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Global packaging technologies showcase set for a triumphant return to help industry reset its course for a prosperous and sustainable future

After a six-year break due to the coronavirus pandemic, the world’s largest trade show for the packaging and related process industries is back on again, and getting closer with each passing day.

From May 4 to May 10, 2023, interpack will once again become a business platform and future technology workshop in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Already fully booked and sold out of exhibit space, interpack 2023 will occupy 18 halls and feature targeted exhibition areas, new special shows and numerous many informative forums to demonstrate the industry’s innovative strength and resilience.

According to show organizers Messe Düsseldorf GmbH, the upcoming interpack edition will feature over 2,700 exhibitors from around the world displaying a vast wealth of processes and machinery for the packaging of food and beverages, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, confectionery, bakery products, consumer goods (non-food) and industrial goods, including new-generation machinery for labeling, marking, packaging production and integrated packaging printing, among many others.

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As the world’s leading international trade fair for the packaging sector and related processing industries, interpack traditionally attracts over 170,500 visitors from around the globe with a comprehensive platform for complete value chains, including processes and machinery for packaging and processing of packaged goods, along with packaging materials, packaging containers, packaging manufacturing, and packaging-industry services and supplies.

“Interpack is the place where the industry creates the future on a global level,” states interpack 2023 project director Thomas Dohse.

“Conditions like scarcity of resources and disrupted supply chains pose great challenges to the industry,” Dhose says, “while factors such as increasing demand, new technology, and a growing awareness of sustainability offer tremendous opportunities to take huge strides forward.”

According to VDMA (Food Processing and Packaging Machinery Association), which represents over 3,500 European-based mechanical engineering companies, the global demand for machinery and equipment for the production, processing and packaging of food, beverages, and pharmaceutical and cosmetic products is on a growth trajectory despite difficult underlying conditions.

After declining by seven per cent to about $56.5 billion in 2020 due to the global coronavirus pandemic, international trade in food processing and packaging machinery picked up again significantly in 2021.

According to preliminary data, global trade in these segments reached $60.7 billion in 2021—growing by six per cent and nearly returning to the pre-pandemic crisis levels.

With an average export ratio of 84 per cent and a share of world trade volume of 21 per cent in 2021, German manufacturers of food processing and packaging machinery continue to lead the world market. German exports increased by almost five per cent in 2021 to just over $11 billion, with Italy’s shipments also growing by eight per cent to about $12.2 billion.

In contrast, China, Holland, U.S., Switzerland, France, Japan, Spain and Canada follow at a considerable distance, with their respective shares of the market ranging between ten and two per cent.

During 2021, about 43 per cent of the food processing and packaging machinery shipped worldwide went to Europe, with Asia and North America following with 19 per cent each; Latin America with seven per cent; Africa at six per cent, Middle East with four per cent; and the Australia/Oceania region with two per cent.

As VDMA points out, growing populations worldwide, increasing urbanization and rising prosperity continue to drive demand for packaged food.

The global food industry is facing major challenges: there is cutthroat competition and a battle for markets and consumers.

High energy costs and fluctuating raw material prices influence production costs and put pressure on margins.

In addition, there are increasing demands for sustainable production. Producing quality products and increasing productivity, while and at the same time reducing costs and producing sustainably, is undoubtedly a complex challenge requiring plenty of both creativity and efficiency.

This challenge can ultimately be resolved with technology and digitization, requiring technology providers to provide secure, efficient and future-proof solutions.

As everyone knows, Circular Economy and resource management have emerged as top issues in the global food and packaging industry.

The aim of the Circular Economy is not to dispose of the various materials as waste at the end of their useful or service life, but to reuse them as high-quality materials through intelligent processes.

With their potential for saving energy, conserve resources and protecting the environment, sustainable solutions and materials are in demand for packaging.

One of the most common approaches to sustainable packaging is using less packaging material.

Reduced wall thicknesses, lower film thicknesses, optimized shaping, and new processing techniques mean that packaging is becoming lighter and lighter, with the same or better packaging performance and stability.

Another key component of the Circular Economy is packaging that is easy to recycle, whereby plastic packaging made from monomaterials—instead of multilayer composites—can be easily sorted and returned into the loop.

Packaging made from renewable raw materials is also increasingly in demand. One of the trendy materials is paper, while bio-based plastics are showing a lot of promise as an alternative to classic plastic packaging.

More recently, the so-called ‘Design for Recycling’ trend, whereby packaging design is geared towards recycling, is an important factor in increasing the recycling rate, especially for plastic packaging.

However, changing packaging design is only one part in terms of sustainability.

For many poorer countries with inadequate or no collection and recycling programs, a corresponding infrastructure must be expanded or built up and an incentive for the recycling created there.

Companies today are continually faced with the challenge of acting sustainably and responsibly—making optimum use of scarce resources and, at the same time, increasing efficiency in production.

The key word here is resource management.

The production and processing of food is very energy-intensive activity that consumes vast quantities of water—both for the process itself and for cleaning. This calls for implementation of innovative processes that save energy and reduce water consumption.

Intelligent control and automation technology, energy-efficient drives, compressors, fans or pumps are among the classic solutions for saving electricity and operating resources and increasing energy efficiency.

More promising, however, are optimized processes and design changes that affect the process.

Mechanical engineering offers numerous solutions that help to use or save energy, water and raw materials efficiently for sustainable production and packaging.

Closed-loop systems, for example, can reduce emissions to almost zero and optimized material cycles can avoid wasting raw materials and resources.

Likewise, digital technologies and the use of data are important drivers in the food, pharmaceutical and packaging industries—offering new opportunities to design production processes, generate data to optimize existing processes, track business performance in real time to increase overall plant efficiency; optimize the use of resources; make machine utilization more flexible; and lower production, maintenance and repair costs.

While data is often called the ‘new gold,’ it is worthless taken on its own.

Its real value is derived from the algorithms that analyze the data generated by machines, systems and employees to identify weak points or optimization potential in machines, systems or processes.

Quality and energy management, resource planning, product development and service capabilities will all benefit from Big Data, which also plays a central role in the concept of the Digital Twin concept, where it can be used to bring products, machines and systems to market faster, to commission machines virtually, and to test new packaging developments virtually on the “real” machine in advance.

For many obvious reasons, safe and hygienic production is also a top priority in the food and pharmaceutical industries.

To manufacture products safely and hygienically and to meet the sometimes high international standards and guidelines, machines in hygienic design are a matter of course, and they are constantly being optimized.

Residue-free cleaning of machines and systems is one of the basic pre-requisites for meeting the hygiene and safety requirements for food and pharmaceutical products, while CIP (clean-in-place) are very much in vogue.

They ensure defined and time-optimized cleaning processes with the lowest possible use of resources such as water, energy, and cleaning and disinfection agents, while being constantly developed further to avoid oversized cleaning processes and, at the same time, ensure maximum safety.

For its part, intelligent packaging makes a significant contribution to reducing food losses by monitor environmental conditions to which the food is exposed, record them, and provide direct information on the quality status of the product.

Additional safety is provided by control and inspection measures, while highly efficient, computer-aided track-and-trace systems ensure that products can be traced seamlessly along the entire value chain, thus providing transparency.

They also uncover weak points in the logistics chain, using real-time radio technology to provides information on the exact location and routes of the goods—right down to any interruptions in the cold chain—making possible to organize trade routes more efficiently and save costs.

For more information on interpack 2023, including visitor registration, please go to: www.interpack.com or www.mdna.com

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