Chris Saunders, Managing Director, runs through the return of industry live events in 2022
We’ve missed live events since the onset of the global pandemic, but this year were delighted to attend two of our regular exhibitions, run by Easyfairs: Packaging of Perfume Cosmetics & Design (PCD), part of Paris Packaging Week, and Packaging Innovations at Birmingham NEC.
The two shows are always very different; the Paris show is always buzzing and as you might expect, more international and dynamic with particular focus on cosmetic products. Although we have been supplying directly into Europe for many years, we always meet new people in Paris, which is a huge draw – and we expect to generate more enquiries for samples and quotes from specific companies that come over to see us. So, our follow-up was much more involved from Paris than it was for Birmingham.
The show at the Birmingham NEC is where we meet industry contacts and clients that we know and work with, and because we don’t go and see people much these days, it’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to chat about things face to face. Here, we focus a bit more on networking and seeing what other companies are offering.
In terms of packaging trends, all the events over the last few years seem to come back to a conversation around being plastic-free – yet the shows are still dominated by plastic. I find that quite interesting. Plastic is so important (and I’m saying that as a metal packaging supplier). In fact, plastic is so important that although there are a lot of people who make all the ‘right’ noises about being plastic free, no-one has really come up with very many alternatives to plastic.
I had observed in recent years that there were quite a few brands on the brink of switching over to metal, in particular tinplate, from plastic. Sadly, they’ve just started to have doubts because tinplate has more than doubled in price in the past 18 months. Whilst the plastic tax is coming in (and I know plastic costs have gone up as well because of energy costs) the increase is not as much as the jump in price for tinplate.
I think that quite a lot of brands have changed their mind or put their plans on hold for the time being simply because of the quite ridiculous cost difference. And the plastic tax is not going to make enough of a difference to tip people over the edge to metal. In my opinion, Covid and the current global events of 2022 have pushed, certainly Europe, back years in terms of greener, more sustainable packaging.
For a lot of potential customers – business owners and brands – there still needs to be an initial outreach and education to help them learn about metal, compared to plastic. There’s still an audience in the packaging industry that needs to go right back to the beginning and learn about the benefits of metal packaging, be those environmental, practical or design benefits. Often big brands try to compare metal to plastic in the questions that they ask, and because plastic has been in use for so long, people are just brainwashed to think about very specific uses for plastic. There are still some big challenges that we face in convincing people that you need to think about metal in a different way.
In terms of next year’s events, I would like to see a particular focus on the issues surrounding greenwashing in packaging. Greenwashing must have its profile raised. For example, the pitfalls of brands offering 100% PCR on aluminium products should be discussed. Nobody seems completely clear on the absolute rules and long-term results and more conversation is needed.
Why are we allowing some companies to corner areas of PCR and say that their product is 100% or 98% PCR when there is a finite amount of PCR available? If they have it all, it means is that another company that trades down the road has less, or even none. There’s no environmental benefit in doing this because aluminium already has the highest recycling rate of any packaging material. So, the recycling rate is the important thing, not how much PCR there is available in a particular batch of aluminium. It’s very difficult for businesses like us because we’re frequently asked by big companies about this subject and if we say PCR is not relevant for metal, they don’t believe it and they want to go somewhere else. I’d like to see the whole profile of this issue raised by speakers at events so that it’s an open conversation.
We’re very much looking forward to attending Luxe Pack in Monaco in October 2022, so please do come along and say hello to us there!