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Pack Expo vibe was palpably positive

Exhibitors and attendees are betting on economic recovery—that’s the message that came through consistently at Pack Expo Las Vegas.
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 Consumer goods companies expressed confidence in the future of the economy last week by turning out for Pack Expo Las Vegas in near-record levels, reports leading packaging and processing trade association PMMI (www.pmmi.org), which produces and sponsors the Pack Expo trade shows. The attendees were in search of packaging and processing innovations, and were not disappointed.

“We’ve attended Pack Expo for several years and this is one of the best shows we have been to. Our goal every show is to find innovative packaging machinery to help us improve our operations—and that is definitely what we are finding,” says Tom Bert, Plant Manager, Seneca Foods. “We are also very interested in the expansion of the show next year when it will include processing equipment. For attendees like myself, it’s invaluable to see packaging and processing solutions in the same place.”

Pack Expo Las Vegas, at the Las Vegas Convention Center October 5–7, 2009, attracted 22,721 packaging and processing professionals, making it the second-largest Pack Expo Las Vegas since PMMI launched the show in 1995.

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“Given the economy this year, we are extremely pleased with the turnout,” says Charles D. Yuska, president and CEO of PMMI. “Trade shows mirror the industries they serve, and the strong attendance may indicate an economic recovery as consumer goods companies leverage the show for their capital equipment investments and packaging innovation efforts.”

“This Pack Expo was great. We had traffic in and out of our booth all day—much more than expected. So much so that we were able to close the deal on two pieces of machinery," notes Wesley Carpenter, marketing manager, Loveshaw. "What really pleased us was the quality of the leads. We saw qualified buyers ready to do business."

Adding Value to Vegas

Enhancing the value of Pack Expo Las Vegas 2009 was an important factor in its success, Yuska notes, and to create that additional value, PMMI worked closely with several leading associations and consumer packaged goods companies (CPGs). The results included collocated events, special show features, and the Innovation Discovery program, all of which gave attendees more networking, business and educational opportunities on site:

• The Innovation Discovery program provided eight leading CPGs with trends and market data.

• The International Bottled Water Association presented its 2009 Convention and Tabletop Trade Show in Las Vegas in conjunction with Pack Expo.

• The Association of Independent Corrugated Converters (AICC) scheduled its Annual Meeting in Las Vegas to coincide with Pack Expo.

• AICC also displayed its 14th International Package Design Competition entries in the Brand Zone.

• The Reusable Packaging Association held its Annual Meeting and organized an educational track for the Conference at Pack Expo.

• The DistriPak Pavilion, sponsored by the NPTA Alliance (formerly the National Paper Trade Association), debuted.

• The Grocery Manufacturers’ Association (GMA) used Pack Expo to launch its Upstream Initiative.

• The Showcase of Packaging Innovations™, sponsored by The Dow Chemical Company, featured award winning packages from15 leading organizations.

• The Association Pavilion was home to 16 packaging groups, and the Education & Workforce Development Pavilion included representatives from 15 packaging education programs.

“Partnering with these organizations gave attendees a fuller experience that included a broad array of packaging and processing solutions, plus educational and networking activities focused specifically on their areas of interest,” adds Yuska. In addition, the Food Processing Suppliers Association’s (FPSA) Process Expo and Converting and Package Printing Expo (CPP EXPO) were co-located with Pack Expo Las Vegas. Together, the three shows featured 1,523 exhibitors and 656,692 net square feet of space. Within those figures, Process Expo contributed 306 exhibitors and 116,000 net square feet, while CPP Expo added 77 exhibitors and 19,545 net square feet.

Focus on Branding

In addition to 160 containers and materials suppliers, the 59,592 net square foot Brand Zone housed the Showcase of Packaging Innovation™, sponsored by The Dow Chemical Company, and Pack Expo Selects.

“With the Brand Zone, Pack Expo gave brand managers a place to go to find the latest solutions for meeting customer demands for convenience, portability, recyclability and portion control and access to all the technologies necessary to make those ideas a reality,” Yuska says.

But that was just the beginning, he adds: “No medium more effectively communicates a brand to the consumer than the package, and the Brand Zone was the place to start for the brand managers who wanted to find ideas, materials and containers to accomplish their goals. In addition to its exhibitors, it was home to award-winning packages from around the world. An attendee could find an idea, learn what he needed to produce it, and source all the components at Pack Expo.”

Branding was also featured in the Conference at Pack Expo line up—in its own track and in all three keynote addresses. Keynote speakers Doug Palmer, vice president, Own Brands, The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P); Andrew Abraham, vice president, Our Own Brands, SUPERVALU; Steve Ryder, store design and planning director, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market; and Kevin O’Donnell, founder, thread collaborative, each covered facets of the connections between branding, packaging and the growth of the private label market.

"Pack Expo is a great place to find the latest advancements in packaging materials, containers, machinery—everything we need to enhance the packaging for our private label brand," said Chet Rutledge, director Packaging Procurement Private Brands, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. "This year has proved especially beneficial as we got to hear from our industry peers, helping us understand how the retail landscape is growing and how packaging can help continue that trend.”

Sustainability: A Market Driver

Sustainability—which has rapidly evolved from trend to market driver—was another area of attention for Pack Expo. More than 200 exhibitors displayed the Pack Expo Green icon on site and in their Packexpo.com listing, letting attendees know at a glance that their companies offer a sustainability-related solution.

Also on the show floor, the Sustainability Information Center brought in representatives from government agencies, non-government organizations, universities and sustainability consultants, offering guidance on conservation and replenishment strategies, plus tactics and techniques for the processing and packaging supply chains.

“Implementing sustainability-enhancing tools and practices can be complicated, so it’s essential to be armed with as many facts as possible. The Sustainability Information Center brought together a variety of experts with the facts attendees need to meet current requirements and plan for the future,” Yuska says.

In addition to the large number of exhibiting companies showcasing sustainability-oriented solutions, the Conference at Pack Expo supported the topic with two separate tracks—“Sustainability” and “Sustainable Operations”—totaling 32 sessions focused on aspects of sustainable packaging ranging from materials to lean operations.

Students Gain Experience & Support

PMMI U, the umbrella for PMMI’s education efforts, supported packaging education with travel scholarships to 245 students and the inaugural Student Design Contest.

The Student Design Contest gave students from PMMI partner schools a real-life packaging equipment assignment: Students were asked to propose a palletizing solution based on specs provided in a “request for quote” (RFQ). Participating teams came from four schools: Clemson University, Dunwoody College of Technology, Purdue University at Calumet, and Rutgers University.

Students began their research at Packexpo.com, and continued it on site at Pack Expo, where they met with exhibitors and presented their proposals to a five-person judging panel.

First place, $4,000 in scholarship funds, went to the team from Purdue; second-place Rutgers received $2,000 in scholarship funds. Prizes were funded by the PMMI Education & Training Foundation.

The Foundation raised funds for future scholarships with the biennial Pack Expo Golf Tournament. The tournament attracted 175 golfers and raised about $25,000.

“The mood in the halls and the focus of the attendees were definitely positive,” Yuska says. "Predictions for the economy in 2010 may point to slow recovery, but Pack Expo Las Vegas clearly conveyed a sense of optimism about the future."

Pack Expo International 2010 Expands

Although Pack Expo Las Vegas is less than a week past, PMMI is well into planning the expanded Pack Expo International 2010 (October 31–November 3, McCormick Place, Chicago). 2010 will mark the first time processing solutions are included throughout the halls; the launch of the 50,000 net square foot “Processing Zone,” the Confectionery Pavilion, sponsored by the National Confectioners Association, and the Brand Zone’s Chicago debut.

“Pack Expo International 2010 will be a great show—and the largest packaging and processing event in the world next year,” says Yuska. “PMMI will continue to explore new ways to increase the value of being there so attendees get the most from their Pack Expo experience.”

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