On food packaging conferences past and future.

I have attended numerous packaging conferences since the 1980s. The content at most of these events reflects the hot trends of the day-and often previews those around the bend. In the early 90s, microwave packaging was all the rage, with hot discussions surrounding the food safety aspects of microwave susceptors: Were these films truly a functional barrier to prevent any metal from migrating to the food?

Attendees packed large rooms to hear experts debate-with projected microphotographs of films as evidence-that the answer was yes. A collective sigh of relief seemed to settle over the room and a large portion of the packaged foods industry.

Food safety is a topic with perpetual shelf life, joined in recent years by sustainable packaging.

Even as packaging technology and conference topics have changed, one thing has not: The need for education where attendees can learn from experts, interact with speakers and network with each other.
It’s like getting insider information first hand.

I had the opportunity to work alongside Joe Pryweller of our sister publication Packaging Strategies for a number of months over the last two years at PS conferences. For the first time, I was privy to the inner workings of these events. There was far more going on behind the scenes than I had ever imagined.  It was an exhausting, eye-opening experience.

Although he works continuously on conference agendas, I caught up with Joe to ask him a few things about the next conference, which is center-of-plate with our audience:The Food Packaging Technologies Summitset for May 7-9, in Itasca, IL, west of Chicago.

I asked him what sets this conference apart.

“It’s unique in several ways,” he responded. “First, it is truly the only conference focused on major issues and technologies in food packaging. This is one of the areas of packaging that is rife for much discussion and debate.  There is an abundance of issues that continue to be present in food and that deal directly with packaging – they include waste and new SAVE FOOD initiative, the ever-present problem of food safety, counterfeit and fraudulent packaging, the BPA (bisphenol-A) issue-which never seems to go away- and the whole sustainability issue as it related to the packaging  of food.”

Which one do you expect to be the most controversial presentation?

“Sonoco CEO and keynote speaker Harris DeLoach,” Joe said. “Harris is not shy about challenging the packaging industry or provoking action on a particular subject. Given Sonoco’s success, he can back up statements with fact. Expect his keynote to generate plenty of buzz and heaps of discussion at this conference.”

Anything else you expect to have attendees buzzing?

“I think the issue of food waste also should generate attention. This issue is commanding global attention, and the event will carry this discussion forward and could help spark the packaging industry to act.”

What about the hot topics of food safety and sustainability?

“We have noted industry consultant Jeff Timm leading a panel of top biopolymer experts that will include Braskem, the key supplier of sugarcane-based feedstocks, and Novomer. We also have just added a session on BPA and expect to get a top brand owner to join industry expert Lisa Harrison of EcoFocus Worldwide to give an update on this topic."

I plan to be there for these and other sessions and I hope you will join us. You may find it eye-opening.