Is Total Processing & Packaging 2004 putting and end to the obituary notices that are hanging over packaging shows? Mary Murphy talks to Barbara Jackson, show director, Total Processing & Packaging 2004

Exhibitions have been taking a lot of stick in recent years with many companies seemingly questioning not only their value but also ready to sign their death knell. This is not just a UK phenomenon. European shows also have to reassess how they organise and market events.

It is against this background that the new event ‘Total Processing and Packaging 2004’ [29 March – 1 April next year] had to address the less than flattering comments about its predecessor Pakex. And, not surprisingly, the show organisers Reed Exhibitions and its venture partner the PPMA believe that a touch of intensive treatment will breathe new life into the show.

Show director Barbara Jackson acknowledges that Pakex and some of the other shows that have been amalgamated into Total were beginning to look tired. “Trotting out the same formula without taking account of changes within the packaging supply chain and the desires of visitors and exhibitors certainly could have led to the death knell sounding. But Reed and the PPMA have taken the shows that make up Total – Pakex, PPMA Show, Interphex and Eurochem – and given them the kiss of life.”

Ms Jackson explains that it is the premise behind the PPMA Show that is being used as a role model: “The PPMA Show has always stayed close to its markets and taken great care to reflect these needs and it is this influence that pervades everything we are planning for Total.

She adds: “It is essential Reed gets closer to its markets and this approach will be instrumental in doing so.”

Fine words, but what exactly has been done to create a difference?

In-depth market research

In-depth independent market research through research studies was undertaken into exhibitor and visitor attitudes to the shows that make up Total. Pira International also conducted research into the buying behaviour of user companies.

The Pira International research found that 75% of respondents [coming from food, beverages, electrical, cosmetics and toiletries, household chemicals, pharmaceuticals and retail end user markets] believe that the purchase and specification of packaging and processing machinery is linked to the future development of their businesses.

Supply chain links

Immediately upon its inception Total Processing and Packaging 2004 set up a series of industry forums and these have been instrumental in driving a number of major initiatives. The forums, which meet on a regular basis, comprise blue chip visiting companies; packaging suppliers; industry associations from all sectors; consultancies; design and marketing agencies; and research bodies.

The initiatives

The Total Innovation Design Centre of Excellence takes up 250m2 and has been planned with the British Brands Group; the Design Business Association; design houses SiebertHead, PI3, Fitch:London and KinneirDufort, alongside Rexam and the Faraday Packaging Partnership.

The centre will showcase some of the best creative thinking applied to consumer goods packaging including the 2020 Vision Design Challenge that looks at packaging designs of the future.

Speaking for Rexam, Nick Bird, group marketing director, explains: “Designers and marketers are two important speaking partners for the packaging industry. This initiative will help to weld together the relevant parties and enable them to stand back and look at the future of consumer packs.”

The Total Pharma Centre of Excellence will focus on the major issues affecting pharmaceutical packaging and processing, and explore the cross-fertilisation of ideas between the food and pharmaceutical markets. It is sponsored by the International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineering [ISPE]; the PharmaChem Group (a PPMA initiative); and Packaging Today International’s sister titles Manufacturing Chemist and Cleanroom Technology.

Industry interaction

Apart from the names already mentioned, the British Contract Manufacturers and Packers Association [BCMPA] has already filled a pavilion for its membership which will be made up of a series of individual stands, alongside a BCMPA hospitality and educational centre.

The Packaging Federation has been instrumental in helping to guide the business element of the Total event and among the exciting projects planned are a captains of industry business forum and a high-level debate involving Government ministers. This will comprise leading personalities from within major blue chips and chief executives from global packaging suppliers.

So what are the remaining stumbling blocks? Barbara Jackson concedes that there is a perception that it is just a UK show but adds that this is being worked on extensively with a number of notable global exhibitors coming on board.

“We have put a campaign into place that is taking us to shows around the world. We have ploughed an almost unheard of budget into advertising campaigns with all the major packaging magazines around the globe, while conducting direct marketing campaigns to the world’s top 100 companies in all user markets.”

For those who remain unconvinced, Reed isn’t saying, but if current conversations with some major movers and shakers in the packaging industry are anything to go by it won’t be too long before further big news hits the press.

Whichever side of the fence you fall or even if you are still sitting on the fence; the arguments are well worth a listen. Resuscitation attempts may yet be successful.