Packaging Innovations and Empack is the UK’s largest packaging event. Held in Birmingham’s NEC annually, usually in February, the exhibition returned to the event calendar following an enforced 2-year break due to the Covid-19 pandemic. With this year’s show taking place at the later dates of 25 & 26 May, I took the opportunity to go and see for myself why the event is so popular in attracting visitors from all around the world.
The show normally has up to 300 exhibiting companies covering a large variety of exclusive packaging innovations for the food & beverage, household, personal care, pharmaceutical and chemical sectors. Visitors can discover the latest solutions in packaging technology, learn about the latest trends and network with industry professionals. The trade show is considered as an ideal business generating platform for suppliers and industry decision makers, and has been known to attract up to 7000 visitors over the 2-day period. Alongside a normally packed show floor, the event also hosts a free-to-attend seminar programme, enabling visitors to hear from industry leaders, innovators, and policy influencers, as they put some of the sector’s most pressing issues under the microscope.
Generally I found the show to live up to its name as an innovation-led event. The majority of the packaging solutions, such as bottles made from sugar-cane, were both eco-friendly and innovative. The talks were wide-ranging with topics covering subjects such as ‘how the pandemic has changed packaging materials’, to ‘the use of collaborative robots for packaging’.
I particularly liked the way that the stands were laid out, thereby ensuring that they were easy to navigate. And providing exhibitors with your contact details was effortless, achieved by ‘tapping’ your visitor’s badge against the data capture devices placed at the front of stands – I found that extremely useful when people on the stands weren’t always available to talk.
Within the exhibition hall, there were three separate stages, each hosting a series of forums, discussions and debates on topical issues. With so many speaking events, I only managed to see a small number, but the ones I attended provided some thought-provoking insights, especially on the aftermath of the pandemic and its impact on packaging. During the ‘future packaging materials’ discussion on the Ecopack Stage, one of the themes revolved around the benefits of plastic packaging – refreshing to hear a counter-argument given the depth of anti-plastic sentiment globally. The use of plastic packaging to keep food in-date longer and the benefits of less food waste as a result were raised, as was the role of smart packaging in reducing food waste, with fridges soon to have technology that will notify you when an item of food is approaching its expiry date. How cool is that!
I thought the event was definitely worth attending and, on a personal level, it was a fantastic learning experience. I was able to gain a good understanding about the packaging industry from hearing the different perspectives of the knowledgeable speakers, and learn more about the materials and solutions out there by visiting the many different and varied stands.
I even managed to blag some popcorn and free glass of prosecco – not bad for a Packaging Innovations newbie!