Changing the Landscape of Décor Print Industry: Toppan’s Acquisition of Interprint
Observers of the global print industry recently got more evidence of the power Japan-based Toppan’s drive to expand its industrial print operations and marketing. On June 24, Toppan Printing Co., Ltd., announced it has acquired 100% of Interprint GmbH (Germany), a global printer of décor materials such as wallpaper and laminates. Dubbing Toppan as just a printing company does not do justice to this giant organization, which has been an innovator in print and related activities for over a century. Today, it is a leading supplier of print, equipment, and services to a wide range of segments, including décor, packaging, and other industrial applications. On June 27th, 2019 Toppan also announced a new president, Mr. Hideharu Maro. As part of the announcment, Toppan stated “Mr. Maro takes over at a time when digital transformation and changing market dynamics are creating new openings and opportunities for the printing industry. Toppan has identified packaging, décor materials, and security solutions as its main growth engines globally and is strengthening the well-established international network of its electronics business.”
As to Interprint, it is a décor design, print, and manufacturing company in Europe, the Americas, and Asia. Toppan has said its latest move is part of a strategy to achieve a 30% overseas sales ratio. This purchase follows a similar one from 2017, when Toppan acquired a 60% stake in Spanish Decotec S.A.U. – another décor supplier. Toppan has said that Interprint will now join Decotec and Toppan Interamerica and be fully integrated into Toppan Group by the end of 2019.
Established in 1900, Toppan has presence in Japan, Asia, Europe, and the United States. It is a leader in integrated solutions for the printing, communications, security, décor materials, electronics, and packaging. Toppan offers a diverse product portfolio in three key groups, namely Information and Communication, Living and Industry, and Electronics. The company revenue as of March 2019 was 1.46 Trillion Yen ($13.5 Billion USD), and it claims over 50,000 employees worldwide. These metrics make Toppan one of the top global providers.
Interprint will be integrated into Toppan’s Living and Industry group, which consists of packaging and décor printing and has annual revenues of 414.6 Billion yen (3.8 Billion ISD). According to Toppan financials, this group had 1.5% YoY growth. That said, its operation profits were down YoY by 19.4%. In their commentary for the 2018 performance, Toppan indicated that the Décor group has seen growth due to the joint impact of its décor printing facilities in Europe (2017 Decotec) and US (Toppan Interamerica). The décor printing segment is one that Toppan is aiming to develop further and gain dominance and growth. This segment typically uses rotogravure print technology, however, in recent years digital printing has been emerging to address the changing needs of the segment’s supply chain. Toppan has been a driving force in adopting and developing digital printing technologies. In their plants today, one can find many of the leading digital printing technologies available for commercial printing as well as packaging.
Interprint is a German company that began in 1969 and, in the decades since, had become a leading décor print provider, with 1,300 employees working in the US, China, Poland, Germany, Brazil, and Turkey. The company worked also worked in the furniture and flooring space, generating 350 million euros ($398 million dollars) worth of revenue in 2018. Chief products include décor finish foils, melamine films, and décor rotogravure printing – which are all used to decorate various surfaces of derived timber products, such as household furniture and flooring.
Recently, Interprint made headlines by increasing its investment in digital printing. In February 2019, Interprint released a statement saying it had good success from its 2014 investment in a digital press from Koenig and Bauer, the RotaJET, prompting the company to purchase a second device. According to Robert Bierfreund, managing director of Interprint, the first device greatly assisted the company when it needed to expand its product portfolio and market reach. The RotaJET’s capabilities thus augment Interprint’s large design catalog of the surfaces that make up the core of its business. These designs are fueling the ongoing product developments between the company and its laminating partners and serve as a key asset for its ongoing success. Additionally, Interprint has been introducing new film-based products as well as dimensional designs that allow it to maintain a competitive edge in the industry.
Toppan’s acquisition of Interprint will help Toppan in its quest for dominance in the décor printing segment. That segment is dominated by several key suppliers, with one of the largest being Schattdecor (over $850 Million in revenues and 2,550 employees related to the décor surfaces). Schattdecor and Interprint have both seen increasing demand for innovation in design as well as for short run production and both have addressed it in part by adopting digital printing solutions.
Other Corporate Developments
An interesting twist to the relationship between Werde/Interprint and Schattdecor is the two companies’ joint investment in ARCOLOR AG, a Swiss manufacturer of inks for packaging, and décor for conventional and inkjet technologies. These joint investments were made in the late 1990s, and it will be interesting to see if Toppan – which has its own investments in this space – will maintain this relationship.
The market for decorative laminates is dominated by a small group of suppliers with specific skill sets in developing décor papers for analog production who are now moving to develop unique solutions using digital printing. Their ability to develop designs that were perfected over many generations will be now directed to developing new unique designs that are possible with digital printing in addition to short run printing below the typical one-ton minimum order.
Nevertheless, the path for finished decorated laminates runs from décor suppliers to impregnators who convert the décor printed layer into a laminated product. This supply chain path from décor printers to impregnators to final manufacturing is now being disrupted. We have witnessed few brands who sell laminates offer digitally printed laminates such as Formica Envision, Wilsonart X You, as well as Schattdecor Digital Visions. These offer customization and the ability for architects and interior designers to differentiate. As adoption grows, these will challenge the status quo that exists between décor suppliers who provide the design as well printing with that of impregnators who can integrated newly announced products such as the Hymmen Saturn and produce décor papers on location on-demand.
With Toppan’s experience in digital printing as well as conventional production, we are likely to see some of the dynamics in this segment start to change and address the needs of manufacturers looking for customization and reduced time to market. These could boost profitability and offer designers, architects, and customers with new opportunities to be creative and efficient.