Best of British

Bonnie Howard August 12, 2014


Whilst the big exhibitions such as interpack in Dusseldorf and CPhI 2014 in Paris are key to our industry, it is gratifying to note the development of the smaller sector-focused shows in the UK and the important role they play.

From a visitor’s point of view, the thought of having to climb on an aircraft, spend money on hotels and be out of the office at a time when there are lots of important things going on back at base, can have limited attractions. By contrast if one can hop in the car, spend a few hours at the show and be back the same day, all of a sudden visiting an exhibition makes perfect sense.

Packing them in at  Packaging Innovations

Packing them in at Packaging Innovations

The growing trend for shell-scheme-only exhibitions is a big plus for exhibitors too. Many members of the British Contract Manufacturers and Packers Association (BCMPA) have been able to promote themselves very effectively at these low-cost shows, whereas participating in big international exhibitions would have been out of the question. The costs don’t crucify the budget and ease of set-up and break-down make the whole thing an altogether less stressful experience.


As a UK Trade Association with a membership spanning a number of industry sectors, the BCMPA is keen to put its weight behind niche, locally organised events, allowing members the opportunity to include exhibitions in their annual marketing strategy. Whilst some of our 130 members are global players, most of them are not. Their main market is in the UK and if suitable a show exists, that’s where they want to exhibit.

Europe’s finest meet and mingle at interpack

Europe’s finest meet and mingle at interpack

I am thinking of events such as Making Cosmetics, now in its third year, and already established as the most important of its kind in the UK. The BCMPA stand was besieged both days with visitors looking for outsourcing partners, and with eight of our members exhibiting they had plenty of people to talk to about their personal care projects.

The content of the seminar programme was excellent and was graded into what the organisers called their ‘3 chilli’ rating system to cater for everyone from the technical boffin to the entrepreneurial start-up. So popular were some of the sessions that it was
standing room only!

Its new sister show, Making Pharmaceuticals, which was launched in April at the National Motorcycle Museum just across the road from the NEC Birmingham, is set to follow the same success, once again with active support from the BCMPA.

With 88 exhibitors in year one, it’s not pretending to be a CPhI, but it was a focused event attracting high-calibre visitors and is definitely a must to note down in your 2015 calendar.


A tangible result of these two shows is that we have seen a marked increase in the amount of personal care and pharmaceutical enquiries received over recent months via the BCMPA website.

From modest beginnings almost a decade ago, easyFairs Packaging Innovations has grown to become the leading packaging show in the country, but still retains the shell-scheme lost-cost business model which has been key to its success. Although there are a few overseas exhibitors and visitors, it is promoted very much as a UK, not international event.

Their February show at the NEC is, of course, their flagship event with seven brands, including the BCMPA’s Contract Pack zone, covering the entire packaging supply chain and attracting in excess of 6000 visitors over the two days.


The BCMPA will also be featured again at the easyFairs Packaging Innovations London, now in its fifth year, taking place at The Business Design Centre Islington from 30th September to 1st October. In 2013, it attracted over 3650 visitors and this year the event has been enhanced by the growth of the Luxury Packaging zone, which is sure to be of interest to many Retail Packaging readers.

Of course there are important international exhibitions that one must attend or exhibit at. But just think, by the time you’ve checked in at Heathrow and are standing barefoot at security with shoes, laptop and belt in a black conveyor tray, you could already be ensconced at a UK show having meaningful discussions with customers or suppliers over a freshly brewed coffee – and still be home in time for tea!