Held at the Westin Waterfront Hotel in Boston between 9 and 12 October, this inaugural event brought together senior packaging executives from the cosmetics, personal care and design sectors, alongside invited delegates drawn from leading global brand owners, suppliers and manufacturers.
Suppliers attended pre-arranged meetings with multinationals such as Beierdorf AG, Johnson & Johnson and Unilever – a form of ‘corporate speed dating’, in the words of one delegate – which offered a unique level of access and opportunities for companies to sell services and expand remits. There were 310 such meetings over the course of the weekend.
But there was also plenty of opportunity for forging relationships away from the conference hall. Drinks and dinner continued late into the evening each night and an off-site visit to celebrity chef Todd English’s Kingfish Hall saw the party continue in the centre of the city.
FROM PANEL DISCUSSIONS TO PRESENTATIONS
For those looking to expand their horizons as well as their waistlines, an extremely well-conceived programme of panel discussions, roundtables, presentations and Q&A sessions ran throughout the day.
Among the highlights was a presentation from Dr Walter Lewis, the managing director at Faraday Packaging. The starting topic was ‘Breakthrough Trends in Pack Development Systems’, but his message was equally focused on the number of potential avenues for success currently unexplored within the industry.
“How are we doing in the eyes of the consumer?” Dr Lewis asked the assembled audience. Citing the results of a recent Yours Magazine survey, he concluded: “Pretty bloody awful.” The presentation then went on to consider how this could be rectified, covering areas such as Kansai engineering, heuristics and universal design.
Also pushing progressive research techniques was Diane Fox-Hill. The discursive psychologist and semiotician from UK packaging consultancy PDD chaired a roundtable discussion on bridging the gap between research and strategy and presented a talk and workshop on semiotics in packaging.
Her message throughout was clear: the industry must find ways of truly gauging consumer trends and activities. “We need to use different analytical techniques,” she announced. “It should not be about what the consumers want but why they want it.”
Elsewhere, a roundtable discussion on biodegradability and sustainability became a frank and open conversation about the potential fallout from Wal-Mart’s new environmental plan and scorecard system. While fully appreciating the need for a sustainable approach, the overriding sentiment within the room was one of confusion mixed with resentment.
Directors from some of the retailer’s largest suppliers bemoaned a lack of information and a muddled message. “It is as if they assume we have not been working on these issues already,” announced one delegate. “It has still not been made clear how the ratings system is going to work.”
It was this kind of openness that stuck a chord with many of the attendees. Nicole Smith, environmental director at Design and Source Productions, found that it made a great difference to the normal tradeshow. “It’s been great for getting a feeling for where our customers’ heads are at,” she said. “The conversations have been very open and we’re coming away with a lot of insight into what the brand owners want.”
Despite ‘the bar being open far too late and the food far too good’, Patrick Poitevin, packaging development and innovation manager at Creative Outsourcing Solutions International, was equally effusive. “Although very relaxed, it’s been more formal than mere networking,” he said. “You know you are seeing the people you want to see and there is much more of an opportunity to explain in real detail. It’s been extremely productive.”
PACE-CPD will next be incorporated into the much larger PACE Forum on 8–11 February 2007 at the Westin Paris.