American company Graphic Measures International is expanding in the European market. Essentially, GMI provides a guarantee for retailers that their packaging printing will hit an agreed standard by testing and certifying printers and then following this up by testing samples, including random samples pulled from shelves in stores.
GMI has built its reputation by working with a number of large retailers in the US, including Target, Walgreens, Lowe’s and Best Buy. Tim Curtin, GMI’s president, says that he has already talked with several major European retailers and is confident of being able to announce a deal within the next few months. He adds: “I see the EU as one of the biggest economies in the world. The UK has always been strong on private brands. You have the same problems that US retailers have in controlling that global supply chain. And we definitely see private brands as a growth area. People have gone towards private brands because of the recession and we see that trend continuing.”
Justin Lewis, GMI’s business development director for Europe, says the key is understanding the client’s goals, noting: “Not all clients are the same and they work in different ways and we work with them to provide the services that they need.” As part of the process of working with new clients, GMI tests their existing packaging by taking samples from shelves in store. Lewis says that generally up to 20 percent of these samples fail GMI’s tests, adding: “This is because the packaging supply lines have been stretched and the retailers simply can’t control everything.” To counter this, GMI has established a number of regional evaluation centres so that it can test samples close to the source. The company is planning to build a European evaluation centre but is still deciding whereabouts in Europe to locate this.
Those retailers that sign up to work with GMI commit to only using printers that have been certified by GMI so naturally GMI is trying to develop a wide pool of printers to draw on. There is a cost to the printer – $3000, which is roughly £1800 – but this does mean that printer can then be put forward to work with any of GMI’s clients.
Printers are expected to have their own CTP, a five colour press and in-house finishing. But where printers have multiple presses GMI will only test one and won’t necessarily bother retesting if the printer changes that press, unless the capability changes significantly.
So far GMI has certified 500 printers, the bulk of which are in the Far East as this is where most of the problems that retailers have had. But there are 10 in The EMEA region, though none of these are in the UK. But GMI is confident it can grow this to around 1000 by the end of this year as it is busily certifying printers now, though many of these are in North America. Printers are certified to the same standard so that retailers can have confidence in choosing a printer in any part of the world.
The tests include colour fidelity for process and spot colours, as well as registration and trapping. The substrates and finishing are also examined and heavy metals such as cadmium, lead and mercury are screened for. GMI also takes into account the print factory conditions and the atmosphere amongst the employees, because as David Krishnapillai, director of south east asia operations, points out: “The people that can produce good packaging usually also look at other health and safety issues.”.
For now GMI covers offset and flexo, with products ranging from cardboard to poly bags. The company is in the process of developing a process for point of sale displays and is looking at digital printing, using laser printing and online soft proofing.
GMI is also developing a simpler service called GMI Prime. This will be a cut down service that allows retailers to take advantage of the existing platform that GMI offers without spending months carefully developing a specific agenda for each retailer. Curtin says that a lot of the retailers don’t have big departments looking at packaging and that this offers a big opportunity. He adds: “They can take the recommendations that we have and can see results in 30-60 days and take advantage of what we have done with all the certified printers around the world.”
GMI will be at the Packaging Innovations show at the NEC in February.
Caption for main image:
David Krishnapillai, director of south east asia operations (left )and Tim Curtin, president of GMI.