Last month, Chicago welcomed over 45,000 visitors to the four-day PACK EXPO International 2018 trade show.
November 21, 2018
For a few days last month, Chicago’s majestic McCormick Place Convention Center near the southern edge of the city’s downtown turned into the Mecca of the North American packaging industry—welcoming over 45,000 visitors to the four-day PACK EXPO International 2018 trade show.
Held nearly a full month ahead of its traditional early to mid-November time-frame, the biennial event provided plenty of credibility to the show’s long-established status as North America’s biggest packaging event with a virtually endless display of live operating machinery—spread over 1.25 million square feet of combined exhibit space—filling the air with happy constant hum of highly automated equipment handling a broad assortment of packaging products fed continuously onto its infeed conveyors by many of the show’s 2,500 buoyant exhibitors.
With the U.S. economy currently growing in leaps and bounds, the show’s collective display of upbeat enthusiasm served as a perfect backdrop for the event’s producer PMMI-The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies to deliver a fittingly optimistic assessment of the packaging industry’s current state of health.
In his first-day welcome to the attending media, PMMI vice-president of market development Jorge Izquierdo was all smiles in relating that the U.S. market for packaging grew at a record-setting pace in 2017 to surpass the US$10-billion benchmark for the first time in history.
“Eighty per cent of that spending on packaging machinery and supplies came from U.S. manufacturers,” Izquierdo pointed out, adding that the manufacturers surveyed for PMMI’s recent state-of-the-industry report expects the bullish growth to continue for the next five years.
According to PMMI’s recently released Global Tends Impacting the Markets for Packaging Machinery study, current global megatrends of rapid population growth, a thriving middle class, higher consumer spending in the developing world, and heightened concerns over sustainability all point to sustained robust market demand for packaging machinery across Asia Pacific, EMA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and the Americas regions.
Coupled with growing demand for flexible packaging, primarily pouches, and so-called ‘smart packaging’ add-ons such as QR (quick response) codes and augmented reality, the PMMI report forecasts the global market for packaging machinery to grow from US$36.8 billion in 2016 to US$42.2 billion by 2012—representing CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 2.8 per cent.
By machinery segment, PMMI is predicting the fastest growth for horizontal form/fill/seal (HFFS) machines (3.2 per cent), fill and seal systems (3.1 per cent), and labeling, decorating and coding technologies (3.0 per cent).
As in the past, the food industry sector remains the largest market for packaging machinery manufactures at 40 per cent and the beverage industry the second-largest at 30 per cent, but the pharmaceutical market is expected to be the fastest-growing end market for packaging equipment in that time with a CAGR of 4.1 per cent—driven by strong demand for new serialization solutions to combat the proliferation of fake medicines.
According to PMMI’s director of business intelligence Paula Feldman, a lot of that anticipated growth can also be traced directly to the unfolding boom in e-commerce and online shopping, which will present CPG
(consumer packaged goods) manufacturers and brand-owners with a whole new set of packaging challenges to resolve with next-generation packaging technologies.
“There is a lot of growth in the whole logistics market based around the need to package and track the product as it makes its way through this new retail channel,” Feldman stated.
“There is also a keen focus on developing so-called ‘frustration-free’ packaging, minimizing the packaging, right-sizing the box, and thinking of all those other things that will impact consumers directly at home, rather than at a retail outlet,” Feldman reasoned.
“This is really going to be a challenge for the CPG companies, who will need to be fast, efficient, integrated and profitable,” said Feldman, noting that the leading e-commerce colossus Amazon is already urging many of it retail vendors to rethink their current ‘box within a box’ packaging mindset.
With the grocery industry slowly migrating to the e-commerce channels, Feldman says the current e-commerce market in North America, estimated at about US$4 billion, has the potential to grow many time over to reach over $600 billion by 2020, if all the pieces fall into place just right.
“In this environment, the CPGs have to think of their packages as units rather than cases, whereby packaging engineers will have to think about packaging that will have to cross two different channels,” Feldman said.