Once in a while, we’re reminded that all of our plans and aspirations are dependent on basic conditions and assumptions that remain invisible – until they are threatened. The world has watched the spread of the coronavirus largely in a state of powerless concern. As cases rise in every continent and more and more countries take increasingly drastic measures to control the spread, no one can authoritatively predict the full impact or duration of the Covid-19 pandemic.

What does it mean for packaging and FMCG?

In the immediate term, everyone is braced for challenges in their supply chains. Huge numbers of workers will be away from their places of work as a result of sickness, quarantine, and state-imposed self-isolation policies. Meanwhile, everyone still needs to eat, drink and wash. The packaged goods value chain will play a critical social role over the coming weeks and months simply by finding ways of maintaining productivity.

We’ve reached out to several of the leaders of the packaging industry for comment on the outlook, and the universal, honest answer we’re getting is that it’s impossible to predict the scale of the challenge, and too early to comment on the best strategies to face it. Businesses are focusing on their core competences and keeping their employees safe. Packaging Europe will keep on talking to the industry throughout this crisis and share insights as we all become reluctant experts in living and working around corona.

In the longer term, it’s likely that there will be wider implications for packaging. There are already signs that many consumers have rethought their preference for ‘packaging-free’ consumption, and some foodservice chains have halted use of personal cups. Aseptic single-use packaging is back in vogue, and perhaps society will emerge from the pandemic with a renewed appreciation of the crucial role packaging plays in maintaining the safety and integrity of products.

Additionally, as people look to minimise social contact, we can anticipate that coronavirus will also accelerate the growth of e-commerce. And as businesses struggle with labour shortages, we may see an upsurge in investment in automation.

Packaging Europe’s stance

Like everyone else in the packaging ecosystem, here at Packaging Europe, we’re assessing the implications of Covid-19 – for our team, our customers, partners and our plans for the coming months. There is an immediate question around travel, and several events with which we are partnering have been cancelled or postponed.

We’d like to assure our advertisers that we’ll work with them flexibly to neutralise the disruption from corona, for instance moving special expo editions, and associated advertising and content, to rescheduled dates. In the meantime, we’ll be active in facilitating communication and information while face-to-face meetings are constrained, including a series of webinars and virtual meetings.

We’re also monitoring the situation with regard to the Sustainable Packaging Summit (due to take place on 15-16 October) and will be prepared both to offer live streaming and to postpone if necessary.

Contact Packaging Europe if you have any questions about our plans or requests for support, or if you have any information or insights about the pandemic that you’d like to share with our journalists. In the meantime, to all of our readers and partners, best wishes and keep well.