“People still love print,” explains Antti Pokkinen, Product Portfolio Director at UPM Communication Papers, referencing print’s enduring popularity among audiences and its continued relevance in a print and digital age. “We know there are many ways that people consume content today. Yet, print continues to add value in the wider media mix. It offers something completely different. That’s why it’s important that we as paper producers innovate and evolve – to support customers who want to innovate through print themselves and to differentiate from the competition through print.”
What does that innovation look like for a paper supplier? Pokkinen says it’s important to stay on top of industry trends, to ensure that publishers’ innovations and needs can be met quickly and effectively. “Paper can sometimes be compared to fashion in the sense that there are trends that come and go and that can be quite cyclical,” he says. “We are in a great place to face any trend, however, because UPM has the widest offering in the market. On top of that, we focus on developing paper grades that are most in demand and we adapt to ensure that our portfolio truly reflects market needs. One other UPM advantage is our global mill network, which enables us to serve our clients anywhere around the world,” Pokkinen adds.
Another way to look at innovation is through product lifecycle analysis. Pokkinen says that it’s important to understand the types of products that are trending so that the implications for different types of paper can be worked out. UPM identifies when products start becoming more popular and when others start becoming obsolete to better plan and focus the company’s efforts.
“We do that in a variety of ways. Everything starts, of course, by talking to our customers. We also conduct statistical analysis of market trends and use internal business intelligence to stay on top of current trends.”
Pokkinen adds that the merging of print and digital is welcomed by paper suppliers because it allows them not only to innovate in their own processes but also enhances the print experience for readers.
He says the emerging digitalisation of print products is fascinating. “Seeing brands using tech to enhance the print experience – whether through talking covers or something experiential – excites us because they enhance the reader experience and the value of print. We support those initiatives because when embrace the convergence of print and digital it offers a fuller experience.”
Regarding current trends, Pokkinen notes that it’s not surprising to see the move from gloss to matt products in recent years, given publishers’ desires to look for differentiation, be more appealing and save costs.
“Gloss products were perhaps traditionally seen as being for the higher end of the market while non-gloss finishes were more of a niche product. But matt finishes are now really popular, that is a definite trend we have seen. There are a number of key value drivers around that, one of which is that matt paper provides economic benefits – it tends to have higher thickness, which offers cost-saving advantages.”
And Pokkinen’s favourite paper? “It’s UPM Star matt 1.2 H for sure. It fits current publication paper trends very well. When combined, it retains its high quality, high bulkiness and excellent visual characteristics. It’s an upper end category paper that can be found, for example, in customer loyalty magazines,” Pokkinen concludes.