Office paper – some say it is becoming unfashionable…I say it is still evolving and new trends are on the horizon. Sure, consumers and businesses are using less paper than they ever have before, but that doesn’t mean paper is on the outs just yet. In fact, there are plenty of developments in the paper industry that aim to improve the quality of the final print and give consumers a better, and sometimes more sustainable option.
Among the most discussed topics in the paper industry is the use of recycled content. The option of recycled paper is becoming more and more popular. With that, paper manufacturers are working to produce higher quality paper from recycled content. Five or ten years ago, it was very obvious which sheet used recycled content and which was made of 100 percent pure virgin fiber. Today…not so much. The quickly increasing demand of recycled paper has forced manufacturers to find ways to make the product just as bright and just as smooth as paper with virgin pulp.
While recycled content is definitely a way that manufacturers are differentiating themselves, the cause has been taken a step further with sustainability certifications. The Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative are two of the most common seals seen on paper in the channel. The seals indicate that the paper was made using wood sourced from a forest that is operated in a sustainable manner and according to stated criteria. Many consumers who do not want recycled paper still want to be part of the solution and therefore choose media that carries one of these seals. Recently, Staples partnered with Domtar and began offering the paper company’s EarthChoice Paper in a co-branded package. The primary motivation for Staples to participate in the partnership was to have a product that carried the FSC label as well as the ColorLok seal.
The ColorLok seal, a perfect transition to my next point. We all know what recycled paper is and we are learning more about sustainability, but what is ColorLok, you ask? I would argue that the use of ColorLok Technology is quickly becoming the next big thing in differentiating paper types from one another in the office paper segment. ColorLok Technology gives prints sharper images, improved color, and faster dry times. Each paper carrying the seal is subjected to a rigorous set of testing including physical and electrostatic analyses by the Rochester Institute of Technology – Printing Applications Laboratory. The technology causes the ink to absorb deep into the paper, while keeping the color pigments closer to the surface, both helping to result in better colors. ColorLok’s Technical video on YouTube gives an animated explanation of the benefits of ColorLok paper and describes how the technology works.
In 2008, nine major companies announced their support for the ColorLok Paper Standard at the Paperworld trade show held in Frankfurt, Germany. The companies included International Paper, Mondi, M-Real, Suzano, April, Domtar, HP, Kodak, and Epson. With these nine companies publicly stating their support for ColorLok Technology, the movement began to take more shape. Over the past three years, each of these companies has implemented ColorLok Technology into a number of media within their lineups. ColorLok has become a specification that is not only important, but can be considered a true differentiator among what seems like the endless mass of office paper.
Other companies have since also claimed their support for the Technology including Georgia Pacific, CopaMex, JK Paper Ltd, and Stora Enso. The paper companies that currently support ColorLok Technology not only represent many of the major players in the industry, but also span across the globe.
Currently, about 10 percent of the office paper offered in the retail channel has ColorLok Technology. Brands such as Domtar, Georgia Pacific, Hammermill, HP, Kodak, Office Depot, April, and Staples all offer products carrying the ColorLok seal in the channel. As these companies expand their retail presence, the saturation of ColorLok media will also proliferate.
While Domtar had a presence in the retail channel for many years and began supporting the initiative in 2008, the paper manufacturer announced in later 2010 that it would integrate ColorLok Technology into its office paper lines which resulted in an immediate influx of ColorLok papers in the channel. Domtar has retail placements at Fry’s Electronics brick and mortar locations, but an even higher presence in the retail.com channel at Staples.com, OfficeDepot.com, Frys.com, CompUSA.com, and Walmart.com.
While ColorLok Technology is still relatively new, some of the largest paper companies in the world are embracing it and offering several of their office paper lines with it. This type of quick adoption should not be ignored. The general public is still in the early stages of learning about the Technology, but with such strong brands backing it, ColorLok is sure to stick around. We can only expect further market saturation of media that uses ColorLok Technology going forward.
With sustainability on the forefront and becoming almost the norm, ColorLok is very possibly the next major differentiator in the world of office paper. Rather than remaining single minded to the most criticized aspect of the paper industry, its environmental impact, manufacturers are looking for ways to improve the performance of the paper. They are seeking a way to improve the printing experience, and in turn, potentially encourage more printing.
ColorLok is among the first mainstream technologies that people in the paper industry and consumers alike can get excited about. Yes, paper is a commodity, but with more advanced printing capabilities available, people are looking for ways to make their prints pop. People used to print everything…now more and more thought goes into each print with the consideration of money and what the purpose of the print is. Improving the overall performance of the paper and giving consumers the opportunity to create higher quality prints, manufacturers are on the right track to maintaining the paper-filled office for now!