Des King says the thrust behind this month's ground-breaking Total exhibition reflects the speed with which the industry is changing

In bringing together four separate shows – Pakex, PPMA, Eurochem and Interphex – to form one total event, Reed has done more than might reasonably be expected to give most visitors and exhibitors the potential for getting more bangs to the buck.

Initiating change can be a strategy fraught with risk of course. The more jaded observer might conclude that all this inter-marriage has merely been driven by some sort of cost-saving spin. Or that without the protection of the Total umbrella, one or two of these long-established events might even have gone to the wall.

Well, even allowing for things never quite being black and white, this would be to miss the point. The restructuring is neither about shoring up, nor even about size. It’s about the shape and direction of what’s to come.While the UK packaging industry is a multi-billion pound business in its own right, its success or failure is ultimately down to application.

Total has set out its stall as the first mainstream event to purposefully position packaging as one element, albeit a vital one, within a larger integrated production process. And in consequence, no longer so painfully exposed as the most easily dominated soft target in the retail sector’s relentless pursuit of lower food prices at someone else’s expense.

Reed and its partner associations might not be able to rid the industry of its ills: the knock-on effects of globalisation and consolidation, reverse auctions, and the interminable squeezing of the supply chain for example. What is within their remit is the once-every-three-years opportunity of helping to facilitate change.

Total might be a brand name that will continue to take some getting used to. Indeed, in the US it’s more commonly identifiable as a popular breakfast cereal. But it does at least set packaging in context.

And it’s a context that clearly has found sufficient resonance with around 1200 exhibiting suppliers. Let’s wish all of them and their customers a good result, and not waste too much time speculating on what might have happened had these events’ previous incarnations been maintained.

If Reed has got it right, and it’s firmly to be hoped that it has, then changing the name of the industry’s flagship event is just an early indicator of something infinitely more revolutionary in the offing. It should make you feel hopeful about still being there and certainly worth staying afloat to see where the next three years take us all in this fast-changing, dynamic industry.