KANSAS CITY — Bakers and snack producers face a litany of operational challenges at a time when many of them see ample opportunities for expanding their businesses. The combination of changes in consumer behavior, workforce issues, requests for new packaging formats and the often-frustrating need for greater capacity has driven a record 40% increase in sales of packaging between 2019 and 2022, according to just-released research by PMMI, the sponsor of Pack Expo trade show.

PMMI also projects sales to remain above average for the next few years before stabilizing around a 4% growth rate. Moreover, two-thirds of consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies have increased their spending on automation in the past three years while almost none have reduced it, noted PMMI’s 2022 report on “The Future of Automation of Packaging and Processing.”

Jorge Izquierdo, vice president, market development, PMMI, pointed out that COVID-19 initially fueled primary packaging demand as consumers made most of their meals at home and relied on supermarkets and packaged food to get all the ingredients. Then as these issues abated, the labor shortage hit with a vengeance, and CPGs flocked to buy case packing and other forms of automation to alleviate labor-intensive secondary packaging and end of the line processes.

“The situation went from ‘Let’s push more product out of the door’ to ‘Let’s do the same but with fewer people,’” he explained. “We thought this aggressive growth would come to an end, and it did not. We just changed the drivers that are causing this growth.”

This explains the huge crowds at the recent Pack Expo show in Chicago.