Field Notes: 9th Annual Thin Wall Packaging Conference Europe

The City of Cologne in Germany is renowned for its famed “Dom”, the imposing cathedral with twin spires that managed to survive Allied bombing during World War II. During the month of December, the city is also known across Europe for its “Weihnachtsmarkt” or Night Christmas Markets. With locals and tourists milling around temporary outdoor structures containing everything from wintry clothes to local cuisine to hot mulled wine (“Gluhwein”), the spirit of the season arrives at the beginning of December. It is also the time of year when around 200 packaging professionals gather at the Maritim Hotel for the annual Thin Wall Packaging Conference.


With new developments in materials science and technological innovations in injection and thermoforming machinery, the majority of papers reinforced a central theme of how to reduce food waste through better plastic packaging. Many of the converters positioned themselves as solutions providers, in both the sustainable and technological sense.

Weight reduction is a key element in managing CO2 emissions since transportation of packaged goods to market plays a large role in carbon accounting. In one statistical insight, metal cans have been downgauged by 45% since 1974. Other insights showed that plastic is chosen in 44% of new product launches for food and vegetable packaging. Several discussions about foamed materials such as “Envalight” from Spanish company EDV Packaging highlighted novel solutions that answered the need both for extended shelf life and optimized performance of the package. HYTAC users are familiar with the downgauging benefits of plug assisted thermoforming to improve material distribution while maintaining part strength.

Another major thread running through many presentations was the increasing adoption of plastic solutions, despite ongoing regulatory challenges in the form of outright bans and difficulties presented by potential contamination of recycling streams. Glass and metal cans are being replaced by new, innovative plastic containers that are both injection molded and thermoformed. Ancillary technologies such as decorative printing and in-mold labelling (IML) are helping to create value-added solutions for leading global brands.

The Thin Wall Conference will be back in the US next May in Chicago (well, it’s really in Wheeling, IL) from May 6-7.