APPEX Shows Aussie Commitment to Smart Packaging

My visit to Melbourne March 2024, courtesy of the APPEX organisers and APPMA, the Australian Processing & Packaging Machinery Association, was the first since pre-COVID. So, it was an eye-opener to see this re-formatted show (l knew it as Auspack) now offering a fully integrated solutions event, encompassing both processing and packaging technologies and a wealth of exhibits demonstrating just how much smart packaging has impacted in this market.

The number of stands offering insights into traceability, authentication and connected solutions was impressive.

While the internal market is not huge this is a sophisticated and dynamic economy, serving a number of major export industries, as well as the domestic sectors. The show truly reflects this fact and attracts a strong complement of exhibitors from Europe, the USA, Japan and, inevitably China — as well as plenty of homegrown talent! Of course, the primacy of sustainability and recycling were very much to the fore. But the number of stands offering insights into traceability, authentication and connected solutions was impressive.

A particularly large number of exhibitors, including major suppliers such as Result Group and Matthews Australasia, had a strong focus on the introduction of the GS1 Digital Link. While there is a global program under the Sunrise 2027 banner for the adoption of these codes, it seems that Australia is already well along the road to ‘getting it done.’ Notably, big retailers such as Woolworths and Coles are positively involved, according to the GS1 representatives l spoke with.

It is worth reminding people what GS1 Digital Link is all about. The EAN/UPC barcode, or the one-dimensional (1D) barcode, has offered price lookup functionality for decades. However, it’s no longer keeping up with today’s growing demands for greater product information transparency, traceability, and authentication. In response, the global supply chain is moving toward two-dimensional (2D) barcodes that can carry more information. So, industry has set a date to make the transition to accepting 2D barcodes at point-of-sale (POS) or point-of-care (POC) — referred to as Sunrise 2027.

The benefits of 2D barcodes was a key topic at the Retailer Engagement Hub.


Using 2D barcodes will allow for a single, standardized way to meet both supply chain needs and evolving consumer requirements. The information carried by 2D barcodes can also help enable: improved inventory management; enhanced recall readiness; greater sustainability and ethical sourcing; better product authentication; and greater brand trust, claims the organisation. There was certainly no shortage of information or explanation at APPEX!

AIPIA members participating in the show included Systech, which is part of Markem-Imaje and exhibited on the group stand, showing its well-established Brand Protection Suite software. This uses existing on-pack barcodes or QR codes to provide serialisation, traceability and digital product security. The company has also recently released a comprehensive and versatile rework offering for managing exceptions in the pharmaceutical supply chain, resolving issues arising during pharmaceutical product manufacturing and distribution, it says.

Simon Jones of Antares Vision was on hand to talk about the Diamind solution.


Antares Vision is represented in Australia by Result Group. It has a well-established track record in Australia and is another AIPIA member offering digitalisation of products and supply chains and the provision of traceability and inspection systems. in Australia it has already helped the fruit sector with issues of authentication and traceability. Last year it partnered with Result Group to manage the Burger King franchise Hungry Jack’s UNO campaign. Utilising AV Group’s DIAMIND solution, they are managing millions of game pieces with unique digital identities to enhance consumer engagement. So, it is not all about traceability!

On the stand Antares was demonstrating an authentication and traceability solution for wines, which is particularly relevant, as the news broke very soon after the show that China was about to lift its punishing tariffs on Australian wines, more than three years after imposing them. The penalties had a devastating effect on the industry. The decision scraps duties as high as 218% on Australian wine exports to China, formerly its largest overseas market worth more than AUS$1 billion. With issues of authenticity and counterfeiting very prevalent before the tariffs came along the industry is sure to want to safeguard its products again.

Also featured on the Result Group stand was a very ‘of the moment’ piece of smart technology from Czech-based company Veracity Protocol. The company has developed Vision AI. This uses a smartphone to identify, authenticate and track anything by creating a non-invasive code that represents an object’s unique material structure. It is impossible to breach or tamper with, claims the company.

Result Group announced its strategic partnership with Veracity Protocol just before the show opened. They were able to demonstrate this advanced Vision AI Standard for protecting people and products in the digital world. Dominique El Bez, Veracity Protocol’s chief commercial officer explained, “We are thrilled to partner with Result Group, a company that shares our vision that, in a fully digitalised world, physical items will be tracked, authenticated, and tokenised through computer vision based on microstructure to become the custodian of their own identity.”

Traceability and authenticity solutions were prolific on Result Group’s stand.


Michael Dossor, CEO of the Result Group also commented on the collaboration, “Trust will be a key value in a fully digitalised world. We are excited to embark on this partnership with Veracity Protocol. Their innovative approach to vision AI technology complements our mission to provide best-in-class and future-proof track & trace and authenticity solutions to our clients.”

The partnership aims to address the persistent issue of counterfeits across various sectors by introducing an ultimate AI authentication layer that leverages the microstructure of object surfaces. It also addresses challenges associated with tracking items without identifiers, previously untraceable within the supply chain, but now trackable thanks to this advanced vision AI technology.

Michael Dossor and l both took part in a food industry solutions panel on the theme of Migrating to Digital Packaging, which reinforced wherever the market, the same themes of ROI, complexity of integrating new technologies and data flows, and sharing data exist. Which is, l suppose, why organisations like AIPIA exist to assist in the transition.

Underscoring the importance of digitalised printing to the whole smart packaging sector, GSI (Graphic Solid Inks) — not to be confused with GS1 — showed a very clever piece of technology on the Matthews stand which featured its latest inkjet technology. The GSI Colorize CMYK+W is a full process colour printing system + white. The new technology incorporates a technique called SmartWHITE, which allows for ultra vivid printing of process colours on darker backgrounds such as brown kraft. The software incorporates what GSI claims as a unique custom colour profile library, coupled with the SmartWHITE process, to create more accurate colour matching, even on darker substrates such as brown kraft.

GSI showed a very clever piece of technology on the Matthews stand which featured its latest inkjet technology: The GSI Colorize CMYK+W, a full process colour printing system + white.


The company explains this allows customers to print what they want, when they want and where they want. Further, it is easy to integrate into production lines or near-line systems, printing images in four-colour process with the addition of white for an ultra-vivid impact. It says printed images and data stay vivid and never fade and are condensation and waterproof and can help to reduce warehouse storage, reduce SKUs, and avoid packaging obsolescence.

From an e-commerce perspective or personalisation (they took a picture of yours truly and printed it on a case blank 10 seconds later) this has endless possibilities. From a coding point of view, printing more complex codes on white background makes it infinitely more readable than on a matte brown surface. GSI says traceability can be unique for each package and offers real time, on-demand changes. Its high powered processor provides excellent rendering speed and allows printing of complex logos and messages — including variable data, barcodes, QR codes, and logos — on fast lines with no compromise on image or code quality, GSI says.

My tour of the stand with Matthews CEO Mark Dingley — soon to retire from APPMA after a marathon stint as chair — also revealed how committed his company is to smart and very connected coding solutions for his customers. Part of the stand was given over to a Retailer Engagement Hub with a whole day devoted to the GS1 Digital Link issue. ‘2D Barcode Day’ featured not only GS1 Australia representatives but also industry and retail speakers, who are fully involved. While Europe is bickering about implementation, costs, etc. our friends Downunder seem to be getting on with it — there is some advantages to being a smaller community where personal contact and communication is easier!

Speaking with Jon Perry, the portfolio director for show organisers ETF, I was impressed by the ambition he and Michael Moran, CEO of APPMA outlined for the show and its future. “We wanted to create a total solutions event rather than just a packaging machinery and technology platform,” he explained. “This means having events and activities which enhance the ‘on-floor’ experience and maximising the networking and engagement opportunities. Also, we wanted to attract more international exhibitors — as Mark Dingley put it ‘a taste of Europe in Melbourne!’”

Smart packaging is an important part of the future of packaging and Australia seems to have recognised this, perhaps more readily than in other markets. So, l was pleased to see many aspects of these technologies on show at APPEX. With Australia a major wine, meat and fresh produce exporter, these industries need to be on top of the game when it comes to traceability, authenticity, and condition monitoring, to name only some aspects of the new digital world we inhabit.

In Europe the Digital Product Passport is coming for those who export to the EU and new regulations on food safety or pharmaceutical serialisation are appearing all the time, globally. China will be a huge market for Australian goods — more than anywhere else in my view. Meeting Chinese regulatory requirements will need a number of smart packaging solutions as they scale up their oversight and look to address food safety and anti-counterfeit issues which continue to plague that market.

APPEX has certainly delivered on its promise to ‘reinvent’ the processing and packaging exhibition scene in Australia. It has not just moved up a level, but several levels. The ‘can do’ attitude of the nation was reflected by the innovations on the exhibition floor and the many smart solutions in evidence. A very unifying and stimulating experience for this outlander. Looking forward to the next one already.