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In 1983, when Powder/Bulk Solids was founded, the packaging industry was undergoing some serious scrutiny. Protecting products against tampering was top of mind following the Tylenol scare of 1982. Tamper-resistant and tamper-evident packaging became crucial to consumer products companies. Several companies adopted, or layered, multiple methods to ensure safety. That same year, PMMI was celebrating its 50th anniversary. And in the 25 years that followed, packaging has come a long way.

While those concerns of 20 years ago are still relevant today, packaging manufacturers are developing increasingly clever technologies to help consumers access products more easily while still giving them peace of mind.

The 1990s saw several exciting developments in packaging materials, including the emergence of modified-atmosphere packaging (MAP) with ready-to-eat (RTE) meals that offered extended shelf life. Breathable films and their high oxygen transmission rates helped precut, bagged lettuce make the transition from the food service market to retail grocery stores. And Dean Foods introduced the Chug line of bottled milk featuring brightly flexo-printed full-body PVC sleeve labels.

The decade was also an exciting one for Pack Expo. PMMI launched Pack Expo West in Las Vegas in 1995. The inaugural edition of the show featured 200,840 net sq ft. By 1999, Pack Expo West had been renamed Pack Expo Las Vegas and featured 310,675 net sq ft, 732 exhibitors, and 14,793 visitors.

The new millennium ushered in a wave of innovation and trends, including self-heating and self-chilling cans, the creation of NatureWorks polylactide (PLA) biopolymer from plants, increased usage of packaging as a competitive differentiator, growing demand by consumers for convenience packaging, and the influence of Wal-Mart on the implementation of RFID and sustainability initiatives.

It was also a time of celebration for PMMI, with Pack Expo Las Vegas becoming one of Tradeshow Week’s top-50 “Fastest Growing Events in the U.S.” in 2003 and the 50th anniversary of Pack Expo International in 2006. The latest edition of the show, held in the fall of 2006, featured more than 1600 exhibitors occupying over 1.2 million sq ft of floor space.

It’s clear that significant changes have occurred in packaging over the last 25 years. The same is true of the Pack Expo trade shows. Organizers have worked to make Pack Expo evolve with the needs of its global audience. Whether it’s introducing a new technology pavilion, adding a new track to the conference program, or partnering with other associations or industry groups to broaden the scope of the show, PMMI remains committed to ensuring each Pack Expo reflects the industry’s current priorities.

So what lies ahead? On the machinery side, we are entering an era when packaging will become increasingly automated, driven by developments in mechatronics, laser scanning, radio frequency transmissions, nanotechnology, and system simplification. In response to market demands, the future is likely to see the emergence of a strong third-party professional packaging sector in which packaging machinery manufacturers independently, and in alliances with others, offer an expanded range of customer operations management services, including assessing needs, developing solutions, and optimizing the production-to-consumption supply chain.

On the material side, sustainability—at least the environmental aspects of the philosophy that conserves economic, social, and environmental resources for future use—will continue to be one of the major drivers of change in the packaging industry.

For a packaging industry timeline, please turn to p. 40.

Charles (Chuck) D. Yuska is President & CEO, Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI), a trade association whose more than 500 general members manufacture packaging and packaging-related converting machinery in the United States and Canada. Yuska is President of Pack Expo Services and serves on the board of PMMI’s Education and Training Foundation. He is also a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100 and has served on the Board of Directors of the Associations Council of the National Association of Manufacturers. Visit www.pmmi.org for more information.