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10 June 2021

Reconnecting the label industry after the pandemic: FINAT European Label Forum 2021

The 2021 online European Label Forum has now concluded, marking the end of the label industry’s first opportunity to reconnect after the events of 2020.The 2021 online European Label Forum has now concluded, marking the end of the label industry’s first opportunity to reconnect after the events of 2020.

Convened by FINAT, the European association representing the label industry, the virtual conference hosted up to 750 attendees from label printing companies, suppliers and organisations from across Europe, and provided a platform to take stock of the industry over the last year, and the opportunities in the period ahead.

“Our tagline has always been that we are ‘linking the label community’ and that is especially true now. Doing things virtually this year was a little unusual for us, but it was a brilliant opportunity to learn about big industry trends, build relationships, and catch up with old friends,” comments new FINAT President Philippe Voet (Etivoet, Belgium).

Discovering industry trends

On the first day of the forum, after his predecessor Chris Ellison (OPM Labels & Packaging, UK) opened proceedings, attendees heard from FINAT Managing Director Jules Lejeune and LPC’s Jennifer Dochstader, who together analysed some of the emerging trends and developments in the label industry after a tumultuous year. Time was also taken to engage with participants to hear their views on FINAT’s future strategy as the recovery begins.

Focusing on business strategy

Day two was focused on business strategy, and began with a talk from Prof Andrea Boltho, an Italian economist who lectures at Oxford University. He offered a zoomed-out view of the present dynamics of the European economy to put the days’ sessions into context, by looking at the post-COVID recovery and the structure forces shaping the global economy. Nick Mockett from Moorgate Capital and Norman Bremer from IK Investment Partners followed and looked specifically at the challenges and opportunities facing the label industry, through the lenses of M&A and private equity respectively.

Embracing the circular economy

Sustainability is one of FINAT’s six major strategic pillars, and with climate change now a major issue at the top of the world’s political and economic agenda, day three was dedicated to understanding how the label industry can serve its customers, while limiting its environmental impact. Maja Desgrées-Du Loȗ told the forum about her work as an EU policy officer revising the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive. She explained her views on the future of packaging and its role in the circular economy and the EU’s Green Deal.

After that, Ophelie Gourdou informed everyone on CELAB-Europe and how this initiative envisions a circular economy for label materials. Then An Vossen presented the HolyGrail 2.0 project, which is all about intelligent sorting through digital watermarks. The day finished with a brand owner panel with packaging experts discussing sustainability. For circularity it is important to understand all points throughout the supply chain and who holds the key to acceleration.

Recruiting and retaining talent

The fourth day was focused on the future of work and the workforce. Special guest Markus Wörner of the einhorn company in Germany, explained his business concept of “fairstainability”, an approach to business that combines both fair trade and sustainability. He described how his approach to business and the alternative business models he pursued were not just good for the planet; they also helped him attract young talent by offering them somewhere inspirational to work. He then went into discussion with a panel of incoming and senior leaders on the industry. The day was closed with a special workshop hosted by Mind Gym, which looked at the cornerstones of an inclusive company culture, and the power of inclusiveness to create real world business success.

Diversity is more than just a nice idea

Diversity pays. That was the message of keynote speaker Pellegrino Riccardi on the final day of the forum. He explained the value of having colleagues from different countries, with different life experiences and cultural backgrounds, and how to unlock their often-untapped value in making organisations and businesses stronger.

Celebrating the label community

The programme then continued with Philippe Voet’s maiden speech as FINAT President, after which he handed back to moderator Bert van Loon who led the ceremony of the all-important FINAT label awards, where 16 companies were recognised for excellence in 25 different categories. For specifics please see for the separate press release.

And finally, the 2021 European Label Forum concluded with an interactive and entertaining online ‘pub quiz’ highlighting the intercultural and interpersonal dimension of international association networking.

“Though we were physically apart, it was great to be back together virtually to celebrate the best our industry has to offer. We’re already excited about getting back together in person next year,” comments Niklas Olsson, ELF Programme Chair.