Another big issue drinktec will be centering on is sustainable production and packaging. “A lot has happened in the past few years in production as regards saving on resources and energy efficiency,” claims Westphal. “The focus is now on the packaging itself. On the one hand the strategy of reduce, reuse and recycle is being applied; on the other we have upcycling where new, high-quality materials are produced from used objects.” The drinktec manager and her colleagues are particularly taken by two specific up-to-the-minute innovations: Petra Westphal is especially enthusiastic about the Coca-Cola bottle made of 25% plastic waste collected from Mediterranean beaches in Spain and Portugal; Markus Kosak is fascinated most of all by the development of sustainable labels. Besides using recycled and FSC-certified paper, materials such as grass and stone paper are starting to appear. Labels made of real wood are also already available on the market. It will be exciting to see how things progress here.
One innovation already suitable for the mass market is the Nature MultiPack system that holds PET bottles and cans together with the help of a few dots of adhesive only. This disruptive packaging concept from KHS was first introduced at drinktec 2013; the packs are now on sale throughout Europe. “This is a good example of the special things exhibited here at our trade show,” says Westphal, who can well remember how excited show visitors were about the new format back then. “This is exactly what we mean when we say this is where the future is made.” Dr. Grobe is also pleased with the pack format’s success. “Carlsberg is using the Nature MultiPackTM for six-packs of beer in cans, for example, and consumers are buying what’s known as the Snap Pack 30 times more frequently than a pack wrapped in film – even though it’s more expensive.” He wants to build on this and other stories of success. “It’s important that we continue to develop this sustainable pack by applying it to other formats and increasing capacity ranges.”
Trade show with a future
For Petra Westphal, Nature MultiPack shows how strongly the beverage industry is driven by innovation. “Time and again I’m fascinated by the incredible foresight shown by our exhibitors. Take aseptic filling, for example, which was first presented at drinktec in 2001. Twenty years later this is still a very topical issue.” She wishes that there was greater awareness of how long it sometimes takes for new concepts to be successful on the market, also beyond the beverage and liquid food industry. However, this also requires that a saturated society has the courage to accept things that have maybe not yet been engineered right down to the last detail.
Kosak believes that drinktec has a rosy future ahead of it. “Our industry is also always about projects that demand a lot of explanation, that have to be discussed and felt. Personal exchange is especially crucial when it comes to the big innovations and developments that straddle several disciplines. Which form this will take, whether in an entirely analog manner or by adopting a hybrid approach, remains to be seen.” Dr. Grobe is also convinced that drinktec will continue to have its place in the digital world. “I think that, on the whole, the trade show landscape will change through digitalization and regionalization. Even if Europe always has been and still is a driver of innovation, we’re seeing many new developments in Asia, for example, that will encourage the adoption of local and regional trade show formats.” However, as an international summit for the beverage industry drinktec will continue to be vital on a strategic level and as a mirror of the current trends – and, above all, for its ‘human factor’.