Today the 27th of March the Anuga FoodTec in Cologne, Germany, opened its doors. Scheduled from March 27 to March 30, the Anuga FoodTec offers international food manufacturing companies an opportunity to view the latest technologies dedicated to food and beverage processing, packaging and food safety. The event also includes specialist forums and conference sessions.
Compared to the previous event more than 50% of the 1,300 exhibitors are from outside Germany, including Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Sweden, Spain, Austria, Turkey and the USA.
The international trade fair for food and drink technology is promoted as: A meeting point for decision-makers. A place for visionaries. A location for specialists. From 27th to 30th March 2012, everything will revolve around the subject of innovations.
Although primarily a food technology exhibition, the Anuga always has been, in my experience anyway, the perfect place to discover novelties and innovations in packaging technology. Not the graphics, not the pure design, neither the printing nor marketing tricks, but solely the technology of packaging.
Despite the continuous enhancement over a period of more than 100 years that packaging technology has been around, there is still a healthy flow of new developments and innovations.
Without doubt top trends this year, among others, are the technologies to conserve resources and the use of renewable materials, as still a number of unresolved issues screams for a solution.
Take the question of packaging made of renewable materials, for example. PLA and PET made of plant materials are a hot topic right now, since they have a much smaller carbon footprint than plastics based on oil.
Yet (correctly) there is criticism that the crops used for this purpose are cultivated on land that would otherwise serve for growing food. There are several conceivable solutions to this problem. For example, waste matter or biomass might be used as a raw material. Alternatively, efforts could be made to meet the growing call for closed-loop recycling, whereby, for example, a yoghurt carton made of bioplastic is recycled to produce food packaging of an equal quality (cradle-to-cradle), rather than being incinerated to generate energy or turned into a recycled product of a lower grade.
At present, the production of “green” PET still relies on either molasses from the sugar industry or sugarcane juice – as in Coca-Cola’s PlantBottle packaging.
Research is still under way to ascertain whether by-products from agriculture and forestry, such as wood chippings, maize straw and wheat straw, might also be used. The presence of plant materials in PET bottles does not alter their chemical composition. PET = Pet. Consequently, there is no requirement for a separate recycling process here, either.
There is another hot item, which will be gathering a lot of attention this year. In the 1980s, without the internet, without globalisation the way we know it, the accepted view was that packaging was undesirable and should be avoided as much as possible.
Today, however, we are aware that over one-third of the food produced worldwide perishes before it ever reaches the consumer. In view of such statistics, it is easy to see what role packaging might play. This “worldview” recognises the vital role packaging technology plays, but we also recognise that it should be as economical, green and efficient as possible. That conditions, never thought of in the 1980s, keep the flow of innovations coming.
I will visit several exhibition stands in my search for novelties and innovations. Small and large. I will report about my findings in the next few days.