Interview: Gelato CEO Müller-Hansen in conversation on the subject of digital print in the cloud


Gelato’s smart cloud solution provides its digital print partners with more production volumes, without Gelato even having to own one printing press.

I asked Mr. Müller-Hansen, CEO of Gelato, to elaborate on how that works.

Bernd Zipper: At your Optimalprint brand, which has now been on the market for nearly ten years, you attach a great deal of importance to delivering premium quality print products. How do you ensure that the print providers actively involved in your network meet the same quality standards that you have?


Henrik Müller-Hansen: First of all we handle a million individual orders in 2016, so the sheer volume allows us to build scalable and global processes. With such high velocity and through put, areas of improvement are constantly identified. The Gelato Network was not built over night. It is the result of years of tweaking and over a million hours of software development.
The fact that we outsourced printing from day one helped us focus on the core aspects of production quality and workflow management. Everything had to be automated from the outset.
In order to qualify as a partner for Gelato Network a printer must operate high-end print machines (HP Indigo 7000 and upwards and / or Xerox iGen 4 or upwards). We also require a specific set of finishing technology. All orders are bundled and print ready so all prepress work is automatically managed by Gelato. The printers in the network use the Gelato developed workflow and follow a tightly designed production process for all the Gelato orders for superior efficiency.
Our quality scores e.g. on Trustpilot for our consumer brand Optimalprint are extremely high, which is a validation of the platforms performance.

Bernd Zipper: Gelato Globe, Gelato Cloud and your Gelato Network give you broad-based market positioning as far as online print services are concerned. Can you explain how these different elements are interrelated and what added value a print provider gains by joining your network?

Henrik Müller-Hansen: Gelato Network is the core of Gelato and consists of several components: the software, the billing system, the professional print houses and shipping suppliers connected to our system. On top of this you find the customer-facing services

  1. Gelato Globe is our digital brand management system connected with printing and it supports global companies
  2. Gelato Air is the white label solution for brands that operate within the consumer market and wish to expand into photo products. An example is UNICEF Norway.
  3. Optimalprint is how the whole journey of Gelato started. Optimalprint is our photo product site that targets families with products such as personalized greeting cards, photo books and calendars.

Our software solutions make printing processes easy for both the end customer and the printer. We route print ready files to the connected print houses: no sales, no file handling or pre press, no individual invoicing, no time consuming shipping preparations need to done by the printer for this batch of orders – it is all automatically managed by the Gelato platform.


Gelato give a broad-based market positioning as far as online print services are concerned; Source:

Bernd Zipper: You state that your cloud solution is on the way to becoming the world’s smartest print cloud. What do you think basically distinguishes your print cloud from those of other providers?

Henrik Müller-Hansen: We are a software company, not a printer. We are dedicated to delivering excellence to the customers. This focus on technology allows us to think out of the box. Integrations are key – we connect to over 200 systems and tools. One simply example is the Gelato plug-in for Adobe which allows designers to send files directly to Gelato – without the extra step of creating a PDF.
We apply the same technology and customer focused approach to our file management: We no only routes orders based on a number of parameters to the most suitable print house, but through our production app, we are in contact with the print houses on how many orders came in, how many have been processed and we know if there are any issues that need to be addressed. We do all of this without owning a single print machine.  A printer in the Gelato Network does not compete with our own print capacity for volume.

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“Efficiency, state-of-the art technology and a high standard of quality –these are all must-haves that Gelato demands of its print partners and provides itself at the same time. A firm foundation for profitable printing!” – Bernd Zipper


Bernd Zipper: Gelato’s marketing includes the claim that Globe provides customers with a specific coordination benefit and otherwise has an efficiency-increasing impact.  How do you identify what concerns your customers have and what potential benefits your partners offer?

Henrik Müller-Hansen: Gelato is a software company that connects digital print machines all around the world into one global print cloud. We don’t own any print machines, our customers use our platform to print locally and in the exact amounts they need. Customers also receive the print material much faster – often within 48 hours. Gelato Globe solves the problems that arise when printing is done centrally and globally distributed: we reduce shipping time and cost and we enable companies to print only what they really need.
Digital transformation is discussed across industries. Most companies do not consider printing as one area that is undergoing a transformation. When we ask them, most companies don’t know how much they actually print – with Gelato Globe, we enable easy reporting down to the employee. Those responsible for marketing often worry about the brand not being consistent across locations– through templates, standardized papers and finishing as well as through our color consistency work with HP and Xerox Gelato Globe addresses this.
Gelato is about sharing creativity in a more efficient and eco-friendly manner.

Bernd Zipper: Can you envisage expanding your Optimalprint brand still further – e.g. by adding more product categories or production methods? Or will you focus in future more on tying in digital print partners in to your network? Where are your investment priorities?


Henrik Müller-Hansen: The consumer market for photo products is significant, greeting cards alone is – depending on whom you speak to – around $20 to $30 Billion. Photo books are – just in Western Europe and the US – a $1.6B market. Now the challenge for many companies that enter into this business is that it is complicated to a) manage micro orders while producing and distributing profitably and b) find scalable and profitable ways of marketing to consumers across countries and regions.
Optimalprint has been an important part of Gelato´s growth story and also the development of Gelato Network. Optimalprint has provided us with revenue and cash as well as production volume that has allowed us to build and develop a network excellent of printers. Gelato Air partners – home and family brands that use the white label solution of Optimalprint for their own branded shops – are benefiting from this. And the number of Gelato Air partners is growing.
That said, most of our focus has to be on our B2B operation. Launching local production across the world, and especially in the BRIC markets is a huge operational task. However, we believe that with this network in place we offer a unique platform upon which global companies can manage their brand both digitally as well as physically.

Bernd Zipper: I have noticed that you promise better printing press capacity utilization combined with simple “plug and play” integration to the digital print providers that join your network and offer print volumes via the network. Assuming I was a digital print provider seeking greater capacity utilization, what is the procedure for joining your network (e.g. using API) and what do I as a print provider need to bring to the party (e.g. capacity, workflow, product portfolio)?

Henrik Müller-Hansen: We currently work with the newest generations of HP Indigo and Xerox iGen machines and have a number of additional requirements around finishing machines. At launch we usually connect two print houses in a market and then we expand the network as volumes grow. Our focus is on expansion in Asia and Latin America, but we have added printers in several European markets this year – since our volumes are steadily growing.

Bernd Zipper: These days the issue of mobile determines whether companies are successful or not in many markets. As a player in the online print business you have already addressed this issue and made all your tools mobile-compatible. How much capacity utilization can you and your network partners currently attribute to mobile enquiries and orders? How important is the mobile issue for your company and future applications?

Henrik Müller-Hansen: At a recent business conference one of the speakers said: „We are all mobile ONLY already, we just don’t know it yet.“ Our traffic is not mobile only yet, but mobile usage is definitely growing. No wonder with 3.6 billion smartphones in use by the end of 2016*.
You might say that the mobile trend only affects the consumer, but most of our working day is spend away from our computer, in meetings or traveling. A lot of work is done on smartphones or tablets and we have come to enjoy the freedoms this kind of work entails. So in short – mobile is extremely important for Gelato and we continue to focus on it. Almost all the features of our B2B solution Gelato Globe are available and used on the mobile phone –especially ordering business cards and sales materials, approving orders or checking shipping status.

Bernd Zipper: Obviously print run sizes are decreasing in many segments, but don’t you think that by only using digital print and focusing on your rather narrow product range that you are depriving yourselves of access to important fields of business activity?

Henrik Müller-Hansen: Printing is a giant industry. And digital printing is the future. It is amazing to see the developments of the last few years in digital printing, the advancements around capacity, formats, substrates and customization. We are certain that the focus on digital printing continues to be right.

Bernd Zipper: Might online photo printing also be a lucrative activity for you? Given your large network, Indigo presses and broad geographical coverage, you would definitely be competitive in this segment, wouldn’t you?

Henrik Müller-Hansen: As mentioned before we view the consumer market as a very interesting segment to serve. In addition to its growth Gelato’s operational model stems from efficient management of micro orders. We see demand both from companies as well as individuals moving in this direction – smaller batches equal more personal messaging. Printing smaller batches profitability is to a great extent about software and less about hardware (the print machines).
Photos are definitely interesting. We just launched a solution that allows creating photo books and calendars on your phone in minutes – tabbing into the giant potential of billions of images stored on smartphones. When customers are happy with that solution, we will consider adding more photo related products to our portfolio.

Bernd Zipper: What is on Gelato’s agenda in the near future and the medium term? Can you provide us with any insights as to your intentions in the next few years? Are you perhaps planning to partner with other major cloud providers and networkers to achieve even better market coverage?

gelato4Henrik Müller-Hansen: Our ambition is to build the world´s most intelligent print cloud both in terms of quality as well as production efficiency. On the quality aspect, we work closely with HP and Xerox. For example HP and Gelato work on a global color consistency project – first results were shown at Graph Expo. In terms of production efficiency, our mobile production application allows our print parnters to manage their machine park and Gelato´s production over their mobile phones. I think that we are leading the way when it comes to marrying mobile with management of an end to end work flow. Additionally, as we continue to expand our print cloud we bring production closer and closer to the end recipient which reduces carbon emissions resulting from unnecessary transportation distances.

So in short our 2017 plan comes down to geographical expansion and a strong focus on business to business – empowering global companies to access and manage printing in a more sustainable way.

My take: Sound, broad-based positioning. The specialists at Gelato not only cover most digital print applications with their broad portfolio of software and network of print partners, but also deliver useful, up-to-date tools for hassle-free ordering, e.g. the Adobe direct data upload plug-in. Any company wanting to become a member of the Gelato network has to meet high production and processing/finishing standards; while a well-equipped pre-press capability is not required, because Gelato delivers  print-ready data to its partners, which they have to print efficiently. Gelato is definitely the go-to business for those digital print providers aiming for higher capacity utilization and looking for a well-positioned (in terms of systems) partner. But you also need to be aware of the fact that your business is ultimately just a part of the extended workbench –you have to be comfortable with that…

Founder and CEO of zipcon consulting GmbH, one of the leading consulting companies for the print and media industry in Central Europe. The technology and strategy consultant and his team actively support practical implementation in a wide variety of customer projects. His work involves developing visions, concepts and strategies for the players active in the print production process across a wide range of industries. His areas of expertise include online print, mass customization, strategy and technological assessment for print, and the development of new strategies in the print and media environment. Bernd Zipper is the creator and chairman of Initiative Online Print e.V. and, in addition to his consulting activities, is an author, lecturer and sought-after speaker, orator and moderator. His visionary lectures are regarded worldwide as trend-setting management recommendations for the print and media industry. (Profiles also in Xing, LinkedIn).

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