The BIG Show, Part 2 - Organize, Digest, Follow Up
June 17, 2014
(Pac Advantage Consulting LLC)
– It’s just over 3 weeks since Interpack 2014 finished its run in Düsseldorf, Germany, and now the real work is underway. Along with just over 175,000 visitors (an Interpack record), with 2/3’s coming from outside Germany, (a Messe Düsseldorf trade show high), I scoured the aisles with multiple objectives in mind.
Specific topics and companies, overall trends and interplay between materials and formats, and the surprises of new entrants, alliances and experiments kept me busy for all 7 days of the show. It was a very good show, with way too many items to recount here, so here’s a sampling of what I found meaningful.
First, disclaimers. One, these reflect my packaging lens/perspective; others with different priorities or focus would provide a different sampling. Second, this is a subset of what I found interesting, intriguing or illustrative of important trends; where I mention specific entities, no endorsements, explicit or implied, are to be construed. Third, you’re on your own to figure out whether or what to do with these items, or others you will hear. The promise of a new technology or approach is not always realized, and in many ways new introductions are, in reality, experiments of varying magnitude and risk, with many potential outcomes.
OK, with that out of the way, and in no particular order, here goes:
As I mentioned in my pre-show post, the Save Food initiative topic has grown in visibility and more packaging industry companies (primarily materials and packaging manufacturers, with some brand owners) have signed on to the goals of this organization. A large group met at Interpack to discuss ways to significantly reduce the 1/3 of food that is never consumed.
Whether you believe this is a moral, economic, quality, sustainability, or all (and perhaps more!) of the above issue, packaging and logistics are integral to doing better. Packaging already plays an important role in reducing food losses in processing and distribution, but higher performance & cost effective new solutions will be needed to expand packaging’s impact.
Polymers from non-petrochemical feedstocks are not new. From limited options exhibited at Interpack’s 3, 6 or more years ago, and with promising candidates still in development, not only have supplying entities multiplied, but package structures incorporating these materials were prominently displayed at stands of both rigid and flexible package producers.
My sense is there is heavy focus on expanding performance options to reduce/eliminate the real or perceived trade-offs converters and end users make when moving to bioplastics. PLA coated paperboard drink cups are now widely available globally, biofilms are growing in use in complex laminated structures, and I sensed a different aura of optimism at the stands promoting these materials. The broadening commercial applications will move the most robust approaches closer to targeted returns, begetting more investment and more options to come.
Barrier Materials & Packages
Nowhere does material, process and format innovation and competition seem so widespread as in the continued pushing of the limits for package barrier. Kuraray and Nippon Goshei, in response to concerns about uniformity of layer thickness in shaped packages, keep introducing and refining EVOH grades that form more easily, with the objective of minimizing thin spots in containers. And the container options are rapidly proliferating.
Toppan continues to expand its line of transparent barrier films based on vacuum deposition technology with a new grade claimed to reach unprecedented WVTR levels. Kuraray coats substrates with polymeric organic/inorganic hybrid composites as an alternate approach. Neither are completely new technologies, but represent the constant evolution of the performance to cost relationship the market demands.
Kuhne Group and DuPont have a cooperation to combine what Kuhne calls its Triple Bubble™ extrusion technology with DuPont resins to create up to 13 layer highly biaxially oriented blown films claimed to allow significant downgauging without loss of interlayer adhesion.
I’ve always been intrigued by packaging innovation at material, process and format intersections, adaptations of established technologies to new uses enabled by advancing capabilities or creating missing pieces. This out of the box, tube, bag, can, etc. thinking results in hybridized solutions that can create more value to users and consumers, and expand package options. Interpack exhibitors generally offer up several attention grabbing examples - here are a few samples from the 2014 show.
Kortec introduced clear, multilayer (PP/EVOH/PP) plastic cans based on their coinjection technology. Combined with seamed on metal lids, these BPA-free packs are said to be retortable up to 130°C and can offer up to 5 year shelf life.
Driving off their skills in laminate tube making machinery, Aisapack highlighted Bacomex™ multilayer compression molding technology intended to create increased barrier rigid and semi-rigid components that can be combined with barrier laminate sleeves. The technology is designed to be adaptable to their tube making machines by adding special modules. A variety of concept tube packs were shown, but the most dramatic application was for 375 ml tubular wine bottle with barrier shoulder, cap and base combined with a barrier sleeve that has been tested and shown to provide at least 1 year shelf life, while reducing package weight dramatically and allowing boutique graphics. It is commercial at a small Swiss wine maker. Aisapack are partnered with Sacmi for the production of closures using this molding technology.
Extending earlier work on creating stackable flexible pouches, Clear Lam introduced new versions of their PrimaPak™ system that include an exoskeleton of clear, scored RPET sheet that increases package rigidity, while still allowing vertical form-fill-seal compatibility. Ilapak showed a VFFS machine that runs this structure, which can incorporate a variety of opening, dispensing and reclose features. Clear Lam says the system is designed to replace cans, bottles, jars and trays with packs having billboard marketing appeal, increased shelf space utilization, shipping efficiencies for incoming raw materials and filled packs, as well as consumer convenience.
You’ll read a lot more about Interpack and specific items as trade publications and other commentaries come across your screens or desks. That’s good, as my relatively brief comments are not comprehensive, nor can they address everyone’s interests.
Bottom line, was it worth the cost, time, jam-packed trams/trains/restaurants/etc., miles of aisles and crisscrossing the fair grounds multiple times to come back for meetings or to take one more look and ask one more question? For me, an unconditional, resounding yes!
A final personal note. Early the morning of the final day of the show, my father in law died from a massive stroke. I returned to Chicago the next day to head out for family responsibilities. He was a printer by trade, and curious by temperament; he was someone who held that you could teach yourself to do about anything you put your mind to, and he was living out that philosophy at age 85 right up until he died.
We always had wide-ranging and fun conversations when I would come back from Interpack, Drupa or the K Show. I’ve missed not having the conversation with him about Interpack 2014, but nowhere as much as I’ll miss his presence in my life. Pop wasn’t flashy and didn’t seek the spotlight. He was a man of integrity; loyal and faithful to family, friends and his principles; full of optimism and good humor; always attentive, supportive and encouraging; and he just plain got stuff done.
His son was spot on when he characterized his father as ‘simply extraordinary’. He was proof we can always have an impact and make things better, right where we are.
Have at it!
Timothy Bohrer is the owner of Pac Advantage Consulting