Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, PACK EXPO went all-virtual this year, with plans for its original event at McCormick Place shuttered. 

PACK EXPO Connects brought the industry together during its launch week Nov. 9-13, with nearly 18,000 attendees engaging with more than 700 exhibitors to find solutions to critical packaging challenges.

Despite exhibitor preparedness, technical issues kept the live demonstrations from launching as intended on Monday, but the PACK EXPO Connects exhibitors adapted and demos returned for attendees looking to see technology in action the remainder of the event.

“This event was able to connect the industry, which was our number one goal in a year when professionals cannot attend physical trade events,” says Jim Pittas, president and CEO, PMMI. “And our exhibitors were remarkable in their ability to react and deliver effective demonstrations despite the technical challenges entirely outside of their control.”

To date, PACK EXPO Connects has seen 137,000 unique directory visits with 475,000 total showroom visits since the event website went live. During the show week, attendees viewed demos over 32,000 times. Those numbers will continue to grow as engagement continues on packexpoconnects.com with on-demand demos and exhibitor showrooms available through March 2021.

Exhibitor Engage Technologies Corporation and its family of companies, including Squid Ink, Eastey and AFM, attained nearly 1,000 new contacts through PACK EXPO Connects, according to Marketing Manager Josh Nelson.

“We were successful in providing live demonstrations of our equipment after switching over to the Zoom platform after [a few] technical difficulties on Monday morning,” Nelson said. “We formed a plan as a team to put our demonstration agenda into an easily emailable format and each morning I downloaded our list of demonstration attendees from the Exhibitor Section of the PACK EXPO Connects website.”

Nelson was pleased with the feedback he received regarding their virtual showroom. Customers were particularly pleased with the interactions and detailed information his team could provide in the chat as the demonstrations were live.

Josh Becker, senior manager, packaging systems, Hershey, appreciated the flexibility that the online format offered him and his team.

“At PACK EXPO Connects, I enjoyed taking advantage of attending the exhibitor demonstrations the most. It’s been helpful to attend the various sessions available and learn more about the latest cutting-edge trends in packaging operations, such as augmented reality,” Becker says. “The structure and flexibility of the show allowed us to see a diverse range of what the industry is offering.”

In addition to demos, educational offerings—many debuting for the first time at PACK EXPO Connects – produced engagement surpassing expectations. More than 800 attendees tuned in live to Dr. Kim Houchens, director, Customer Packaging Experience, at Amazon’s keynote address, which remains available on-demand at packexpoconnects.com. The daily Jumpstart sessions each averaged 400 viewers seeking insights into key trends and technologies. And every day, over a dozen Innovation Stages and afternoon Trend Chats and Daily Downloads with PMMI Media Group editors attracted high daily participation. The Solutions Room wrapped up the week on Friday with targeted interactions from the OpX Leadership Network, Organization for Machine Automation and Control (OMAC), the Institute of Packaging Professionals and the Contract Packaging Association. 

“PACK EXPO Connects offered a unique opportunity to report on industry developments via a new digital format,” comments Jim Chrzan, vice president, content and brand development, PMMI Media Group. “I’m incredibly proud of our team and grateful to Amazon, General Mills, Bush Brothers and many industry experts who presented. Engagement from the packaging and processing community was exciting to see and the experience has expanded our vision of the many ways we can deliver content.” 

Engagement will continue through March 31, 2021, with on-demand demos, educational sessions and showrooms remaining available as resources for industry professionals in the coming months. Access all live recordings from the show through March 2021 here.

Click through the above slideshow to see a roundup of equipment and technologies presented at the virtual expo.