A show of optimism

Dec. 15, 2003
Pack Expo Las Vegas foretells an upturn in business

In yet another sign that the economy may be turning around, three fall shows in the food and packaging worlds set attendance records, while attendees and exhibitors talked of upturns in their own businesses.

Pack Expo Las Vegas and the Food Processing Machinery Expo, held together October 13-15, set a handful of new records: for visitor attendance (18,369, 17 percent above the previous record), total attendance (including exhibitors, 28,423, up 13 percent), exhibiting companies (933, up 7 percent), and international attendance (3,113, up more than 50 percent). Weeks later, Worldwide Food Expo, which we'll chronicle next month, and the Private Label Manufacturers Assn. show also reported record attendance.

"The number of Pack Expo Las Vegas attendees-,and the interest they expressed in the technology brought to the show by its 933 exhibitors-,has many people on both sides of the buy-sell equation whistling ,'Happy Days are Here Again' in anticipation of a 12- to 24-month period of increased business," said Ben Miyares, vice president of industry relations for the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI), sponsor of Pack Expo Las Vegas. He said there was a "palpable sense of excitement, even exhilaration, at the anticipated business" to follow the show.


Just before the show, PMMI released hope-filled 2002 figures for worldwide sales of packaging equipment. After a 1 percent drop in 2001, the 2002 figures, collected by the world's 13 largest packaging machinery associations, showed a 6.3 percent increase, to $21.206 billion.

U.S. packaging equipment continues to outsell equipment from all other countries. With shipments last year of $5.851 billion, up just a hair from 2001, the U.S. enjoys a 28 percent market share. Germany and Japan swapped positions from the 2001 order. German manufacturers, buoyed by a 12.9 percent increase were second with $3.762 billion in sales, while Japanese sales dipped 8.6 percent to $3.168 billion.

A new component of Pack Expo this year was a containers and materials pavilion, which featured innovations in materials, containers and converting machinery. And a Showcase of Packaging Innovations featured 2003 award winners from several packaging-related associations: Flexible Packaging Assn., Glass Packaging Institute, Paperboard Packaging Council, Foodservice & Packaging Institute, The Tube Council, Institute of Packaging Professionals, Environmental Protection Agency, DuPont Co., Mexican Packaging Assn., Brazil Packaging Assn., and the Argentinian Packaging Institute.

The next Pack Expo, called Pack Expo International, will be in Chicago's McCormick Place next year, November 7-11, 2004, before returning to Las Vegas in September of 2005. Both will again be paired with the Food Processing Machinery Expo. There also is an Expo Pack Mexico set for June 22-25, 2004, in Mexico City.

Some news and product highlights from the show:

Safeline Inc., Tampa, Fla., announced its metal detectors have achieved 3A and USDA Dairy sanitary standards. On display was the Extreme detector, the enclosure for which is built to withstand repeated high-temperature, high-pressure washdowns. The Extreme's microprocessor-based technology incorporates digital-signal processing, features an automatic set-up, and includes Automatic Balance Control, which maintains optimal sensitivity levels despite temperature fluctuations, electronic aging, and product build-up. False rejects are minimized with a rigid coil system that virtually eliminates vibration interference.


H.S. Crocker, a Huntley, Ill., maker of foil lidding, cartons and labels, shared its booth with its new joint venture partner Phoenix Capital Ltd. Through its relationship with Crocker, the South American firms offers speedy and economical turnaround of custom cups in PET, polypropylene and polystyrene.

A high-speed vision sensor, suitable for reading lot codes and other information at line speeds, was introduced at the show by Omron Electronics, Schaumburg, Ill. The F210 combines image acquisition as fast as 1.4 millisecond with advanced measurement algorithms. An auxiliary Intelligent Light Source controls light intensity. The F210 can perform internal trending for statistical process control.

DVT Corp., Duluth, Ga., focused on a month-old machine vision system. The Legend 510 SmartImage camera comes in under $2,000 price yet boasts freebies such as Windows-based software licenses and upgrades, training and online support. It's Ethernet-compatible and has 640 x 480 pixel resolution.

Bilwinco, a Danish company with U.S. headquarters in Owings, Md., showed a complete mobile weighing and packaging system featuring the BW110W multihead weigher mounted on a mobile height adjustable support frame. Product was lifted by stainless steel Eurobins. With a mobile weighing system, the processor gains flexibility, according to company officials. Depending upon need, the multihead weigher can be moved from one processing line to another to meet requirements, while the weighing equipment is utilized to its maximum.

Videojet Technologies Inc., Wood Dale, Ill., unveiled the Marsh 320 large-character ink jet printer. The printer uses "micro-valve" technology for outer-case coding and other medium- to large-character applications. Its precision drop placement delivers print quality up to 40 dpi at a speed of 200 feet (61 m) per minute and features a graphical user interface and touchscreen.


Cans Evolve to Meet Trends

Demographic trends toward an aging populace, and one that values portability, convenience and resealability, will bode well for food cansas long as food packagers take advantage of recent developments in the technology.

Easy-open lids (EZO) are at the forefront of this movement, according to a technical session at Pack Expo/Food Processing Machinery Expo. Cans are a practical container for food, and the EZO lid removes the need for a can opener. The big hurdle is cost, but proponents of EZO cite studies that consumers are willing to pay the extra 6-8 cents per package.

"Sixty to 65 percent of European canned food is in EZO ends, and it's 80 percent in the German market," said Jeff Deliberty, marketing manager for Silgan Closures, Downers Grove, Ill. "In the Asian market, EZO penetration is estimated at 60 percent." But in the U.S. market, he said, easy-open lids are on just 35 percent of cans.

Deliberty predicted that number will rise to 60 percent in 2008. He expects key areas of conversion will be pet food, soup/chili/pasta meals, and fruits and vegetables.

While much of the discussion was on stiff metal lids, a new generation of EZO lids includes peelable foil, some of which are capable of being processed in an over-pressure retort. Shapes can be irregular, and the graphics can rival that of the front label.

Also discussed were:

* "Dot-top" cans, which indicate a vacuum seal before opening and can be resealed.

* Square cans, which pack well and have a great billboard effect on shelves.

* Self-heating cans, which effect a small exothermic reaction.

* Twist-top cans.

* Cans that double as microwavable steel bowls.

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