Simon shares his favorite insights and takeaways from Pack Expo 2019

I hope you had a great week. Mine was both exciting and tiring; it began when I and 30,000 of my closest friends descended on the Las Vegas Convention Center for Pack Expo 2019. The largest packaging-focused conference in North America brought together brand owners, equipment manufacturers, substrate providers, and formulators of inks and coatings. It was an overwhelming packaging wonderland of promotional talks, equipment demos, industry networking and many, many steps taken around the exhibit floor. Below are some of my observations around trends that impact the packaging space:

Sustainability

I know, I know, I'm a broken record on this subject, but it really is the biggest trend impacting the packaging world right now. For plastic providers, the focus seems to be on improving the recyclability of substrates or seeking out more recyclable or compostable raw materials and building the infrastructure necessary for these options to be feasible. For paper providers, this conference was a place to showcase the strength, resistance and versatility of their currently-more-recyclable packaging options. The industry focus on sustainability was, I think, best shown by the interest in a session titled "Accelerate Sustainable Packaging in the Age of Experience" by Dassault Systèmes. Standing room only would be an understatement, as more than 100 people clamored to fit in and around a presentation space built for 30, all to hear more about models and technologies they could utilize to support increased packaging sustainability.

Automation

Between conveyers carrying bottles for beverage producers, automated pickers to handle delicate food items, or box-on-demand technology to cut down on packaging waste, packaging equipment suppliers are looking at increased automation to help them keep up with increased packaging demand and gain as much efficiency from their lines as possible. For printing, this could mean increasing in-line printing presses that ink or coat a package before corrugation or ahead of converting. This means increased demand for inks that are low-maintenance and versatile, as well as coatings that improve the resistance qualities of packages.

E-Commerce

It wouldn't be a packaging conference without e-commerce. One exhibitor, a large paper and packaging supplier, was showcasing a specifically-designed e-commerce offering that combines a plain, unassuming exterior to prevent pilferage or "porch piracy" with a vibrant, branded interior to maximize the consumer experience once they receive and open the package. Unboxing videos accompanied the package so conference attendees could see real customer reviews and reactions to the package and its contents. Printing on both sides of boxes to support transit and consumer experience should increase ink usage and spell good news to our customers in the ink and coating formulation business.

Focus on Freshness

The Pack Expo conference focuses on packages big and small, from the chemical totes and pallets that many in BASF would recognize to the snack bags that we as consumers have come to know and love. A presentation from the Snack Food Industry Group, SNAC, outlined some of the interesting trends impacting the consumer snacking segment. According to SNAC, 92 percent of consumers have replaced a meal with a snack, and 7 percent of consumers now do not eat traditional meals at all. The fastest growing categories of snacks — pork rinds, meat snacks, nuts and fruit chips, among others — are driven by recent consumer trends towards low carb, high protein diets and a focus on fresh, natural foods. The ability to open and then re-seal a package has grown in importance to a consumer, who are now seeking out ways to purchase fresh snacks, and to keep those snacks fresh. Moisture-Vapor (MVTR) barriers are going to become more necessary, and need to be more versatile, in order to enable brand owners to keep their commitment to these natural food-focused consumers.

Thanks for coming along for the ride. Viva Las Vegas!

— Simon

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