New Trends in Packaging Spotted at PACK EXPO 21

PACK EXPO 2021, billed as “world’s most comprehensive packaging and processing event,” recently came to a close in Las Vegas, NV. Over 23,000 registered attendees met between September 27th – 29th, where they had the opportunity to meet over 1,500 exhibitors and take part in educational seminars and networking opportunities. We at Apex Filling Systems took the opportunity to meet with attendees and colleagues, demonstrate our equipment, answer questions, and hear about new trends and innovations that may affect our customers. If you weren’t able to make it to the show this year, here are a few of the many topics that came up.

The Packaging Industry is Expected to Grow

Industry research conducted by PACK EXPO host PMMI (The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies) confirms that throughout 2020, the packaging industry confronted many challenges as well as high demand brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Demand for domestic shipments in the U.S. jumped by 14.7%, right when operational and labor disruptions slowed production down. Jorge Izquierdo, the vice president of market development at PMMI, anticipates that the industry can still expect “aggressive growth,” and cited research showing that the top operational priorities for manufacturers this year are workforce, automation, productivity, growth and supply chain.

The Pandemic Still Impacts Production and Consumer Behavior
    • Manufacturers are streamlining their offerings. In response to disrupted supply lines, many manufacturers are reducing their offerings in order to focus on a core line of products. Focusing on fewer products reduces the odds that the lack of a single key ingredient will halt production.
    • A higher percentage of packaging is going directly to consumers at their homes. Compared to pre-pandemic years, people are still staying at home more while working, dining and shopping. Manufacturers need to be prepared to continue to offer a larger percentage of their products in direct-to-consumer, e-commerce friendly packaging.
    • Consumers are thinking about the cleanliness of their food and beverage packaging. Research by PMMI is showing two growing areas of concern from consumers: first that the products they buy have been produced to the highest hygienic standards; and second, that the surfaces of beverage packaging that they touch directly with their lips stay clean. Fully enclosed consumption surfaces are currently more attractive than surfaces directly exposed to the open air, although it still remains to be seen whether or not this concern lasts beyond the pandemic.
Many Consumers Want Less Plastic

A pre-event report cited concern about the use of plastic to be one of the major trends of the past year. Over 45% of consumers say they have a better opinion about companies that use little or no plastic in their packaging, and 80% globally say they want feedback and transparency from companies about sustainability and other issues.

Show organizers noticed that companies have been responding to these consumer concerns in different ways, and many manufacturers highlighted their new packaging in press releases, especially those featuring personal products, food and beverages, and household cleaners. Fortunately, many of these developments center on innovation in the chemical composition of the containers, allowing the filling process to be handled in the same way with the same equipment. Some examples highlighted in the report included:

Flexible packaging. In many respects, flexible packaging is the most environmentally sustainable form of packaging, saving vast amounts of carbon in the transport and production of containers. However, one significant downside is that the containers are usually not recyclable after use due to the multi-layer structure of oxygen- and moisture-resistant barriers. Nestlé is addressing this last stage of consumer use with a paper-based fiber structure that reportedly behaves like traditional flexible packaging and can be used with the same machines.

Aluminum replacing plastic for personal care products. A new trend in personal care products – including hand soap, hand sanitizer, shampoo and conditioner – is to replace traditional high-density polyethylene or PET bottles with aluminum containers. These new containers are touted as being more easily recyclable. The brands embracing aluminum are usually part of the smaller, niche markets that also target consumers seeking organic, vegan and cruelty-free products, where the higher cost of the aluminum will be less of a deterrent.

Reduced plastic in standard-sized bottles. GSK Consumer Healthcare introduced a new formulation for its Advil packaging that requires 20% less plastic but is still recyclable. Other companies have reduced the plastic in containers by redesigning caps, making the container walls thinner, and reducing the size of their labels.

Let Apex Filling Systems Help You

No matter what new trends are happening in the industry, at Apex Filling Systems we are concerned with being partners in the success of our customers, well past the point of sale. Call us at 219-575-7493 or visit our page here to discuss how we can help you.

Sammi is an employee of Apex Filling Systems. She serves as an executive assistant to help deliver functional, efficient, and affordable filling solutions to Apex's customers.