Are hybrid trade shows the future of the industry?

K fair will take place next year and interpack in 2023. How are the preparations going?

T. Franken: We are currently in the registration phase for K 2022, which will end with the official registration deadline on 31 May and the hall planning will then begin in summer. We are already working on the content and key topics for the next fair as well. In the last few months, however, we have been working intensively on a major new project for the K trade show and are pleased to announce that we have just launched our new online magazine, the K-MAG. The K-Mag is aimed at all sectors associated with K and provides reports, trends, interviews and videos in German and English all year round.  The mix of topics is particularly important to us, ranging from the major industry topics, such as digitalization and circular economy, to scientific studies and vide variety of themes and stories from everyday life, of course always directly related to plastics and rubber.

T. Dohse: We have just opened the registration for interpack 2023 and will begin to evaluate and set up the key topics for the upcoming show. This will include defining what parts of the show can be enhanced by digital opportunities. interpack also has an online magazine which can be found on The Tightly Packed magazine has been covering industry trends for a couple of years now. 

Question to Mr. Franken, what do you see as the role of the K show within the plastic industry? K is usually seen as a clear indicator of changes in the global market.

T. Franken: K in Düsseldorf has been the most important meeting place of the international plastics and rubber industry for nearly 70 years now – and counting. It is the benchmark for the entire industry and its global marketplace for innovations. This is where experts from the world of plastics and rubber come to meet, to demonstrate the industry’s capabilities and to inform visiting experts about new and visionary areas of application for plastics and rubber materials.

In addition, K in Düsseldorf has an important leading function, because it always addresses future topics and current challenges of our day and age and specifically of the industry. This is why topics such as sustainability, resource efficiency, circular economy and digitalization, which gathered momentum at K 2019, will also be among the “hot topics” of the trade fair in 2022. 

Of course, this also raises the question of the future of plastics. In what direction will the industry develop?

T. Franken: The plastics industry is primarily faced with the challenge of offering solutions for plastic waste or not generating any in the first place. The plastics industry has recognized that it must take the path to sustainable use of the valuable material plastic and that circular economy is the best solution. They are working at full speed on solutions for environmental compatibility, resource conservation, waste avoidance, but also more efficient use of raw materials and modern materials for more sustainable mobility. There is a real spirit of optimism in the industry in this regard; the current momentum is overwhelming.

Furthermore, digitalization is also one of the current hot topics in the plastics industry. Being connected by IoT, Industry 4.0 and AI, machines and plants become even more intelligent and efficient production units.  Platform economy is just a buzzword here, because anyone aiming for entrepreneurial success would be well advised to think about a suitable, focused online strategy. And last but not least, the digitalization of communication between business partners, suppliers and customers, i.e. a networked value chain, can become a real competitive advantage. 

Question to Mr. Dohse: I have a very similar question. What role does the interpack fair play in the world of packaging? 

As mentioned at the beginning, interpack is their leading event for decades now and therefore sets important stimuli to the industry by connecting people and mirroring the latest trends and topics. These trends are very similar to those at K, e.g. Industry 4.0, machine learning or circular economy approaches.

Question to Mr. Dohse: The packaging industry is considered to be one of the biggest emitters of waste. What would be helpful in solving the waste problems?

Resource efficiency in terms of using as little material as possible or using very efficient production technology with low usage of energy or water has been a key topic for years now. However, now the recycling aspect of packaging becomes increasingly with the goal to minimize waste. In short: following a circular economy approach and reduce, reuse and recycle. As Thomas Franken mentioned, this is especially important for plastics as recycling rates still leave room for improvement in many parts of the world and people tend to asses other materials as more environmentally friendly. However, what material is best for a certain packaging purpose under environmental aspects is very individual and not only determined by the choice of material. In general 

How do you assess the situation and potential in Poland from the perspective of K and interpack trade fairs?

T. Dohse: Poland is a very important country for us across all our trade fairs in Düsseldorf and this is particularly evident at interpack and K. If we look at the last decade alone, the number of exhibitors at interpack from Poland has increased from 33 in 2008 to 43 in 2017, and the exhibition space occupied has even increased from 860 m² to 1,750 m². The number of Polish trade visitors has also risen continuously during this time from 2,340 to 3,754.

T. Franken: At K, it becomes even clearer what excellent development our neighbouring country has achieved in recent years and how well highly specialised, innovative Polish companies can expand their position internationally and prove themselves as a strong partner in the industry: At K 2010 we had 17 exhibitors from Poland, whereas in 2019 there were 41, and the number of trade visitors more than doubled from 2,126 in 2010 to 4,898. We are convinced that this development will continue.