The inaugural edition of the Packaging, Design, Innovation and Technology (PDIT) conference jointly organized by IPPStar and Messe Düsseldorf India saw overwhelming response with more than 110 delegates in attendance on the first day and a bit less on the second day of the conference. The two-day event took place at Bombay Exhibition Centre on 16–17 December alongside the International Pack Tech India 2016 exhibition, organized by Messe Dusseldorf India, and the International Drink Tech exhibition organized by Messe Munchen.
Among the delegates were some of the leading brand owners such as General Mills, Marico,ITC Foods, Mahindra and Mahindra, Cadila, Nerolac, MTR Foods, Jayshree Foods, INOX, Parakh Agro and Gemini Oils. Many packaging experts and professionals, along with a strong delegation from the Mumbai chapter of the Indian food scientists and technologists association, were present. Interestingly, there were some smaller brand owners such as Debon Herbals who were speakers and others who came to the conference looking for innovative solutions for new food products. In addition, designers and design students and faculty from the Industrial Design Centre (IDC) at IIT Bombay took active part.
The PDIT conference covered the panorama of packaging with strong presentations on design and innovation, environment and sustainability, food wastage, the packaging supply chain, retail modernization and new technologies for new materials, simplified structures, digital printing and enhancement. New concepts such as PopPack’s revolutionary use of an air bubble for creating totally accessible flexible packaging were the highlight of the show along with the two packaging design presentations that rocked the audience with the exposition of global trends and the challenge to “think different.”
The first day’s keynote by Werner Dornscheidt, president and chief executive officer of Messe Dusseldorf, presented the Save Food program, which has now become a key component of the Interpack exhibition. He begun by sharing the findings of the Food and Agriculture Organization and commented, “The aim of the Save Food initiative is to raise awareness among enterprises and institutions of the need to fight food loss and waste and to mobilize them for this cause. Out of the current 7.5 billion world population, 842 million are malnourished, while enough food is produced to actually feed a population of 11 billion if there was less wastage and better delivery.”
The message was clear that food waste leads to wastage of seeds, fertilizer, water and energy apart from depriving millions of people of good nutrition. Venu Gopal Chintada, director, Sathguru Management Consultants, showed how food loss happens across the value chain on the basis of the research of crops and produce in Andhra Pradesh including mango, chickpeas, rice and milk. Chintada’s survey and analysis of the state’s food chain has shown in some cases that modern harvesting practices are more wasteful than traditional methods. He nevertheless spelt out the need of innovations required both in harvesting and in packaging solutions for overall improvement of the food supply chain. Moreover, in several areas it turns out that Andhra Pradesh is doing a better job at processing and delivering food products than the country as a whole.
Gérard Caron, chairman of the Pentawards jury and co-founder of French design and marketing agency Carré Noir, shared the global trends in design, innovation and sustainability while totally wowing the hushed audience with examples from the winners of the last ten years of the world’s foremost open competition for packaging. Rob Vermeulen, strategy and design, ORV Consultancy a global consultant and a featured speaker at the last Save Food Congress, Interpack in 2014 addressed the challenges and opportunities for packaging designers to ‘Make a Difference.’
A major highlight of the first day was a spirited and free-flowing engagement between the design students and the packaging designers. The students from IDC at IIT Mumbai interacted with Saswata Das, director of WOW designs, Gerard Caron, Rob Vermeulen and Deepak Manchanda. Issues discussed were that of better collaboration between designers and advertising agencies. Lack of coordination could lead to the final product being inefficiently produced. The discussion concluded with the topic of accessible packaging for visually challenged and color-blind users that is already being investigated by some of the students of the new packaging design program at the IDC.
On the second day, among the topics discussed were innovations in cartons, labels and flexible packs as well as in inks and coatings, which was well received by the audience. Bill Perell, president, PopPack spoke about the innovative ways in which PopPack offers a safe, quick, enjoyable, ergonomically and environmentally responsible way of opening and re-closing flexible packages, sachets, pouches, semi-rigid containers and blister packs.
Perell said that Indian brand owners have shown great interest in the solution, which can be attested from the fact that he has been to India seven times in the last one year. A. Appadurai, country manager, HP dramatically highlighted how digital printing technologies can bring a paradigm shift in the way modern packaging is done. He talked about how brand owners can use digital not just for short-run packaging but also for novel ways of engagement and expanding market presence and share—possibilities that are only limited by lack of creativity and marketing acumen.
Issues of sustainability were addressed throughout the conference right from K. Ravi’s presentation on automation for packaging machines and his easy-to-understand guide to Industry 4.0 and Debabrata Deb’s technical presentation on active packaging. Dr. Prabodh Halde took on the complex regulatory issues of food industry compliance in the country with a generous and open offer to help everyone that needs to clarify and sort out these issues. He also indicated that the current regulatory path is fraught with challenges that need to be taken more seriously by the food industry.
Both sustainability and food packaging regulatory challenges were addressed by Cheryl Harrison of the Global Action Platform and marketing director of PopPack and by Sonia Henam representing the Centre for Science and Environment. While Henam spoke about the zero-landfill movement in India, Manchanda clearly explained how brand owners can be motivated to aggressively adopt the ‘Swacch Bharat’ (Clean India) motto for a ‘litter-ally’ cleaner environment. The panel discussion on Save Food and sustainable packaging rounded off the day establishing an exceptional context for a discussion on the food and packaging supply chain.
Caron had the last word when he pointed out that too often the packaging designers are brought into the process too late to be able to address the social and environmental aspects of packaging. This was an interesting beginning to a new type of conference—perhaps short on comfort food but long on creativity and food for thought. According to initial feedback from both presenters and participants, the conference provided good take home value and a much-needed context for action.