Packaging Innovations 2022
Last month, the Packaging Innovations & Empack event returned to the NEC, Birmingham, after a two-year hiatus, to a much-changed industry – and world. Conversations with some of the exhibition’s 6000 international visitors at our stand, and chats with other suppliers and industry leaders, confirmed that the focus for the industry is universal – stability.
Managing Director Mike Lammas shares his top three reflections from the event.
- ADAPTATION TO SUPPLY CHAIN CHALLENGES:
The hot topic at the event was the immediate issue at hand: raw material supply chain issues. Following the shock of a global pandemic, the war in Ukraine, this has added further pressure to the availability and lead time of board. While that’s been felt globally, the UK has certainly faced the brunt of it. It’s a challenge that has suppressed growth potential, particularly when just-in-time fulfilment is in huge demand in various industries. What used to be available in a week can now take up to 6 months. This has created uncertainty in the business development world.
Interestingly though, the general feeling is that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and many are anticipating that these supply issues will start to ease soon and we will see board become once again, more readily available. In the meantime, we’ve seen the sector adapt. We’ve personally experienced businesses mitigating risks by ordering earlier and, as a positive side-effect to that, we’ve benefited from having a longer-range view of our business.
- THE OPPORTUNITY FOR ADDED VALUE PACKAGINGThe second hot topic was, unsurprisingly, the impact of rising costs being felt by business and by consumers. Material costs and energy costs are on an upward trajectory and, currently, show no sign of abating. We’re seeing huge increases in the cost of board across all types. We saw two dual perspectives play out at the event – on the one hand, the creative and innovative developments in the industry, versus the very real impact of price rises and the desire for stability on the other.
This trend poses an opportunity for the added value packaging sector. As the consumer purse feels the pinch and spending patterns change – eating in becomes the ‘new’ eating out, for example – we know consumer behaviour is to seek out creative ways to enjoy moments of leisure. This is where the added value niche can embrace the opportunity to differentiate with innovative packaging solutions, creating best-in-class products.
- SUSTAINABILITY VS STABILITYLast December, the UK Plastics Pact reported a reduction in single-use plastics of 46% between 2018 and 2020. As retailers move away from entirely plastic products and drive forward further ambition to reduce single-use plastic, we’re seeing greater demand for raw materials.
When conditions are steady, it’s incumbent on retailers and suppliers to focus on sustainability – for which there is a substantial consumer appetite – but what will happen when times get tough? Will consumers still be motivated by sustainability credentials or will price become the sole focus?
We’re in a perfect storm: pandemic, slowing market, supply chain issues, rising price of materials and escalating energy costs. It’s going to test the resolve of retailers to implement sustainability plans.
A lot has changed since the industry last gathered for this event two years ago. While there’s still an eye on the future, there’s more of a short-term sentiment as the industry tries to adjust and navigate a path through uncertain times ahead. As ever, the event inspired ideas, creativity, and innovation – progressive solutions to meet the challenges of consumer expectations, new legislation and the global focus on climate change. There was plenty to inspire and inform, but there was a groundedness to this year’s event too.