James Drake-Brockman, Divisional Director of Packaging Innovations, Empack and Label&Print, the UK packaging shows, talks about plans for the event's return to Birmingham's NEC on 28 February & 1 March 2018.
Q. Why should the event be in all packaging professionals' calendar?
The Packaging Innovations, Empack and Label&Print shows have two main purposes. The first is to provide a place for suppliers and the buying community to meet, network and do business. The event enables key decision-makers and buyers to see over 300 suppliers, from major names through to the niche specialists, all under one roof. This is a unique proposition, because there is nowhere else these packaging professionals would be able to see the volume of suppliers and solutions we have on board in such a condensed and focused timeframe. From a seller's point of view, we provide them with the perfect platform to meet with existing clients and to make contact with potential new customers.
Our second role is to expose our audience to genuine innovation, both from within and outside of the industry. By offering innovation, the shows create real value for themselves and attract more visitors in the process, which in turn offers an instant ROI to the exhibitors. Although it is incredibly important, it is not just innovation from within the packaging industry that is of interest to us. There is plenty happening in parallel industries; often sectors that at first glance aren't obviously connected, but which have developments, that through some smart thinking can be applied to our audience.
We think this is a really important aspect of growing the event, and helping the industry evolve in the process, so we will be putting a lot of time and effort into finding suitable companies for some cross-sector pollination of ideas. They will not only have a physical presence on the showfloor, in the form of Showcase areas, but they will also form part of our educational seminar content. It's certainly a difficult challenge, but one we are keen to address.
Q. How will the Showcases work?
As you will remember from the 2017 event, the Pentawards Winners Exhibit brought leading edge design onto the show floor, giving visitors a global perspective of the best and most creative packaging designs from the last year, while The Innovation Showcase showed the best innovation on the show floor. With these features proving so popular, we thought that we would not only bring them back, but also introduce new Showcase areas for 2018, highlighting innovations from other industries. Within these new areas, innovators will be able to demonstrate the very latest ideas, new technologies and material developments that are transforming other industries, and which have real potential within packaging.
Furthermore, our conference programme will run across five unique seminar stages, headed up by a revamped Keynote Stage. With over 20 hours of CPD-accredited content, the two-day educational agenda will focus on our key sectors, with dedicated forums for food, drink, retail, beauty, pharmaceutical and ecommerce. Running alongside the Keynote Stage will be the brand new Innovation Stage, The Label&Print Stage, The Ecopack Stage and The Packaging News Stage.
Q. How are you going to keep the content relevant?
To stay fresh, we are constantly evolving our offering, which after thirteen editions is easier said than done, yet somehow, we manage it year-on-year.
One thing I particularly like about the shows is the breadth of attraction, because it means that large organisations can send whole teams of people to the show. This can include anyone from brand managers, product managers and procurement, through to packaging professionals, print buyers and engineers – in other words its whole buying chain. They come to the shows, explore them as individuals then get back together to share ideas, discuss the latest innovations they've spotted and explore the hottest trends. With this in mind, we are more focused than ever on creating valuable content that works right across the buying chain.
Q. What does this mean for the 2018 show?
Beyond the additional Showcase areas visitors can expect to see more on the print side; print is growing in influence, so there will be a much bigger print presence this year. We will be putting more onus on machinery, with more machinery manufacturers, print converters and print service providers signing up already. There will also be more packaging machinery companies in general at the event. This bolsters our Empack offering, which is a part of the event we are looking to grow, plus it strengthens our total presence within the marketplace.
Q. What news is there on suppliers?
We're excited to see some major players join us for the first time in 2018, for example WestRock, Mark Andy and DaklaPack, have all come on board. With these new names being added to our already strong list of exhibitors, 2018 is looking like the largest and most innovative year to date.
Q. Anything else to report?
On top of all of this, we are also pleased to confirm that HP will be the official sponsor of our ever-popular Networking Bar, which offers exhibitors and visitors the chance to network with likeminded peers in an informal environment.