ‘one’.

Together with groundbreaking software innovations, it is how digital printing unleashed the endless possibilities of customized packaging printing. Since its introduction, digital printing of labels and packaging has become indispensable in the segment.

Digital revolution

Ever since Indigo introduced its first digital offset color printing press at Ipex in 1993, the technological pioneer is inextricably perceived as the driver of digital transformation in the labels and packaging printing industry.
At that time the technology was so revolutionary that it shook the conservative label and packaging printing market to its very foundations.

With the fundamental novelty to print short-run, in a matching print quality, on a much smaller footprint, and as fast as the conventional printing process, it marked the beginning of an entirely new industry.

Run length of ‘one’

Add to that the endless possibilities that variable data jobs offer and it’s no wonder that digital grew into the preferred printing process in the label and packaging printing segment.

The digital evolution enabled brand owners to personalize campaigns through packaging. The global ‘Share a Coke’ campaign is embedded into our collective memory as the milestone in customized label printing; the very first in its kind. It redefined the role of packaging as a marketing medium in the age of social media, appealing to millennials who value uniqueness. The ‘Share a Coke’ campaign made a historic impact on consumer goods marketing, with many more big brands to follow, like Nestlé, Oreo, P&G and Budweiser to name a few.

Automation is key

With these types of short digital print runs gaining importance in the label and packaging production, printers need to ensure that their prepress department does not become the bottleneck.

Automation is the key to success here! By automating repetitive prepress tasks through automation software, jobs reach the press much faster and more accurately. This enables printers to maintain flexibility to the customers’ needs and maximizes press throughput.

Preconfigured workflows

The implementation of automation software into the printing operation is often perceived as a disruptive procedure. That is not necessarily the case…

When using a turnkey workflow automation solution, the implementation is limited to only one week. The benefits of higher efficiency and increased throughput are immediately visible. And, as the business grows, additional automation capabilities can be included at any point in time.


Automation Engine for Labels

Automate your prepress in 5 days

Automation Engine for label converters

Esko has converted 30 years of packaging knowledge and wrapped them up into a solution for label converters using pre-loaded industry best practice workflows. These workflows automate routine tasks – such as preflight checking, trapping, step and repeat, and automated report generation – and integrate with data systems and the digital press.

It’s nice that 98% of all our jobs can be done automatically with Automation Engine for Labels. We manually work on 2% of our jobs that involve difficult tasks, but this is the work we would want to do anyway.

Marco De La Vega, CFO, Blair Labeling, Inc., USA


Having partnered with HP Indigo for over fifteen years in the development of digital printing solutions for label printing, Esko has developed a tailored version of Automation Engine, HP Production Pro, designed exclusively for Indigo L&P DFE users. The prepress automation software is designed to increase capacity in upstream prepress processes and incorporates features specifically designed for the digital printing environment.

Together, Esko and HP Indigo continue to focus on delivering next level prepress workflow automation across the entire packaging supply chain.


Inspired by:

Menegon, C. (2019) ‘Digital disruption’, Labels and Labeling, 18 February. Available from: