Canadian Packaging

Industry Displays Remarkable Resilience with Real Live Trade Show

George Guidoni   

Good news has been a preciously rare commodity over the last 20 months or so of living with the dreaded global coronavirus contagion and all its devastating fallouts, so maybe it’s time to celebrate whatever silver linings we can glimpse at right now to acknowledge the impressive resilience and relevance of the global packaging industry we all serve in so many different ways.

And there are few organizations out there serving with the remarkable passion, competence and optimism that the venerable PMMI, The Packaging Association for Packaging and Processing Machinery does with resounding aplomb.

At a time when large industry gatherings are still a speculative touch-and-go endeavors for many industries eager to get back to business at full speed ahead, the highly successful PACK EXPO Las Vegas international packaging exhibition at the Las Vegas Convention Center in late September offered a reassuring reminder of the critical role that the packaging sector plays in our economy and society.

According to PMMI, more than 23,000 visitors passed through the 1,500-plus exhibits during the three-day-event, making it the largest trade show in the U.S. of any kind this year so far.


Giving the background context, it is hardly an exaggeration to call it “perhaps the most important PACK EXPO Las Vegas and Healthcare Packaging EXPO in its history,” as PMMI does in its post-show press release, citing rave reviews from top exhibiting companies about the extraordinary levels of interest in their displays, including spontaneous bidding wars for their show-floor equipment.

“Exhibitors and attendees alike were energized by the number of people who attended and, more importantly, the business conducted from the moment we opened the doors,” says PMMI president and chief executive officer Jim Pittas, suggesting such displays of pent-up demand for state-of-the-art packaging solutions are only a tip of the iceberg.

According to the State of the Industry U.S. Packaging Machinery Report released by PMMI at the show, 2020 turned out to be a record year for the North American packaging machinery manufacturers, with the total size of the market in the U.S. soaring by 14.4 per cent Industry displays remarkable resilience with real live trade show visitors to the PACK EXPO Las Vegas packaging exhibition in late September to US$12.3 billion, and domestic shipments up 14.7 per cent to US$9.4 billion.

As the PMMI report cheerfully forecasts, U.S. packaging machinery shipments are poised to grow by an average of 5.2 per cent to reach $12.8 billion in 2026, with food, beverage, household/industrial/agricultural chemicals, and pharmaceutical sectors accounting for the lion’s share as usual.

For all that, a rising tide is no guarantee for the lifting of all boats. Ultimately, it is the individual companies who will determine their own fates, which will be defined by how well they come to grips with the prevailing industry trends highlighted in the PMMI report, including:

Population growth in the U.S. has slowed to 0.35 per cent in 2020, while millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest population group and proportion of the U.S workforce. “Product preferences, and subsequently packaging solutions, between these two generations vary significantly, supporting demand for new and flexible machinery,” PMMI states.

As a result of growing attention to the depletion of natural resources, social, regulatory, and tax pressures are driving increased demand for environmentally friendly solutions.

“As recovery from the COVID-19 recession is completed, the global economy is moving into the sweet spot of the current expansion,” PMMI states. “As vaccination rates increase and pandemic-related restrictions are lifted, consumer spending is surging.”

Look for machine vision and robotics, especially collaborative robots, to become new hot sought-after capabilities in packaging machinery.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will continue to have an impact across the product life-cycle in the packaging industry including design, operation, maintenance, and the supply chain.

It’s here, it’s everywhere, and it will remain at the core of packaging’s New Normal.


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