One word sums up the recent interpack trade show in Düsseldorf, Germany, and that is massive. Everything about the event was on a huge scale, from the more than 2,700 exhibitors spread across its 19 halls to the over 175,000 visitors from 120 countries.

With the theme, “Every innovation has its starting point,” the trade show demonstrated that the packaging industry—particularly the food and beverage sectors—is delivering real innovation.

While processing and engineering advances demonstrated measurable moves to reduce energy and water usage, the collection and smart use of data are also important themes. It seems the factory of the future will be run from your mobile phone.

Show organizers Messe Düsseldorf agreed the dominant industry issues are: resource efficiency for plants and machinery, as well as for packaging material usage; quality and safety to guarantee perfect and counterfeit-proof finished products, especially in food and beverage; packaging diversity and flexibility; and shorter product cycles.

The Save Food initiative grabbed the spotlight at interpack. The initiative combats food losses and waste and involves partners such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), in addition to more than 110 industry members. The Save Food Congress began the day before the trade fair. On the first of its two themed days, non-profit organizations shed some light on industry problems from political and social angles. During the second half of the event, enterprises presented solutions and best practices. Overall, the congress showed how the problem of global food losses and waste can be addressed across the entire value chain.


Coffee pod advances

Coffee—and in particular, the coffee pod phenomenon—was a focus throughout the show, with advances such as smarter pod sealing presented by Herrmann Ultrasonics and several breakthroughs in environmentally friendly aspects. With the news that The Coca-Cola Company is going to increase its stake in Keurig Green Mountain from 10 to 16 percent, it is easy to see why so much attention is being paid to this relatively new sector. From Nespresso to K-Cup, innovation leads the way in this fast-growing market.

At the Corbion Purac exhibit, François de Bie explained the advantages of the company’s high-heat PLA (polylactic acid) bioplastic. Offering the unique possibility to increase the heat resistance of PLA to 120°C, the technology can now be used to make coffee cups and coffee pods. Made from 100 percent biobased resources, high-heat PLA is both 100 percent recyclable and biodegradable and offers multiple end-of-life options.

In other coffee news, Mondi announced its partnership with Nestlé’s Nespresso brand. Responding to customer concerns over how to recycle used coffee pods, Nespresso has launched commercials, mainly on Austrian television, featuring brand ambassadors George Clooney and Matt Damon. The ads promote recycling bags and the concept of consumers collecting spent coffee capsules and dropping them off at designated collection points.

The new collection bags are made by Mondi Coatings GmbH and consist of FSCTM-certified paper with a Sustainex coating made from 85 percent renewable raw materials. The bags can be sealed up cleanly and safely using affixed adhesive strips before being completely recycled along with their contents.


Lightweighting, recycling and partnerships

Multipack lightweighting has seen a huge amount of innovation lately, and two notable examples were seen at interpack. Ocme’s new multipack solution, Packetto, uses up to 30 percent less packaging material than equivalent multipacks, while  the KHS Nature Multi Pack system, based on specialized adhesives, involves simply bonding containers together to form multipacks for PET bottles, glass bottles and cans.

Sleever International displayed its newly launched LDPET and LWPET for beverage and dairy applications, respectively. Both are designed to significantly improve value-added recycling and a lower carbon footprint.

LDPET is the first shrink sleeve made from low-density PET (down from 40 to 20 microns), which improves the recovery of used PET bottles. The breakthrough is delivered in three parts: the new low-density PET, special inks and the new SleeverCombisteam-LWPET machine. Aimed at dairy products packed in HDPE, the combination of this new film and machinery reduces by 50 percent the carbon footprint of traditional sleeve packaging.

Companies working with competitors can also speed up innovation and improve the customer experience. One example of this at interpack was the new strategic partnership between Mettler Toledo Product Innovation and GE Intelligent Platforms, mixing Mettler’s existing equipment range with GE’s software.

From HP’s latest large-format digital printing to whole integrated packaging lines, every hall at interpack featured new time-saving, energy-saving and environmentally beneficial innovations.