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Taste For Success

Speciality Paper

As paper becomes more and more popular due to its sustainable credentials, what options are in the speciality paper sector, and what are the advantages of using them?

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Adding a signature touch

Like choosing a sofa or a new set of shoes, choosing a material for a media project can be just as difficult but also vital in ensuring the longevity of the product and its perception from end-users.

Over the last few years, paper has continued to be a contentious material in the eyes of certain industries as it has become the victim of false information and greenwashing.

As more brands and businesses switch from plastics and harmful materials, paper and paper-based products have become a popular alternative for a variety of uses.

With this in mind it's essential that paper continues to be celebrated and showcased due to its extreme versatility and potential, especially within the speciality paper sector.

Used for an array of purposes, speciality paper can be found in industries like photography, medicine, food and beverages, publishing, and home décor.  

So, what are some of the examples of the speciality papers out there, and how much can they really affect a printed product?

Premium Products

It’s evident from looking at the way that businesses are changing in 2023 that many key decisions are driven by a company’s quality of output, its people, and its sustainable credentials.

Paper is a product that can help support all of these objectives, whether it be via the materials you use for products such as business cards, packaging, and exhibition stands, or even your internal communications, for example company newsletters, welcome boxes, and office décor.

The quality of the print will also influence how the material is received and experienced by the consumer. Both the paper and the print need to work seamlessly together.

Discussing the use of speciality papers, sales and marketing director at James Cropper Papers, Nick Barnes, says: “Despite living in an increasingly digital world, consumers still crave that tactile experience and this needs to be nurtured when looking to deliver a memorable experience that can elevate a print project.

“The colour and type of paper selected needs to align with the message the organisation is trying to portray, and the expectation of the consumer. For example, environmental and sustainable marketing materials may lean towards a base stock in a natural colour palette with a high recycled content to help reinforce the messaging.

Whereas, if an organisation is trying to convey luxury, a higher quality of paper with a distinct finish or textural feel can add a tangible tactile element to the experience.”

Barnes also refers to the trend of luxury brands playing off black and white base colours as a canvas for the printed message. “An uncoated quality has a more natural look and feel,” says Barnes, adding: “For something unique, a custom colour can help grab attention with stand-out appeal, and also has a role to play with brand identity and recognition.”

Founded in 1888 Fedrigoni has a long history in the paper industry, becoming a well-known brand in the manufacturing of speciality papers.

Annette Clayton is the global account manager for Fedrigoni

Regarding the impact of using a premium paper, Annette Clayton, global account manager at Fedrigoni, says: “Premium papers can completely change the perception of the printed object. It becomes a valuable and cherished object in itself. Speciality papers provide a tactile and visual appeal that enhances and differentiates printed materials.

Premium paper can completely change the perception of the printed object. It becomes a valuable and cherished object in itself

Clayton adds: “The choice of paper must reflect the creative brief in terms of aesthetic. Colour, texture, finish, bulk; these are all characteristics that instantly convey a visual and tactile message about the brand.

“The paper must meet the ESG objectives of the brand taking into consideration carbon footprint, FSC certification, recycled content, or alternative fibres.”

Fedrigoni papers can be found in the likes of luxury packaging, publishing materials, graphic print, and self-adhesive labels.

In May, the company released a new range of premium labels called Sheets Exclusive Collection which includes a variety of coated, uncoated, coloured, metallic, felt-marked, and embossed options.

The range combines the expertise of the company’s two divisions, Fedrigoni Paper and Fedrigoni Self-Adhesives. The portfolio is divided into two categories: Exclusive which uses Fedrigoni FSC-certified papers as facestocks, and Premium which extends the previous Self-Adhesive range.

This range has been specifically designed to elevate both the aesthetic value and the touch-and-feel experience of labels for different sectors from the packaging of artisanal or luxury products to gourmet food or premium beverages, from logistics and home office products to tamper-evident security applications and sectors requiring manual application of labels.

“Sheets Exclusive Collection represents a new, true synergy, on a production and commercial level, between the Fedrigoni Paper and Self-Adhesives worlds," says Philippe Vanroy, product manager and sales coordinator for Print Offset and Digital Sheets at Fedrigoni.

"This collection has been designed to make our most popular papers even more versatile, which can now add a unique touch to the products by transforming them into precious labels.”

The switchover from plastic is establishing that many products which manufacturers took for granted are now big jobs when being converted to premium paper.

Speciality paper’s use in areas like food and beverages along with packaging means that many manufacturers are having to test and innovate new solutions involving paper.

O Factoid: Research from Fact.MR reports that worldwide demand for speciality papers has accounted for a market valuation of $35.2bn (£28.4bn) this year O

“Innovation is being driven by the need to switch from single use plastic to paper alternatives. We are developing papers with greater resistance to handling, high barrier solutions and connected papers to replace loyalty and gift cards,” says Clayton.

A key message from printers and machine manufacturers is the demand for solutions like booklets, business cards, and point-of-sale products are still highly popular. Now more than ever brands and businesses need to stand out and demonstrate the tactile benefits of a physical product, hence the need for a premium paper.

The aesthetic look of speciality paper can be a big selling point of a business or product, especially due to the sustainable connotations carried with paper.

Clayton explains: “If sourced from certified managed forests, all paper, whether a commodity or speciality grade, is a naturally sustainable product which is easily and widely recycled. However, as you add complexity you will reduce the sustainability and make it less easy to recycle.

“The key message is to keep it simple and elegant, like our most popular grade with luxury brands, Old Mill, it’s the little black dress of the speciality paper world.” 

Proof Is in the Paper

The speciality paper industry is built on many legacy businesses which are able to bring their knowledge and experience to the forefront.

Formed in 1845, James Cropper Papers has supplied the speciality paper market with a range of coloured and embossed papers, including sustainable fibre options like CupCycling for centuries.

The business has been led by the Cropper family for six generations and has an operational reach in over 50 countries.

Barnes adds: “In addition to supplying custom-made speciality paper products and packaging for many of the world’s leading luxury brands and designers, the business produces creative papers for its merchant partners for premium print and publishing applications.”

Discussing the increased relevance of sustainability, Barnes notes: “It is fair to say that design with sustainability in mind is high on the agenda for brands in every sector. In today’s world, the focus on the provenance of products, and leaving little-to-no trace on the planet means that paper products are emerging as a shining example of best practice for circular design – and as a business we have been focused on helping brands to elevate circularity for their projects.

“There’s an ongoing push towards recycled fibre with many brands now wanting to push beyond the 40% that used to be the benchmark. This has led suppliers to look at new fibre streams that drive the right form and function, as well as hitting a price point and sustainability credentials. It’s certainly taken us into some interesting avenues, collaborating with a number of different partners across a number of industries.”

James Cropper has led a number of recycling projects which has added to transformative attitudes towards paper. The company has created the world’s first technology to upcycle used coffee cups, as well as its FibreBlend Upcycled Technology which incorporates used jeans into fully recyclable paper for use in packaging. 

“In an industry first, we launched a coloured paper range using natural dye derived from plant extract,” says Barnes, adding: “The Wainwright Colours from Nature range is one of our latest innovations which create value from waste streams without compromise on technical performance.  The colours are derived from rosemary residue, a waste stream in food production, for this 100% FSC-recycled paper range.”

In response to client demand, James Cropper has increased its sustainable range as the papers offer a more natural look and feel

Innovation in the industry has been at the forefront over the past few years with print, paper, and packaging leading the way in many solutions.

Speciality paper company UPM has recently worked with the likes of Koenig & Bauer to optimise digital printing for packaging. Recent rest carried out on UPM’s heat-sealable barrier papers show positive signs for brand owners and converters in accelerating products to market and creating more customised packaging.

Markus Kamphuis, technical sales manager at UPM Specialty Papers, states: “The results were extremely successful from the beginning. UPM Confidio incorporates an additional heat seal function, so it was also important to find out if the temperatures for drying ink would activate the sealing function or change the colours of the design. Neither was an issue, and the colours were really sharp and vivid.”

“This kind of flexibility allows brand owners to meet legal requirements for higher levels of traceability and localised packaging materials as well as develop highly customised packaging. Take the final of the Superbowl or the Champions League for example,” explains Falko Baltrusch, senior manager at Koenig & Bauer Customer Technology Center.

“You can wait until the last minute to print the packaging when you know which teams are in the final. And they can do all this while also making the transition to fibre-based materials, meeting their sustainability goals.”

Companies like Koehler Paper have also continued to innovate and collaborate due to the continued need for speciality papers in food and packaging. Recent tests with Nissha Metallizing Solutions have been undertaken to create packaging suitable for snacks, drink powders, and coffee.

Speciality paper can be used for a range of products like gifts, packaging, wrapping, labels, photography, publishing paper, and thermal paper

For James Cropper, the key areas for printers and creative agencies to focus on are colour and surface texture.

Barnes explains: “There is a wonderful array of premium-coloured papers available off the shelf, in weights suited to various print applications. From ultra-smooth qualities to those with a toothier surface finish, and also options with an embossed surface texture. 

“At James Cropper we specialise in making natural uncoated papers.  Our Vanguard range is a collection of smooth uncoated coloured papers for premium print and our Rydal Packaging Collection has been designed for premium packaging applications. 

“We also offer a custom papermaking service and can produce papers to order in terms of colour, texture, surface finish, and weight suited to specific applications.  With an in-house converting facility there is also the option of heavyweight boards up to 3mm thick, and even duplex qualities.”

Packing a Punch

It's undeniable that paper is experiencing a surge in popularity in many markets thanks to its sustainable credentials and pleasing aesthetics.

PG Paper has recently highlighted the continued demand for tissue paper due to the growing mandate for paper and increases in populations and the standard of living.

The company has also pointed to a resurgence in the public’s valuing of physical print as printed advertising and publications set to receive a comeback due to digital fatigue and clamp downs on online assets like third-party cookies and data mining. 

All this and more adds to the increased relevance of not just paper, but speciality paper, as brands, businesses, and even individuals look to stand out.

Just like a new sofa or a bespoke pair of shoes, a textured business card or premium piece of packaging can turn a simple reaction into a ‘wow moment’.


For more information from James Cropper you can visit: https://www.jamescropper.com/
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