Label Summit Latin America kicked off this morning in Guadalajara, Mexico, with a high-energy welcome address by Roger Pellow, managing director of Labelexpo Global Series. Pellow said that the opportunity for growth in both Mexico and Latin America as a whole is not just significant, but incredible. Estimated rates of growth around the globe – based on input from converters, suppliers, printers, national associations, etc. show that the Latin American label industry is not one to be ignored. For example, Brazil’s label market is expected to grow at a minimum of 8%. Compare that to India’s healthy 10%, China’s 10-15% and Africa’s 6%, and it’s clear that the Latin American countries are making strides.

Pellow added that converters who consider the environment are going to outshine converters who don’t, no matter where they are located on the globe. “The environment is serious,” he said. “And the message of sustainability has to go all the way down the supply chain.” Pellow pointed out that thinner materials, linerless and wash-off labels are all growing in popularity, and they’re directly linked to environmental concerns. Compliance, he said, is essential. “More and more governments are looking at what we do, and [those] governments will impose compliance on our industry. We will be told what the solutions are if we don’t come up with them ourselves,” he said.

The keynote presentation, titled “The Innovation Imperative,” was delivered by Darrell Hughes, vice president and general manager of label and packaging materials at Avery Dennison North America. Hughes highlighted some global trends in the market today. The top four, he said, are: leading brands targeting niche geographies and provinces; end users seeking faster responses and shorter runs; the continued growth of pressure sensitive labels; and the continued opportunities for solutions that are both sustainable and efficient.

Reiterating Pellow’s message about the importance of being green, Hughes cited a study in which 100 converters from 24 countries were asked about sustainability. In their responses, 74% said that they had a sustainability program in place. (When the audience here was asked to raise their hands if they had a sustainability program, just four hands went up.) The same study also indicated that 70% of those surveyed would be landfill-free if their matrix waste could be recycled for the same price that they currently pay for disposal, which indicates that the environmental movement isn’t just about cost. It’s about principle.

In addition to considering the environment, Hughes said, those in the label industry need to consider their employees. According to a 2011 survey, Hughes said that the two most important capabilities for business growth are the ability to innovate and the ability to allocate talent. “The rate of technology has changed and so must the leaders of successful organizations,” he said. “We must hire the best and the brightest.”

Edgar Martinez Villarreal, president of ACOBAN and director of Group Etimex, discussed emerging market trends in Mexico and Latin America. According to Villarreal, the biggest growth in printing has been in tickets, and food and beverage labels. Food labels, he said, grew at a rate of 21% last year, while beverages grew at a strong 16%. Villarreal pointed out, though, that Mexico exports about 12% of everything produced here. Of those items, 20% go to the United States. Meanwhile, Mexico imported 35,000 tons of printed labels, most of which came from the United States. He pointed out that Mexico has the great advantage of inexpensive labor, but without other quality controls and technological growth, it will not be enough to keep Mexico’s label market growing at the rate it should be.

“We talk about competitors as if they are local, but they are coming from abroad,” he said. “If we don’t have a business plan for the next five years to increase our growth by 10%, then we are simply living in a different world.”