Javier Riera-Marsá has been president of the Hispack Organising Committee since 2006. With abundant experience in the sector of machinery for processing packaging, especially for food and pharmaceutical articles, the spokesperson for this fair organized every three years at Fira de Barcelona analyses the situation of the Spanish packaging industry and reveals some recent trends that will be visible from May 8-11. 

We're two months from the start of the fair. What can we expect from this year's Hispack?

Things are looking great, and we have the numbers to prove it: the fair will have almost 750 direct exhibitors, which means over 1,400 companies represented. It'll take up 39,000 net m2 (100,000 gross m2) in three pavilions in the Gran Via fairgrounds. Compared to our 2015 edition, that's a growth of 20% in number of stands and of 12% in floor area. Without a doubt, this year's fair will represent the positive moment packaging is going through, as well as its strategic position in the value chain of any consumer product. We're aware of the multiple actors that operate in the packaging sector, and of its interconnectedness with other productive processes and with the supply chain. This year, we're going to take a look at packaging taking into account its life cycle as well as processing and logistics.

What sectors are best represented?

Sectors related to machinery and materials for manufacturing packaging or to devices for processing, bottling or codification and marking will continue to be the ones best represented in our commercial offering. However, we're also going to put more emphasis on logistics, the process, automation and digitalisation, and on packaging solutions themselves. The packaging sector is a key economic motor here in our country, one that's clearly cross-cutting. Hispack is the gathering point and the loudspeaker for the entire sector, structuring the largest packaging ecosystem in the Iberian market.

What do you think about how the sector is doing based on the current economic situation?

The Spanish packaging industry has clearly consolidated its recovery. It has enjoyed continued growth over the past three years thanks to a more dynamic internal market. All sectors need packaging solutions to sell their products, and so packaging is an increasingly important element in the global strategy of any company. I'm optimistic about the current economic context, and if our surroundings are favourable, our sector will also do well. In fact, while preparing this Hispack, we already noted a positive business climate among our visitors and exhibitors.

In addition to greater activity and more diversification in the packaging industry, I've also noted a need to adapt to an increasingly technological and automatic environment. Our sector is also an example of the digital transformation process being experienced by the industry. Many businesses, especially those in machinery for processing packaging, are making a big effort with investments and talent to promote and apply innovations related to digitalization. The strong desire to improve competitiveness and contribute value to our customers drives us to continue in this direction.

Can these positive trends be extrapolated to Spanish companies that decide to invest in internationalisation?

Exports are an important motor for the growth of the sector. We should remember that they were decisive during the recession, reaching increases above 5% in some exercises. As a result, we have a sector that invests in internationalisation and that needs to continue in this direction. Spanish packaging companies have a strong position abroad –especially in Europe, our principal market– since we've achieved a positive balance between quality, cost and technology with the innovation we offer. However, sometimes we need to continue to explore new markets and strengthen our relationship with emerging countries and with countries that offer new commercial opportunities. In fact, several editions of Hispack have been working along these lines in order to attract buyers, businesspeople and professionals with specific projects in Latin American and Mediterranean countries.

This year, several delegations from Algeria, Chile, Morocco, Peru, Tunisia, Mexico, Colombia, Poland, and Turkey, contributing nearly 400 purchasers, will attend through AMEC. Reverse commercial missions are being organized with some 30 companies from Argentina, Iran, India, Indonesia, and Thailand. For its part, Fira de Barcelona has promoted the visit of an institutional and company representation from Cuba. It will also be attended by 70 buyers from 12 countries with specific investment projects.In addition, we're promoting our fair in a number of European countries in order to attract a larger number of international visitors. We expect 15% of the over 35,000 visitors expected to attend to come from abroad.

The digital transformation and the technological innovations you mentioned, together with the social changes we're experiencing, suggest that 2018 will be quite notable in terms of innovations in the world of packaging. What trends would you highlight?

Of course, packaging solutions have to do with improving sustainability within the framework of the circular economy. This is the most significant trend in the evolution of packaging. It has to do with ecodesign, the use of recyclable and biodegradable materials, conserving raw materials and energy, reducing the weight of containers and recycling and reuse. We'll also see more and more packaging that interacts with the products it contains, improving its properties and extending its shelf life. At the same time, packaging adapts to the concept of "convenience", in order to generate products that are ready to use at any time. Another tendency we're experiencing is the need to provide intelligent packaging that's capable of interacting and providing greater information to consumers on products and brands. With all of this, we hope to improve users' experiences.

On an industrial level, the packaging sector is investing in digitalisation and automation to improve efficiency and obtain information in real time, at any moment. The different parts of the process of manufacturing products –which includes packaging– are increasingly interconnected and tied to the supply chain. Packaging can be a key element in this new industry for the control and management of the entire process, from the manufacturing of a product until it reaches the point of sale or the customer's home, in the case of e-commerce.

How will these tendencies be visible at Hispack?

In recent years, the packaging industry has been redefining itself. People are discovering the true added value of good packaging. Packaging is no longer just a functional container for products, but rather a decisive element in the general strategy of any company with a direct impact on its final results. The tendencies we've talked about are the most immediate challenges packaging needs to take on. As a result, in addition to what exhibitors are showing at their stands, Hispack will provide four separate areas with a specific program for over 70 conferences and round tables with 185 speakers. They'll put the emphasis on success stories having to do with sustainability, automation-digitalisation, logistics and user experience. Each of these areas will also include spaces for presenting innovative products and packaging projects, as well as workshops and demonstrations that will promote networking. In addition, the Liderpack awards presented at Hispack are a good barometer for analysing technical innovations, processes, materials and techniques, as well as the principal tendencies influencing the evolution of packaging.

Why do you recommend that professionals from different sectors using packaging visit Hispack?

Packaging is of interest to a broad range of professional profiles, from any industrial sector. I mean professionals tied to engineering production, purchasing, operations, I+D+i, quality, the environment, commercial areas and marketing. At Hispack, they'll all get a chance to better understand packaging from a global point of view, but also in a way that's applicable to what they do each day. The fair will encourage all packaging agents to come together and take a look at innovation in the industry with the largest commercial offering in the Spanish market, while also offering practical knowledge and networking. This is Hispack's differential value, which I encourage you all to come and take advantage of.

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