November/December 2019

PACK EXPO’s Jim Pittas talks sustainable packaging and other topics

For the better part of nine decades, PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies (formerly Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute) has been a leading organization in the industry. Jim Pittas has been a part of it for 20 years, including almost two as PMMI’s president and CEO. Pittas has a long history with one of PMMI’s biggest annual events — PACK EXPO, which alternates between Chicago and Las Vegas.

Could you describe an average day?

I don’t think I could say what an average day is for me or really anyone at PMMI. At any given moment, we may need to change direction or respond to a member request or a suggestion. Certainly, much of my time is focused on running the organization, which is large and complex, and because we are a member organization, I need to keep my board and executive committee informed.

What’s new? 

We recently launched a podcast, UnPACKed with PMMI, to keep the industry informed of critical processing and packaging trends, working toward our goal of being a global resource to the industry. We are in the process of updating our strategic plan for PMMI. Although I don’t expect a radical shift from what we do or the services we provide, we always focus on the areas where we believe we can make a difference in the industry and provide more value to members.

PMMI is known for its trade shows. What else does it do?

We have a robust education program and initiatives that are continuously growing. We develop industry standards, produce business intelligence reports, hold roughly a dozen meetings annually, own a media company and now provide management services to other associations.

What is the biggest challenge for food processors? 

Sustainability has been a changing factor for many companies in the packaging space. In my opinion, consumers are demanding more in the way of natural or organic products in recyclable packaging. This demand creates a great opportunity for our members to provide real solutions for their customers.

What led to robotics being such a big focus of PACK EXPO 2019?

Brands are looking for more automation up and down the line to be more productive but also to solve for the challenge of a shrinking pool of skilled workers. Therefore, we thought that robotics was an area we needed to highlight and wanted to give it a real purpose at the show.

What other ways did show exhibitors get involved?

The companies that participated in The Robotics Zone were asked to pack bags of food for Blessings in a Backpack, an organization that provides weekend food for elementary-age students who contend with food insecurities at home.

What do you enjoy doing away from the job? 

I’m married and have four kids and really love spending time with them doing just about anything. I’m also a big golfer and enjoy getting out and playing whenever I can. Although my game seems to be getting worse in recent years, I still love to play.

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