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Interpack 2021 canceled: Rethinking virtual events and maximizing hybrid solutions

December 13, 2020
Consumer Packaged Goods

Messe Düsseldorf has decided to cancel packaging and processing industry trade show interpack. The event was initially scheduled to take place from May 7-13, 2020.

Postponed to February 25-March 3, 2021, during Europe’s first COVID-19 pandemic wave, the event has now been called off altogether.

The trade show will reconvene in May 2023, forcing packaging companies to wait more than two years to seize the marketing, sales and networking opportunities Europe’s biggest physical packaging trade show offers.

Reflecting on the 2021 cancelation, Messe Düsseldorf’s interpack organizers, and prominent packaging suppliers Wipak and GEA share their stance on the future of physical and virtual trade shows with PackagingInsights.

To continue or not to continue
Until November 10, interpack communicated its full intention to host the 2021 event following calls for its continuation.

“We fully understand the reservations and concerns of our exhibitors in the current situation,” Thomas Dohse, interpack project director at Messe Düsseldorf, had announced at the time.

“On the other hand, we have also received feedback on how important personal exchange is for our customers and what significance interpack has for the processing and packaging industry.”

Interpack 2021 was equipped with a pre-tested hygiene and infection protection concept, designed to enable exhibitors and trade visitors to meet safely in the exhibition halls.

The event organizers also offered exhibitors discounted participation conditions and temporary special rights of termination to compensate for fears of lower visitor rates.

However, stricter congregation measures were implemented in Germany on November 25 and are projected to continue in the new year.

“This did not give cause for hope that the situation would improve significantly over the course of the coming months. The feedback from our exhibitors pointed in the same direction so that we finally decided to cancel the show in 2021,” explains Dohse.

Sensory experience crucial for machinery
Contrary to other major packaging trade shows, such as the North American Pack Expo, interpack ultimately decided against hosting a digital trade show.

Since interpack is heavily invested in packaging machinery and systems, the missing sensory experiences business executives need to be sure about purchasing decisions outweighed any arguments in favor of a virtual exhibition.

“Visitors interested in complex packaging and process technology want to experience and touch it live to make successful investment decisions,” says Dohse.

“In the case of machines and systems, the supplier-customer relationship plays an important role, including specific adaptations and the necessary technology maintenance. This is all about trust, which is most likely built through face-to-face contact.”

Physical contact taken for granted?
This pandemic-stricken year has reemphasized how important human connectivity and physical contact are for business growth and networking.

Industry has repeatedly shared with PackagingInsights how virtual events may present a useful added value as a hybrid solution, while in-person contact can never be substituted with 2D pixelated video calls.

Until social distancing restrictions are lifted, packaging and processing company GEA plans on using webinars and virtual/hybrid customer events to stay connected with customers.

A spokesperson says the company expects virtuality to have an “even higher focus than it already has.”

Hery-Christian Henry, head of marketing and sustainability at flexible packaging company Wipak, agrees that interpack would not be suited as a virtual event. Moreover, he advocates for a “complete rethink” of what a trade show can be.

“Physical exhibitions have to radically rethink their offering in terms of delivery and bang for the consumer’s buck,” says Henry.

“There will always be space for an outstanding physical event – but the current way of doing exhibitions will not come back – and should not come back.” He envisions virtual reality, video and use-at-home kits to lead new concept development.

Both Wipak and GEA withdrew their participation prior to the official cancelation. Wipak observed some of its customers and competitors follow suit in the past weeks, while GEA does not intend on attending larger trade fairs before September 2021.

Interpack 2023
Together with Messe Düsseldorf, interpack decided to adhere to its traditional tri-annual exhibition cycle, which it “did not want to change.”

Until the next fair edition, industry can access continuous updates on trends, developments and innovations on interpack’s website. Approved exhibitors will remain listed in the exhibitor database, from where they can contact potential visitors and vice versa.

“These services will be continuously developed and expanded. Thus, for interpack 2023 there will be extended online possibilities available,” Dohse adds.

Throughout the pandemic, PackagingInsights regularly updates its COVID-19 news feed for the coronavirus information and insights you need to guide your business through this challenging period.

By Anni Schleicher


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