A quick glance at the shelves of your local grocer reveals a wealth of beverage choices. Energy drinks, sports drinks, water beverages, fruit juice and alcohol-an array of beverage products clamor for consumers’ attention and dollars.

According to PMMI’s recently-released Beverage Industry Market Research Study, the beverage packaging industry brings in about $22.8 billion annually, and brands are looking for increased levels of innovation in design, materials and efficiency as they contend with cost and sustainability concerns.

Increased competition in the beverage market has resulted in an attention-grabbing arms race. It is expected to fuel new packaging concepts to further drive the expansion of the beverage packaging industry in the coming years.

The study also found that costs and environmental impact concerns are pushing manufacturers toward greener packaging. They are exploring the use of lighter, more eco-friendly plastics; space-saving pouches that also offer significant transport and storage savings; and reductions in secondary packaging to cut costs and reduce overall carbon footprints.

Beverage manufacturers say, however, they have been too slow to understand shifting consumer preferences and anticipate demands. They’re now sprinting to catch up-and they’re pushing beverage packaging solutions providers to innovate and respond quickly. Manufacturers are demanding more aggressive time frames for delivery, as they also seek machines with greater flexibility to adapt to several different packaging options and sizes.

The need for speed and innovation opens the door for a powerful dialogue between beverage brand owners and packaging solutions providers. And Pack Expo International 2010 (Oct. 31-Nov. 3 at Chicago’s McCormick Place) provides an excellent opportunity to begin the conversation.

Beverage brand owners will need to visit The Brand Zone, which is making its Chicago debut this year. This special pavilion will highlight a range of innovative containers and materials for greater shelf impact, increased shelf life, improved sustainability scores and added functionality. And because Pack Expo has an expanded focus on packaging and processing solutions, brand owners can explore how the solutions they find can work in concert with what’s already in place in their plants.

In addition, whether seeking containers and materials that are recyclable, renewable or biodegradable, or equipment that consumes less energy or generates less waste, attendees will find solutions that help them take steps towards achieving sustainability goals.

Themes like sustainability and cost-effectiveness will also be prevalent in the extensive education program being held in conjunction with the show. To give brand owners insight into trends, strategies and innovations from across the entire production supply chain, PMMI is partnering with these industry groups: the Flexographic Technical Association, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Institute of Packaging Professionals, the Reusable Packaging Association and the Packaging Association of Canada. 

For more information on conference schedules and to register for Pack Expo International 2010, log on to www.packexpo.com. Attendees still have time to take advantage of early registration prices prior to Oct. 18.  

Kate Achelpohl is PMMI’s director of member communications.