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Packagers predict future trends

Consolidation/globalization, the shift to flexibles and system speed/automation top a list of emerging trends cited by packagers, according to new PMMI research.
FILED IN:  Machinery  > Filling/sealing  > Capping

Packaging professionals in food beverage pharmaceutical medical and other industries believe that consolidation and globalization the shift to flexibles and system speed/automation are the factors that will lead packaging into the next millenium. However the trends cited by food and beverage packagers differ markedly from their peers in the pharmaceutical and medical products industries.

Such trends were revealed in a mail survey conducted earlier this year by the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (Arlington VA). More than 150 packagers participated representing a 73/4% response rate. Suppliers were surveyed too and their response rate was much higher but those results aren't discussed here.

Consolidation ranks first

In one of the most telling questions packagers were asked to select one from a list of 10 trends that they believe will have the greatest impact on packaging in the coming years. The most popular answer: Consolidation/globalization. More specifically the survey says: "Mergers and acquisitions will continue to change end-user and supplier communities. As growth in established markets (U.S. European and Japanese) slows suppliers will increasingly look for growth in emerging international markets." No doubt packagers themselves will look for growth in emerging markets for the very same reasons probably explaining why this trend came in first place with 20% of the vote.

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Another top trend picked by packagers was system speed/automation defined by the survey this way: "Packaging line speed and improved controls will enable packagers to better control production operations. Speed combined with system flexibility will be the principal drivers of machinery purchases."

There are two parts to this trend: first packagers that have already automated their packaging lines are increasingly interested in finding out how controls technologies can further boost line efficiencies. Second the flexibility to handle package proliferation means fast-changeover equipment. A quick-changeover initiative at Pharmacia & Upjohn was covered last month (see PW July '98 p. 48). Quick change- over was also cited as the number one item on packagers' "wish list" in a recent story on the future of packaging equipment and materials (see PW June '98 p. 20).

A third top trend forecasted by packagers is the growth in integrated systems. According to the survey that means "Single-function machines will face growing competition from integrated systems engineered to handle more than one function (for example filling capping and labeling). Monoblock designs will in some cases evolve into total system designs."

Food/beverage differs

For food and beverage packagers the shift to flexible packaging and increased use of plastic packaging were among the top three trends cited. Packagers in cosmetics and toiletries also cited the shift to flexible packaging as a dominant trend.

The trends towards flexibles and plastics are corroborated by stories Packaging World has published on developments in these two areas. (For recent stories on packager's strategies for flexibles see PW June '98 p. 27 & 40. For statistics documenting the ongoing growth of plastic packaging see this issuep.4; PW Oct. '97 p. 8; and PW Sep. '97 p. 2.)


Pharmaceutical and medical device packagers by contrast rank the emergence of "smart" labels among the top three forces that will influence their future packaging. The survey says "smart" labels will "provide protection against tampering and counterfeiting and will interact with advanced scanning technology." Presumably those attributes are especially attractive for packaging of high-value pharmaceutical and medical device products.

Details on the survey including detailed statistics on responses from the soap/household chemical industries and cosmetics/toiletries fields plus the responses of suppliers that were also surveyed are available on PMMI's web site.

PMMI has another web site that provides information on the upcoming Pack Expo 98 show held Nov. 8-12 in Chicago's McCormick Place. Site visitors can register on-line search a list of exhibitors and access general show information.

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