APPEX REPORT: IPPO Forum Speakers Stress Need for Action

Sustainable packaging innovation, greater investment, and more collaboration were the key themes of the industry forum hosted by the International Packaging Press Organisation (IPPO) at APPEX 2024.


The Seminar Theatre on the APPEX 2024 show floor was jam-packed for the “Packaging Perspectives: Global Trends Driving Change” forum that comprised five in-depth sessions and attracted some 500 attendees keen to hear local and international packaging industry leaders share their knowledge and experiences.

The forum was hosted by five IPPO members, led by editors on Yaffa Media titles: Lindy Hughson of PKN Packaging News, Kim Berry of Food & Drink Business, and Wayne Robinson of Print21. And including international journalists Andrew Manly, communications director of Active & Intelligent Packaging Industry Association (AIPIA), and Tim Sykes, brand director of Packaging Europe.

IPPO president Lindy Hughson had a “fireside chat” with Tim Sykes, covering the strategic challenges and developments around packaging in Europe.

IPPO Forum APPEX 2024 Lindy Tim Chat 2
Tim Sykes, brand director Packaging Europe (left) and Lindy Hughson, Managing Editor PKN Packaging News/ IPPO president.

Sykes said he was impressed by the progressiveness and innovation showed by Australia’s packaging industry.

“A lot of things seem to be happening in action rather than in concept in Australia,” Sykes said.

He then shared several examples of sustainable packaging projects in Europe, as well as provided an update on the current contentious regulatory landscape and the potential impacts of upcoming EU elections.

One point Sykes drove home was the need for brand owners to standardise and scale sustainable packaging solutions together.

One point Sykes drove home was the need for brand owners to standardise and scale sustainable packaging solutions together.

This point was picked up by Andrew Manly, who gave an in-depth overview of the challenges in the uptake of smart packaging, and the opportunities connected packaging present for brands.

IPPO Forum APPEX 2024 Andrew Manly
Smart packaging expert Andrew Manly, communications director, Active & Intelligent Packaging Industry Association.

In a compelling presentation updating the latest technology shifts in smart packaging, Manly also stressed the need for standardisation of technologies, and pointed to GS1 barcodes as a case in point for the ease of adoption of technology that is globally standardised.

Wayne Robinson led a panel comprising a quartet of the country’s leading converters and materials suppliers discussed the thorny issues around collaboration between suppliers and brands necessary to meet sustainability goals. Mark Rohrlach from the Detpak division of Detmold Group and Craig Dunn from Opal spoke from the suppliers’ perspective, while Zaidee Jackson from Ball & Doggett and Daniel Malki from Jet Technologies gave the view from materials suppliers. For Opal and Detpak, responding to industry shifts towards sustainability had been a catalyst for innovation in fibre-based packaging, with both companies seeing the value of collaboration with customers (brand owners and retailers) as key to driving change.

IPPO Forum APPEX 2024 Wayne Panel
From left: Daniel Malki, Zaidee Jackson, Mark Rohrlach and Craig Dunn, with panel moderator Wayne Robinson.

All four expressed concern that the multiple dynamics impacting printed packaging were proving difficult for many brands to fully comprehend, especially the small- and medium-sized operations. They also discussed the economic difficulties packaging companies often face in transitioning to more sustainable materials, but which may require re-equipping their production centres with appropriate equipment. However, they also gave real-world examples of collaboration that had succeeded.

Kim Berry conducted a lively panel session with three key major brand owners: Arnott’s, Mondelēz, and SPC. Arnott’s packaging development director, Alberto Peixeiro, Mondelēz senior group leader Chocolate Packaging Development Rich Welburn, and Matt McMichael, the COO of SPC shared the experiences, challenges, and successes for their companies regarding sustainable packaging.

IPPO Forum APPEX 2024 Kim Panel
From left: Matt McMichael of SPC, Alberto Peixeiro of Arnott’s, Rich Welburn Mondelez, with panel moderator Kim Berry.

With success — Mondelēz has eradicated hard plastic from its Easter range, Arnott’s has made 75 per cent of its packaging recyclable, SPC is on track to meet company targets — comes major pain points. A lack of investment, materials, and education were core concerns raised.

The day closed with a Q&A session with Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) CEO Chris Foley, who said that the industry was still aiming at the 2025 targets, but cautioned that 2030 was a more realistic goal for some materials. Foley pointed to the current high levels of investment in recycling facilities and said that when many of them come on stream next year, it will be a game changer for materials like soft plastics.

Foley then gave an update on the ARL (Australasian Recycling Label), particularly on brand owner uptake and consumer response. A key question from the audience focused on the huge amount of packaging used in healthcare, Foley said it should not be excepted, and should be under the same producer end-to-end responsibility as packaging in the food and beverage industry.

The IPPO forum ended after three hours of top-level presentations and audience participation, providing clear evidence of the hunger of those in the packaging industry to be part of the sustainable solution.