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It once took years to bring a new product to market, but today it only takes several months to take a product from the conceptual stage to store shelves. This rapid rate of new product development has jaded us into believing that this is the way it should be all of the time. And it probably would have been if not for the recent economic downturn. Everyone wants a quantum leap, but the reality is that the economy is just now starting to dig itself out from under a frustrating recession. Jeff Schuetz, director global technology of consumer packaging, Sonoco expects 2004 to be a better year.
"From an overall business standpoint we see growth. In the food industry, we see some improvement in terms of the economy and how our customers are doing, which in turn reflects on how we do. And in industrial packaging segments we also see the same improving situation. There is a positive outlook for 2004. Now, people are always positive in January, but we're seeing it in our bookings, as well as in some of the projections our customers are giving us."
While it is true that the pace of new product development slowed during the recession, the slowdown did not affect the uninterrupted growth of the flexible packaging sector. This month's FPA Update section beginning on page 12 is dedicated to the record number of entries in this year's Flexible Packaging Achievement Awards Competition. One look at the variety and range of the products depicted should quickly dispel any notion that innovation, or new product rollouts, in flexible packaging has slowed down. By all indications, the flexible packaging market will continue to expand in 2004.
The changes affecting the flexible packaging industry in 2004 go beyond surviving the recession. There are trends affecting the consumer, which if ignored, will lead to the introduction of packaging that does not fit the consumers' changing needs.