Following a two-year hiatus, Packaging Innovations and Empack made a triumphant return to Birmingham’s NEC on 25 & 26 May 2022, with just under 6,000 visitors flocking back to the industry’s flagship event.
Whilst the sold-out exhibition floor showcased the latest developments and technologies designed to power the next generation of packaging, the event also launched a series of new interactive features to further the sustainability agenda and dissect the Government’s latest initiatives for tackling packaging waste.
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), The Plastics Tax, and The Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) and their effectiveness were in the spotlight when the £10 Billion Debate made its highly anticipated NEC debut.
During the debate, Jane Bevis, chair at OPRL, took a clear stance, stating: “Under Extended Producer Responsibility, it is important to ensure recycling rates are levelled out across different areas of the country. If there is no clear process, both the producer and consumer lose out.”
Martin Trigg-Knight, head of compliance at Clarity, added: “The Government’s response to EPR is pragmatic, and tries to keep costs down for producers and consumers alike.”
Skye Oudemans, sustainability manager for Europe at Sonoco, praised the £10 Billion Debate for raising important industry issues: “It was great to see a panel featuring a range of industry backgrounds – this is exactly the kind of conversation we need to be having. We need to have solutions which work for everyone involved, and an element of accountability to see how exactly the money is being spent.”
Sustainability was top of the agenda for many visitors, many of whom came to the show hoping to discover the missing piece to their environmental challenges. New for 2022, The Sustainability Trail guided visitors around the show floor, specifically highlighting the hottest and most innovative new sustainable packaging concepts, all of which were vetted by a panel of experts.
One visitor who benefitted from this approach was Dylan Hancox, procurement manager at Nestle UK, commenting: “I really like this idea. It allowed me to really focus on those exhibitors who are putting an eco-focus right at the front of their product. The market is looking at what consumers really want from a solution now, and improving sustainability is the most important element. As a company, we are looking at making investments in this.”
The next generation of packaging materials as we move towards a more sustainable future was the focus for the IOM3 ‘Future Packaging Materials’ headline panel discussion. Experts from OPRL, IOM3, Pack IDS, and Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures, considered what packaging materials will look like in 30 years’ time and explored ways of getting greater recycling buy-in from consumers. Jude Allan, chair of IOM3, said: “When it comes to consumers and recycling, we need to make it as easy as possible for them.” Margaret Bates, Managing Director at OPRL, followed up with: “The UK is the only country in Europe that does not charge for removing waste. If we can’t get people to recycle for all of the benefits, maybe charging will help.”
Whilst sustainability was a major theme throughout the show, innovation once more remained at its very core. Taking to the Innovation and Design Stage on day two of the event, Nikki Grainge, packaging development manager at Waitrose, discussed the importance of inclusive and easy-to-use packaging. She noted: “We are always on the lookout for ways to improve our customer journey, both online and in store. When exciting new technologies come along, like NFCs, there is high demand, but it needs to be commercially viable. Once it is, I am sure we will see it on more products.”
Stefan Casey, innovation lead at Nestlé, agreed: “No matter the tech, it has to work with everything. Although the demographic of tech adopters has changed due to the pandemic, we need to make sure we are not leaving anyone out. The behaviour of our customers can’t be ignored, but technology can take their experience to the next level.”
Elsewhere, the show unveiled two big winners. Protega Global was crowned ‘Most Innovative Pack’ at The Innovation Showcase, collecting more than 400 visitor votes across the two days for its Hexcel Wrap. Earlier in the day, PragmatIC wowed the Ecopack Challenge judges with its unique digital ID RFID and NFC tags, designed to support automated identification and recycling.
Joshua Young, market development manager at PragmatIC, commented on the company’s win: “It is great recognition and shows that a disruptive technology like ours has a role to play in driving towards a sustainable future. Digitisation and data are key drivers to great decision making. Through our ‘Sprite’ project, we are demonstrating what is possible for single use plastic, and highlighting the significant benefits of packaging as an asset, rather than waste.”
Alongside a successful roster of interactive show features, exhibitors also had a successful show. Anita Charman, sales manager at Neville and More, exclaimed: “We couldn’t believe how busy it was. We had so many positive enquiries from new and existing customers. It has been so lovely to see people in person after such a long time away. We’ve already rebooked for the next show!”
Renan Joel, event director of Easyfairs’ UK Packaging Portfolio, concludes: “What a show! After two years without our Birmingham event, we are so pleased to be back. The £10 Billion Debate stirred up some interesting opinions and discussion, which is exactly what we hoped the new feature would achieve, and there was so much innovation on show. One thing that was particularly pleasing was to see the packaging community back together, networking and doing business. We have missed it.
“As we call a close on our NEC show for 2022, I can’t help but get excited to launch our new-look London event, London Packaging Week, which will make its debut in September. The re-imagined show will combine four key areas of our packaging portfolio, Packaging Première, PCD, PLD, and Food & Consumer Pack. Together they will demonstrate the full breadth of the packaging industry as a vibrant new home for packaging innovation and design in the UK.”
The next UK Easyfairs packaging event will be London Packaging Week 2022, which will be held on 21 & 22 September at Olympia, London. To register your interest to attend, please visit the London Packaging Week website or to enquire about exhibiting, contact the show team on +44 (0) 2088 438 800 or PackagingUK@easyfairs.com.