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Smaller can sizes, less packaging material and eco-friendly manufacturing practices are all trends to watch in the beverage industry. BeverageDaily was at Pack Expo last week to find out what’s hot and what’s not in the industry this year.

The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies (PMMI) hosted Pack Expo 2018 in Chicago this month and talked about the processing and packaging industries of the future. This month’s show in Chicago was the largest Pack Expo to date with nearly 45,000 attendees, according to VP of industry services at PMMI Tom Egan.

Innovations in processing, packaging and machinery were on display amidst forecasts of growth in all categories, detailed in PMMI’s latest State of the Industry US Packaging Machinery 2018 report.

The value of US shipments of packaging machinery hit $8.2bn in 2017, up 6.4%. It’s projected to hit $10.5bn by 2023 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.1%. Categories like converting, conveying, filling and labeling in particular will lead the industry in growth.

The pharmaceuticals sector will grow the fastest by 2023 at a CAGR of 4.7% with beverages close behind at 4.4%.

Trends to watch

Eagan spoke to BeverageDaily at Pack Expo about PMMI’s recent industry reports and what to look out for in the future. Some emerging trends in the beverage industry include the popularity of the 8oz size bottle for carbonated soft drinks and other applications.

Egan referred to the 8oz as a “nice little sweet spot”​ for beverage drinkers looking to cut back on their soda intake who may find the traditional 12oz to be too much. It also coincides with the recent packaging trend of shorter, slimmer cans appealing to customers in all soft drinks.

The beverage industry as a whole is strong, according to Egan, and it hit a North American valuation of $30.1bn in 2017. He said that beverage manufacturers have been responding well to consumer demand for various options at each distinct beverage opportunity they experience throughout the day.

People consumer caffeine at different points of the day and are enjoying it in different formats beyond traditional coffee. Novelty RTD drinks, functional coffees and teas and canned sparkling waters are just some of the markets that have exploded with innovation in the last few years.

“When we walk out of here today, we are also the consumer … So we realize the challenges and opportunities in the marketplace,”​ Egan said.

Sustaining the future

Sustainability in packaging and processing was again a major theme at Pack Expo 2018, and PMMI reports that more than 75% of beverage companies are prioritizing reducing their packaging materials.

Many vendors at the expo showcased ways their latest upgrades are working to shrink their carbon footprint by cutting back on harmful materials or the use of water and energy in production.

Eagan acknowledged that sustainability is “becoming a stronger element of​ [brands’] presentation to the consumer marketplace”​ because consumers are beginning to question more often the origin and makeup of their products, as well as what happens to packaging waste.

Brands are putting in the effort to be more transparent with consumers in terms of ingredients lists and eco-friendly packaging. But it’s the sustainable manufacturing methods behind the scenes that never reach the consumer that are able to bring about a more holistic sustainability message from the brand.

Different packaging materials also play a role, particularly with beverages. Egan expects the mix of packaging formats to change, like bottles will likely trend toward lighter weights with more flexibility. But all main formats like glass and aluminum, rigid and flex plastics and paper will remain viable.

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