The annual Packaging Innovations event was held recently at the NEC in Birmingham. What relevance does this show have for the narrow web market?
Packaging Innovations 2014, the ninth in the series, is an exhibition that has always puzzled me. I’m never quite sure who should be exhibiting and who should be visiting because, more than other shows I know, it is an eclectic mix of suppliers and their customers, all sharing floorspace in the same hall. Essentially a ’catch-all’ opportunity for the packaging industry, the expo includes sub divisions ‘Contract Pack’, ‘Ecopack’, Packtech’, and the most relevant for NarrowWebTech readers, ‘Printing, Converting & Labelling Innovations’. This year’s event attracted over 6000 visitors, an 18% increase on last year’s number, and registrations included buyers from GlaxoSmithKline, Heineken, Britvic, Danone, Asda, and P&G.
With 366 exhibitors, the expo is made up of small information stands, with the occasional machine, of suitable size, running live demonstrations. But, from speaking with many of the exhibitors, the major appeal of the event is the networking opportunities it affords. Shuttleworth, one of the industry’s leading manufacturers of MIS technology, openly stated that its stand served as a useful base from which to tour the isles and rub shoulders with both existing and potential converting customers, and significantly, the brand owning end users. Esko also said that Packaging Innovations provided a perfect opportunity to meet some of the medium and smaller brand owners, while the larger shows like Interpack, they claim, tend to be dominated by visitors from the major brands, while Intec Printing Solutions said they found it encouraging to see the high level of interest and demand from the label sector of packaging.
This point was taken up by Hewlett Packard (HP), which had one of the larger stands in Birmingham, and exhibited multiple samples of the printed packaging it has produced on its digital liquid toner presses, while Xeikon (dry toner), and several ink jet manufacturers, including Durst and Fujifilm were to be seen alongside a number of their converting customers from small label printers to large packaging groups. HP and Amberley Adhesive Labels combined to promote the benefits of digital technology for strong branding, claiming that the trend towards shorter run lengths, JIT delivery, and smaller inventories all played into the hands of digital, and provided brand owners with more leverage through extended marketing initiatives.
Aside from the exhibitors, useful elements at the Packaging Innovations events are the ‘Learn Shops’. These short and pertinent presentations, held in small open theatre-style areas, covered a range of topics that included: industry trends for both packaging and converting technology; how retail innovations are changing demand; how the supply chain works for Tesco; matching packaging design to press capability; producing peel & reseal labels on a digital press; and the latest in digital finishing. In addition, there was a forum that discussed the ‘future of flexo’, and industry doyen Mike Fairley spoke about the developments in print technology and the marketing opportunities they offer. The flexo debate highlighted the fight-back the technology is making against digital, and the need for better training within the sector to allow converters to maximise productivity on the latest generation of high-output flexo presses.