LAS VEGAS — Demand for packaging solutions is up as the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry tries to keep pace with consumer demand and lagging labor. At Pack Expo Las Vegas, held Sept. 27-29, Jorge Izquierdo, vice president of market development at PMMI, reported that the packaging and processing industry in the United States had grown 14.4% in 2020, much of it driven by food and beverage.

“There are mainly two things driving the growth. No. 1 is consumer demand, their behaviors shifted, they were buying more and more at supermarkets and less at restaurants, so that would be No. 1,” he said. “No. 2 is workforce. As you know workforce has been a challenge in manufacturing for a number of years. Maybe you noticed in the last ten years workforce has been a challenge. In the last five years, the challenge has been significant, in the last year it has been unbelievable. So there has been a level of investment to just keep productivity levels.”

As CPG companies grapple with these two challenges, much of their priorities for packaging solutions in 2020 revolved around flexibility, protecting employees from the coronavirus and maintaining productivity by investing in automation. Today, those priorities have shifted to an emphasis on resolving the workforce challenge with more automation.

“Intuitive equipment that trains operators faster is gaining relevance,” Mr. Izquierdo said. “With all these challenges, CPGs are asking equipment manufacturers to provide equipment that someone they grab off the street can come in and run. That’s not an easy challenge, and so what we’re finding is more intuitive equipment and more remote service and training.”

Today in 2021, Mr. Izquierdo reported that the industry’s appetite for investment is still strong even as it has slowed some in the third quarter.

“We’re still experiencing significant growth this year, and we’ll probably still see double-digit growth this year, and we’re expecting a very healthy 2022-23,” he said.