Stephen Buchanan

CINCINNATI, OHIO – SEPTEMBER 8: Kao Collins Inc., a leading manufacturer and supplier of industrial inkjet inks, has identified and analyzed important trends in high-performing and underperforming segments of the inkjet printing industry during the six months since the coronavirus pandemic began disrupting businesses and the global economy.

“We’re adapting and finding new ways to navigate the new normal now,” said Stephen Buchanan, Business Development Manager at Cincinnati-based Kao Collins.

Trend 1 – Increasing Demand for Food and Pharma Packaging

The demand for packaging inks has grown dramatically since February of 2020. In the uncertainty, consumers stockpiled many packaged goods beyond toilet paper – packaged food was also disappearing from store shelves fast, and food producers struggled to keep pace.

Likewise, health-conscious consumers around the world bought more over-the-counter medicines. Pharmaceutical and medical-supply companies worked at a faster pace to keep hospitals adequately supplied.

Trend 2 – Wide Format Printing Dips, Then Rebounds

“This industry is an example of how a sector adapted to the challenges of the pandemic,” Buchanan said.

“Social distancing” became a buzzword around the world. Essential retail stores needed signage that would remind customers to keep six or more feet of space between each other. To do that, they turned to wide-format printers who could print new floor decals for their stores.

When restaurants began offering carry-out service, they ordered banners that shouted, “We’re open!” Other businesses did the same.

Trend 3 – eCommerce Surges for Homebound Customers

Like grocery store sales, eCommerce has boomed as consumers seek to reduce potential exposure to the highly contagious virus.

Statistics Canada, a government agency, found that consumers flocked to e-Commerce during the lockdown. May 2020 sales more than doubled year-over-year, showing an increase of almost 111%.

This significantly increased the demand for inks e-tailers needed for printing on corrugated boxes.

Trend 4 – Direct Mail Takes a Direct Hit

Companies began cutting their marketing spend on direct mail advertising as stores and businesses closed, and consumer spending slowed as unemployment increased.

Buchanan said he expects the direct-mail segment to bounce back. He mentioned a United States Postal Service study’s findings that showed 40% of the lucrative millennial demographic reads direct mail thoroughly, compared to a modest 18% for non-millennials.

Trend 5 – Continued Growth in Short-run Product Labeling

Niche segments continue to thrive, Buchanan said. Craft breweries and regional wine producers are hitting the mark with consumers. Both use inkjet printing to produce eye-catching labels, especially for limited-edition seasonal and special releases.

“It’s fun to see all the different labels on the shelf, knowing that some of these are being done with inkjet,” Buchanan said. “It’s very cool.”

Even big brands are customizing product packaging to appeal to unique customer groups, he said.

Trend 6 – We’re In This together

“In the grand scheme of things, this is a lot bigger than inkjet. Anything we can do to help our customers, that’s priority number one,” Buchanan says.

“A little empathy goes a long way. That’s really what it’s all about.”

Contact Kristin Adams at for more information about the Kao Collins.

Kao creates high-value-added products that enrich the lives of consumers around the world. Through its portfolio of over 20 leading brands such as Attack, Bioré, Goldwell, Jergens, John Frieda, Kanebo, Laurier, Merries and Molton Brown, Kao is part of the everyday lives of people in Asia, Oceania, North America, and Europe. Combined with its chemical division, which contributes to a wide range of industries, Kao generates about 1,500 billion yen in annual sales. Kao employs about 35,000 people worldwide and has more than 120 years of history in innovation. Please visit the Kao Group website for updated information.