Walking the halls of Pack Expo 2015, you certainly wouldn’t know you were in a city that is known as Party Central. For exhibitors and visitors alike, this is a serious industry event and everyone is clearly at Pack Expo to do business. This was the first Las Vegas year for the companion Pharma Expo Show, at which most exhibitors seemed to have noticeably larger stands than in the Pharma Expo’s world debut last year in Chicago.
Together, Pack Expo and Pharma Expo combine to be included in the top 50 of fastest growing trade shows in the world. You couldn’t feel that the Las Vegas show was smaller than last year’s in Chicago, especially when you ran out in the +/- 100 degree Farenheit dry heat to get from one exhibit hall to another. Actually, it was a tad smaller, for example, about 2,000 exhibitors in Las Vegas compared to more than 2,350 in Chicago, but just as important to the exhibitors who find this location a chance to connect more with packagers and brands that are headquartered in the US West.
PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies that hosts Pack Expo, used the occasion to announce their updated 2015 Business Intelligence Report on the Global Packaging Industry. Lumping South Asia together with other Asian nations as the ‘Asia Pacific’ region, PMMI’s report attributes 46% of global packaging volume to the region. That same report though shows that Africa and the Middle East is actually the fastest growing region, with 5.3% projected growth compared to the Asia Pacific region’s 4.3% growth. South Asia may be losing its lustre as the next big opportunity for big name machine manufacturers for this reason. ITW Dynatec’s global marketing manager for packaging, Brittany Ulrich, spoke of their very recent staff additions to target the Middle East and Africa. When asked about top plans for the coming year, the head of Bosch Packaging, Friedbert Klefenz, first talked about Bosch’s strategic growth in four corners of Africa, but later also talked about their aggressive sales targets for their entry level bagger machine that is manufactured exclusively in their Goa facility.
According to the PMMI report released at Pack Expo, worldwide flexible packaging is the industry segment projected for the most growth–whether in South Asia or the mature US market. PET water bottles are the fastest growth markets not only in the Asia Pacific but also in Europe and North America, which PMMI defines as an indicator of growing global consumer interest in health and wellness.
Growing consumer interest in health and wellness did seem to be a driver of some of the more notable BIG IDEA innovations, along with the continuing march towards global standards for food and drug safety. From a US health-conscious consumer perspective Milliken’s additive for a Klear Can that allows use of extant tooling originally created for metal can production, can now eliminate metal cans’ potentially carcinogenic bisphenol-A(BPA) or bisphenol-S(BPS)layers, was a standout. So too was Avery Dennison’s very low-cost temperature monitoring solution for pharma packaging that they hope will be fully commercial in early 2016,which uses Near Field Communications between sensors on cards affixed to pharma packaging and read with a smartphone app, promising to be truly disruptive technology to traditional temperature data loggers and chart recorders. Perhaps, the biggest ideas of all were swimming around Dupont’s meeting hall where they had no exhibits but much conversation about global issues of food insecurity vis-à-vis the global packaging industry.
While Pack Expo is largely about marketing to North America, many exhibitors were introducing new technology that was developed with the needs of the Indian companies in mind, to meet international food safety standards and FDA quality compliance standards. Markem-Imaje, for example, was showing a new Mark & Read system that uses their CoLOS control software solution for FDA compliance requirements for UDI tracking. And, Bonfiglioli Engineering of Italy was showing its new Head space Gas Analysis Quality Control Solution that was specifically created to meet needs of Indian pharmaceutical manufacturers, and which had its world debut earlier this month at the Pharmac Show in Ahmedabad.
Most exhibitors though were not there to make announcements of new machines or technology but rather to give their North American prospects a chance to see their existing offerings or the new features of long-established systems – better mousetraps, so to speak. Bossar, for example, was showing a horizontal form, fill and seal system that they had shown at previous Pack Expos and other trade shows. However, you could see a new tensioner bar feature added to help re-align film as it rolls through the system. Global Vision was showcasing various improvements to their software that were all geared to focus on defects and decrease false positives in defectrates.
Go to a Pack Expo show in Chicago and the dance of robotic arms swinging amidst a sea of other packaging machines gives you a mild jolt as you enter the exhibit hall and perks your interest to delve into the latest industry happenings. Put those same buzzing machines in the Las Vegas Convention Center and you instead may welcome a feeling of relief that the Pack Expo halls seem a bit sedated compared to the hotels’ neon light casinos you have had to enter or exit in order to get to the show. Perhaps this welcome break from the blinking slot machines is part of the success of the Pack Expo shows held in Las Vegas. Next year though, consider braving the November chill in Chicago to see what Pack Expo 2016 has to offer.
South Asian Packagers’ presence at Pack Expo
Nearly a dozen South Asian exhibitors (nine from India, one from Pakistan, and one from Bangladesh) were exhibiting at Pack Expo and those interviewed expressed great satisfaction with the response to their offering. Everyone we spoke to who had come to Pack Expo from South Asia was very glad they came.
Perhaps the happiest of all were three gentlemen from Karachi, Pakistan – A Samad Ghanchi, who is general manager of Hussain & Sons; Muhammad Hanif of Rabia Packages; and M Mohibullah Kahn who is DM Gravure Product- ion for Saima Packaging. They were part of a group of 14 visiting from Pakistan as guests of the US Department of Commerce, with an itinerary focussed on learning about FDA compliance and other requirements for doing business with America. Pack Expo was one stop among many, which also included meetings with FDA lawyers, visits to packaging businesses in Maryland and Virginia, technical education at Virginia Tech, and more. Hanif of Rabia Packages commented, “For example, we learned about HPP (High Pressure Pasteurization)to increase shelf-life upto 180days. And, we’ve seen many packaging innovations at this show.”
Also from Karachi, Pakistan was Astro Films, a manufacturer of CPP, Polyester films and BOPET that exports to North America, South America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East and was exhibiting at Pack Expo for the third time. The general manager of Astro Films, Faisal Aheed, commented, “Pack Expo is a very important show for us. We now export about 200 tonnes a month to a growing market in the US. We come to Pack Expo every year because of the very good conversations we have here.”
Nandhini S Kumar, manager of exports for Maharashtra-headquartered Sanjeev Flexi Pack, a first-time exhibitor at Pack Expo, was enthusiastic about the show. Kumar said, “We do many shows in Europe but this is the first one we have done in the US. We came looking for distributors and we found them. We came looking for food companies and we found them. We also met people from Jamaica, Mexico, Ecuador and South Africa.” Networking at shows like Pack Expo is important to this flexible packaging manufacturer. They brought to Pack Expo their spouted pouch products that have won national awards in India and have also been Asia star nominated. Kumar quips, “I would recommend this show to all my counterparts but maybe I want to keep it a secret…Now I have to some how make my bud get work for shows both in Europe and North America.” Pack Expo only fell short in that Kumar had expected to meet many pet food companies at the show given the size of the US pet food industry, but as of the second day of the show she still hadn’t made any of these expected connections.
Gujarat-headquartered Mamata Enterprises, a manufacturer of both packaging and converting machines, also has US manufacturing operations in Florida and a sales and service office in Illinois. The general manager of Mamata, Sanjay Amin, says that they have been exhibiting at Pack Expo since 2002 and comments, “We are always upgrading our machines and we come to the show to increase general awareness of our products. For example, we are showing a packaging machine for pouches that we just upgraded to also make larger 300 mm pouches.” Mamata was also exhibiting a high-speed pouch and filling line that they had just introduced last year.
Two companies of Dhaka, Bangladesh Pran-RFL Group – All plast, a manufacturer of poly bags since 2010; and Packnet, a manufacturer of corrugated cartons, flexible packaging and plastics – was exhibiting at Pack Expo for the second time. Md Municruzzaman, COO of Pran-RFL, says, “Pack Expo is very good and this year is even better than last. In the US they are importing a lot from China and that’s why it’s important for us to come to this show and capture some of this market in the US.”
First time exhibitor Arvind Chemi Synthetics of New Delhi is, according to the director of Arvind Chemi Synthetics, Arvind Gupta, eager to take the company’s fast growth of the past nine years and make their capabilities known in North America. The company makes polypropylene and high density polyethylene circular woven sacks. Established in 1985 they were a small company with only eight looms and a small plant until nine years ago when they began to grow ,today with two plants with 100 looms. That transformation has meant an output growth from 40 tonnes a month to 600 tonnes a month. Gupta, commenting on why his company is seeking out North American business says, “We have a great deal of satisfaction that we are here for the first time. There are very high production costs in this North American market and we can help with just fabrics or finished bags. We are very focused on quality with in-house testing at every stage of manufacturing.”