Headline NEC show grows focus to include new sector

The UK’s leading event for packaging manufacturers and pack printers returns to the NEC in Birmingham at the end of this month for its 14th annual outing, and as its name suggests, ‘innovation’ is very much the focus.

As ever, the show has attracted some big-name brands and manufacturers, including Coca-Cola, Domino Printing, Marks & Spencer, RPC and Charpak, many of whom will be sharing their experiences and expertise through the show’s seminar programme and via the event’s latest innovation, a series of themed forums. These will enable attendees from the different sectors to discuss the issues that are particularly relevant to them. 

Easyfairs’ Packaging Portfolio director James Drake-Brockman says: “Each forum has been tailored for a specific industry, providing packaging professionals with detailed advice, inspiration, and insight into the latest concepts from within their sector. From the plastics in packaging issue and sustainability through to technology and designing eye-catching packaging, all the key issues a packaging buyer faces will be covered.”

These forums are broken down into Drinks, where brand standout and new product development will be debated; Food, for which the environment remains the hot topic; Pharma, in which personalisation and cost-effective delivery are big concerns; Beauty, where smart packaging and consumer trust will be debated; Ecommerce, which will analyse how this growing sector is impacting manufacturers; and Retail, which will address the challenges in planning for the future of this market.

“We’re thrilled to have so many speakers on board this year and I can’t wait to see what the reaction to the Forums is once the doors open,” Drake-Brockman adds.

The packaging market continues to go from strength to strength, in spite of – and, in part, because of – growing concerns about the deteriorating health of the planet. 

It has been impossible to ignore the clamour associated with images of rivers clogged with plastic and the suffering of wildlife, nor would anyone want to – printers will be well aware of the pressures that are being heaped on them to perform more sustainably and have in many cases responded admirably. 

The industry’s manufacturers are also constantly revamping their product lines to make their machinery more efficient, less wasteful and less energy intensive in order to reduce the impact on the environment.

Some of the UK’s retailers have set some pretty ambitious targets for themselves, when it comes to the environment, notably Iceland’s pledge to go plastic-free by 2023 and a more recent commitment to reduce own-brand plastic packaging. 

Likewise, today’s packaging manufacturers, 300-plus of which will be hosting stands in Halls 9 and 10 at the NEC, are changing the way they work in order to create products that are part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. 

The theme will be explored on the forum stages, with Iceland’s own label & packaging manager Ian Schofield outlining the company’s commitment to remove all plastic from its own-label product packaging one-year on from its initial pledge.

Iceland’s fight against single-use plastic has been dominating the recent news agenda, with the company revealing that its successful bottle deposit scheme has led to 311,500 plastic bottles being recycled.

Similarly, at the show, Macpac will be launching Breakdown PET, a brand new product that the company says meet the ‘holy grail’ demands of sustainability by being both fully recyclable and biodegradable.

Italian plastics manufacturer Scandolara will unveil Pure Green, a new material made from sugar cane, as well as showcasing Green Heart, a co-extruded plastic tube product that uses 40% recycled PET.

Ampacet will be displaying FauxFoil, which it describes as a sustainable alternative to the conventional aluminium foils and other metallised films used in flexible packs. The Luxembourg-based manufacturer says FauxFoil provides the same high reflective silver appearance, with the high gloss and shine of traditional foils and has similar light blocking attributes. However, it has a smaller carbon footprint and is easier to recycle, according to the company.

Environmental concerns underpin so many developing areas of the packaging industry that it’s difficult to get away from them, but there will be plenty of other topics being discussed, some of which will be new to this event as the Packaging Innovations family has grown with the addition of Industrial Pack, a dedicated expo for industrial, transit and protective packaging, which has a dedicated area at Packaging Innovations for the first time. 

According to the show organisers, the protective and transit sectors of the packaging industry will account for a spend of something like £3.7bn over the next 12 months. The Industrial Pack zone will host a range of global players in this market, many of whom will be using the show to launch new products and services to the UK market. 

Drake-Brockman says: “The industrial packaging sector is a huge part of the supply chain, and a sector that we have seen huge growth in interest in at our event. As such, it is a natural extension of our offering to bring Industrial Pack to the show. This, along with a host of other exciting new show features, will ensure that we are able to deliver more packaging solutions than ever to our visitors.”

The sectoral shows that fall under the wider Packaging Innovations umbrella now total six. Alongside the title event are Contract Pack, which focuses on outsourced manufacturing, packing, fulfilment and logistics; Ecopack, which looks at the future of sustainable solutions for packaging; Empack, focusing on packaging technology, equipment and machinery; Label&Print, for packaging printing, labelling and converting businesses; and the newest arrival Industrial Pack.

The growth of the e-commerce market continues to have an impact on the contract packaging sector. Rodney Steel, chief executive of the British Contract Manufacturers and Packers Association (BCMPA), which supports the Contract Pack zone, explains that demands on his members now extend far beyond “just sticking gifts in a box and applying a barcode”.

He says: “These days, the industry embraces a wide range of services including new product development, formulation and pack and graphic design. Contract packing could just as easily be described as third-party outsourcing.”

Interestingly, this is one sector that is seeing a benefit from Brexit uncertainty, as businesses delay making decisions about equipment investments until the future looks more settled.

In the food sector, banana brand Chiquita has been working to find ways to engage younger consumers with a product in a static category. This has led it to partner with audio and visual recognition app Shazam, in an initiative intended to promote the company’s sustainability efforts. Consumers who happen to have their smartphone handy can scan a Shazam code on Chiquita’s blue stickers to unlock an augmented reality (AR) experience that virtually peels back the sticker to “immerse viewers in a computer-generated world”. The AR content is made up of the journey of a banana from Chiquita farms in Latin America to the consumer’s home and provides information about Chiquita’s sustainability initiatives and innovations in farm management and logistics. The initiative will be the focus of a talk on the Innovation Stage given by the brand’s global marketing & communication lead, Barbara Galli.

Elsewhere in the show, additional features include the Innovation Showcase, which is intended to shine a light on the real pack innovations that have emerged over the past year. Meanwhile, the Start Up Village is expected to feature some cutting-edge technologies submitted by the future superstars of packaging. And, the Ecopack Challenge returns for another Dragons’ Den style competition, in association with Marks & Spencer. In this contest, a panel of experienced judges assess and pick a solution and supplier for the coveted title of Most Innovative Pack. 

Label&Print will host many of the UK’s leading labelling suppliers, who will be showing off new applications, products and kit. Domino will be highlighting the high-end labels and variable data capabilities of its inkjet systems. Pulse Roll Label Products, meanwhile, will be showing a new multi-layer, multi-lingual self-adhesive label product, printed with its own PurePeel UV flexo peel and read release varnish, developed in co-operation with Skanem. 


When 27-28 February

Where Halls 9 & 10, NEC, Birmingham

Opening times

Wednesday 27 February 10:00-17:00

Thursday 28 February 10:00-16:00

More information bit.ly/pack-innov-2019

Show make-up

Packaging Innovations is in fact a number of packaging shows wrapped up in one handy… well, package. The headline show represents the future of branded and inspirational packaging; Contract Pack for outsourced manufacturing, packing, fulfilment and logistics; Ecopack for sustainable solutions for packaging; Empack focuses on technology and machinery; Label&Print, for packaging printing, labelling and converting businesses; and, new for this year, Industrial Pack, which focuses on the future of industrial transit and protective packaging


Day 1

10:30-11:00 Ecopack Stage

Iceland’s commitment to remove plastics - No turning back! The big update one year on

Speaker: Ian Schofield, own label & packaging manager, Iceland Foods

10:45-11:15 Innovation Stage

Packaging challenges today. Innovation opportunities tomorrow!

The global packaging market is set to keep growing, despite the current headwinds in the world’s economies and uncertain global market conditions. This session will assess the key challenges the packaging professionals are bound to face and how they can be overcome.

Speaker: Theodoros Striftompolas, packaging specialist

11:00-11:30 Packaging News Stage

Global packaging market: innovations to achieve international growth

Neil Farmer of the eponymously named market research consultancy, will look at the latest developments and investments by international packaging companies across a range of sectors. Innovative new packs and initiatives will be assessed including brand launches with added value features. 

Speaker: Neil Farmer, founder & owner, Neil Farmer Associates

14:00-14:45, Industry Forum Stage

The UK Packaging Industry Gender Diversity Debate

Women in Packaging, the initiative for networking, education and recognition of female employees in the UK print and packaging industry, will lead a panel debate on the challenge of gender diversity in the scientific, technical and manufacturing sectors of the UK packaging industry.

Chair: Joanna Stephenson, managing director, PHD Marketing & Strategy & Co-Founder, WIP UK. Panel: Debbie Waldron Hoines, co-founder, WIP UK; Stephen Shortland, managing director, New Vision Packaging; Emma Wise, sales & marketing manager, RPC; Sarah Harriman, marketing & communications manager, Pulse Roll Label Products

Day 2

10:30-11:00 Ecopack Stage

Towards a circular economy: Exploitation of agri-food waste

This session will consider how a circular economy will help reduce the quantity of packaging materials that enter the environment, particularly focused on how large quantities of agri-food waste can be used for sustainable or green packaging materials. 

Speaker: Graham Bonwick, Institute for Agri-Food Research & Innovation, Newcastle University

12:00-12:45 Innovation Stage

Panel session: What can connected packaging offer my brand?

Chair: Paul Jenkins, managing director, ThePackHub

Panelists: Jos Harrison, global design strategy director, RB;
Rob Hollands, managing director, Anthem Worldwide; Martin Stahel, sales director, Zappar; Cameron Worth, founder, SharpEnd

For the full rundown, visit bit.ly/PIseminars


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