Sustainable Packaging at Pro2Pac 2019
Pro2Pac is the only packaging fair within the UK that is solely focused on food and beverage packaging. Based at the London eXcel and with over 100 exhibitors, the exhibition returned this month after a 2-year break. This year, the exhibition was partnered with the International Food & Drink Event (IFE) which made a lot of sense for both companies and suppliers. We, however, visited solely for the packaging side of the show to see what is new in the world of packaging, specifically around encapsulating liquids with a sustainable focus.
A large part of the show was around becoming plastic free and sustainable packaging. A Plastic Planet, aside from giving regular seminars, had their own stand there for the first time. They mission for the show was to educate the show goers on how to make a start on going plastic free. In 2017, the company launched an initiative for plastic free aisles in supermarkets. The major publicity-push to go plastic free or at least reduce our dependency on plastic globally has only been recent, with the problem growing for decades.
One of the most interesting points that came from talking to several exhibiting suppliers was pressure felt across the community for packaging companies to provide eco-friendly, particularly biodegradable packaging due to social pressures. However, although these companies are spending hundreds of thousands if not millions in some cases, developing the necessary materials and process to allow for such solutions, their main concern is that end companies will not pay the extra cost to have an eco-friendly stamp on their product.
Packaging suppliers are faced with a big concern that although the news and media are providing consumers with a greater understanding about what happens when we throw things away, that does not mean that companies looking for biodegradable packaging alternatives are either able or willing to pay the difference. Packaging companies have this pressure to provide eco alternatives, but unfortunately, due to the increase of unit cost for the new technology, companies – especially the larger corporations who can afford to swallow the reduction in profit margins, won’t or at least are dragging their feet. This in turn means that suppliers will not be able to reduce the unit cost of biodegradable packaging so smaller businesses who care more about the consumer and their concerns, will never be able to implement biodegradability within their packaging.
There was a definite feeling of uncertainty, about whether companies will commit and take up the new technology, which they have essentially forced the packaging supply market to produce. Several packaging developers had biodegradable technology ready to go, but were waiting for companies it partner with and adopt the new packaging methods.
It is an exciting time for packaging in term of tech development. As consumers and designer want plastic-free, biodegradable, sustainable alternative, corporations are seemingly slow on the up take. It will be interesting to see how the packaging industry adopts a plastic free mentality and when suppliers make the inevitable switch.