Despite a sluggish economy, Pack Expo International is expected to draw 45,000 attendees to more than 1 million square feet of floor space Oct. 31-Nov. 3 at McCormick Place in Chicago.

“The economy in the past few years has made it more important than ever for Pack Expo to deliver a value-packed experience,” said Kate Achelpohl, director of member communications for the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute, the trade association that organizes Pack Expo.

“We want attendees to get as much as possible out of their time at the show. That’s why we’re working with so many organizations.”

Unlike past shows that included a Conference at Pack Expo event organized by the institute, this year the association is working with the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Institute of Packaging Professionals and others to offer an expanded conference.

“This year’s educational programming is coming from a variety of sources rather than from PMMI,” Achelpohl said. “Each group is responsible for its own programming and content. Attendees will benefit from the focused educational opportunities the groups can provide.”

The institute also is working with the Arlington, Va.-based Reusable Packaging Association, which will sponsor the Reusable Packaging Pavilion.

That new feature will cover 3,000 square feet and include more than 20 exhibitors spotlighting reusable pallets and containers.

The RPA also plans to sponsor educational sessions and workshops on Nov. 2-3.

Pack Expo also will include the following new features:

  • Processing Zone: 70,000 square feet with more than 150 companies exhibiting processing technologies;

  • DistriPak Pavilion: Sponsored by the National Paper Trade Association, this area is dedicated to packaging and paper distributors; and

  • the Brand Zone: More than 60,000 square feet, featuring containers and materials that “respond to consumer demands for convenience, portion control, portability and sustainability,” according to the institute.

The Brand Zone will include Project 2020: The Consumer Experience. The institute and sponsor DuPont have invited designers to submit concepts for consideration, and prototypes of the 20 most creative solutions will be displayed.

Achelpohl said Pack Expo is expected to draw about 1,600 exhibitors, which is down from the 2,281 that participated in the event’s previous show in Chicago in 2008.

The disparity, she said, is due to the fact that the 2008 event, unlike this year’s, was co-located with both CPP Expo and Process Expo. CCP is back, but the Process Expo was held July 18-20 in Chicago.

The 45,000 projected attendees for Pack Expo is a slight increase from 2008 attendance.

The show rotates between Chicago and Las Vegas each year. The 2011 show is scheduled for Sept. 26-28 in Las Vegas.