Flexibility, sustainability and serialization were among the market drivers recognized in a report on trends at PACK EXPO International and Pharma EXPO 2014 (McCormick Place, Chicago; Nov. 2–5) published this week by show owner and producer PMMI (pmmi.org), The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies.

Final registration reports show over 48,400 attendees coming from more than 130 countries. Mexico and Canada had the greatest representation, followed by China, and the leading vertical markets represented on site were baking/snack, beverage, pharmaceutical/medical devices, prepared foods and dairy. Judging by on-site interviews, the crowd was excited and intrigued by what they encountered.

“The breadth of equipment and exhibitors at PACK EXPO is amazing; it is truly all-encompassing. I’m able to look for new technologies, discover innovations and seek out equipment to retrofit and modernize our production lines. All the vendors and suppliers are here for me to meet,” says attendee Chay Vue, innovation engineering director, Sargento Foods Inc.

PMMI’s reporters, a team of industry veterans, spoke to exhibitors in each of the four exposition halls at McCormick Place.

“To present snapshots of the show, we had to concentrate on the big picture,” says Sean Riley, editorial director, PMMI. “That meant meetings with 2,352 exhibitors and walking over 1.2 million net square feet of exhibit space.”

The report covers eight distinct trends:

  • Flexible packaging as a replacement for rigid materials — Films are becoming more functional, economical, ecological, and in some cases, antibacterial.
  • Sustainable materials and machines — Sustainability efforts impact a range of action areas, from source reduction to renewable content.
  • Operational flexibility and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) — The axiom “Do more with less” translates into shorter runs, operator turnover, cost control and maximizing OEE.
  • Adaptability in robotics — Robots are no longer relegated to the back of the line. Collaborative designs are allowing robots and operators to work side-by-side.
  • Easy-open/reclose functionality — Portability and individual servings drive demand for multifunctional closures.
  • Retail-ready packaging — Sometimes, secondary packaging is retail ready — it all depends on what the customer wants.
  • Serialization — Thwarting counterfeiting and facilitating regulatory compliance are central objectives for pharmaceutical manufacturers.
  • New ideas in child-resistant (CR) packaging — With stories of poisonings related to detergent pods and marijuana legalization making headlines, child-resistant closures are in high demand.

 There’s no charge for the report, which also describes nascent trends, including additive manufacturing (i.e., 3-D printing) for parts production and the use of near field communication to increase the consumer’s interaction with the package.