The Australian Institute of Packaging’s (AIP) National Technical Forum held alongside the AUSPACK PLUS show took a decidedly international flavour this year as delegates from the World Packaging Organisation took to the lectern to give delegates a global view of the challenges and opportunities in the world packaging industry.
WPO president Thomas Schneider got proceedings off to a start when he called on the industry to do more to counteract packaging’s low, or even negative, perceptions from consumers.
“Too often packaging is viewed by many as a problem – if they think of it at all,” Schneider said.
“What we have to work to convey is that the world cannot do without packaging. It is our job to educate them.”
Follow-up speakers presented overviews of various international packaging markets, as well as pointing out common issues concerning all global markets.
The vice-president of China’s World Packaging Centre, Jin Zhe, described China’s packaging industry as one of the world’s fastest growing – already touching the quarter of a trillion dollar mark in terms of yearly value.
He explained that China’s World Packaging Centre, based in the city of Hangzhou, aimed to transform China into the world’s largest packaging industry power.
The centre is one of the country’s first international industrial centres, bringing global and domestic companies under one roof – or rather, a two-tower skyscraper due for completion later this year – to coordinate packaging collaborations and trade.
Dr Johannes Bergmair from Austria’s Research Institute for Chemistry and Technology, spoke of the WPO’s efforts to survey various international scientific and legislative standards, in order to help WPO members and packaging companies keep abreast of the different national regimes for food safety.
The Indonesian Packaging Federation’s Ariana Susanti explained the dynamics of the market in Australia’s closest neighbour, noting that the growing middle class was driving greater consumption of packaging.
She told PKN this presented great opportunities for Australia companies to explore business collaborations, as well as to invest in the country’s sector to upgrade its infrastructure and logistics challenges.
In a particularly interesting and colourful presentation, the executive director of ABRE, the Brazilian Packaging Association, Luciana Pellegrino, addressed how packaging was increasingly becoming an important marketing tool.
“It is our silent sales tool. It is the packaging itself that will materialise a brand’s identity to a consumer,” she said.
“Through your packaging you can talk to consumers.”
She also touched on some of the future challenges to packaging as a marketing tool, especially the growth of digital social media and virtual marketing.
“The virtual world is transforming our lives. We have to be aware that consumers are discussing products in ways we never used to use before,” she said.
“Social media means consumers are more likely to experiment by recommendation. On the other hand, if you do something wrong, it takes only minutes for disastrous messages to get spread far and wide.”
Finishing off the forum, the WPO’s general secretary, Keith Pearson from South Africa, tackled the topic of sustainable advances in the packaging supply chain.
The thrust of Pearson’s talk was around what he termed ‘the missing link’ in the sustainability chain – the lack of adoption of sustainable living in the home. His view is that the corporate values around sustainability are strong, but while great strides have been made by industry, it’s individual consumers which need to change their thinking.
We live in a ‘throw away’ society, he said. Consumers buy way more than they need to consume, especially food. He cited the staggering statistic that in 2011, 1.3 billion tons, or a third of global food production, was lost to waste.
Another problem is that consumers associate used packaging with garbage.
“Consumers need to stop thinking about used packaging as waste, and be brought around to see the inherent value in the packaging material,” he said.
“Packaging is a magnificent resource, as an industry let’s work together to get that message out there,” he concluded.