Packaging on Centerstage at Drupa

While drupa is the place to see and be seen for those in commercial printing, it’s never really been a must for packaging professionals.

Other shows like interpack, Ipack-Ima, and of course PACK EXPO have always been the shows for packaging professionals.

But as drupa 2016 approaches, I’m hearing a number of observers suggest that packaging will be front and center this year like never before. Driving this change are a number of things, not the least of which is the simple fact that so many exciting new technologies in digital printing and finishing of packaging materials have emerged in the past few years. And make no mistake, people dig digital. At drupa 2012, 40% of visitors said they were interested in digital. That figure is bound to swell now that so many digital print offerings have gone from nascency to full-blown commercialization. And get this: Landa Corp., whose Nanographic printing technology was the digital darling of drupa 2012, will occupy twice as much square footage at drupa 2016.

Many of these new offerings will be on display at drupa in a special forum called Touchpoint Packaging. It’s being designed and implemented by the European Packaging Design Association (epda), Europe’s leading association of brands and packaging agencies. Making its first appearance at drupa, Touchpoint Packaging aims to provide insight into the packaging of the future and to show how packaging and design will deliver additional value and growth opportunities. It will cover four main vertical markets—Pharma, Food, Cosmetics, and Non-Food—and is designed as four futuristic working laboratories.

“We will cover the entire spectrum of the packaging world, from technical/functional requirements, to cultural and ethical considerations, to cost-effectiveness and efficiency, to the wide range of substrates and the technologies used,” says Claudia Josephs, Project Manager at epda. Through keynotes, panel discussions, and presentations, the complete supply chain will be addressed, stretching from the retailer, the brand owner, and the designer back through to the substrate provider, the converter, the ink supplier, and the press or finishing equipment maker.

“The idea is to give the visitor a comprehensive overview of the technical developments that are stimulating innovation and offer insight into the world of packaging and labeling,” says drupa Director Sabine Geldermann.

This increased focus on packaging at a show that historically was focused on commercial printing should come as no surprise. It all comes down to show organizers asking themselves a fairly simple question: What is being printed these days? It’s not that commercial printing is dying by any stretch of the imagination. But let’s face it, a whole lot of commercial messaging once done in a printed format has been replaced by electronic communication of one kind or another. Printed packaging, on the other hand, is on a global growth trajectory as population growth, increased urbanization, and a growing middle class in emerging nations drive demand. Nor is it simply an increase in volume. As I mentioned earlier, new and exciting technologies are being commercialized in the printed package arena, including such things as digital printing on wider formats, direct digital printing on PET bottles, QR codes, and printed NFC technology that lets brand owners engage consumers in ways we could never have imagined just a few years ago.

Many of these new technologies play a key role in the recent growth of intelligent packaging. Messe Düsseldorf, owner and producer of drupa, notes that there is a huge need for intelligent packaging, with annual global food waste estimated at around $US1.3 billion due to spoilage or inadequate packaging. Intelligent packaging, they propose, could help eliminate at least some portion of that waste. A number of intelligent packaging solutions are delivered by way of printing, so naturally they’ll be on full display at drupa—just one more reason you’ll find me in Düsseldorf the first week of June.