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PDA Annual Meeting: Our Takeaways & Looking Ahead

Versa Pak Sales Manager Jeff Knapke and Versa Pak President Michael Brunswick at the PDA Annual Meeting


Every year, Versa Pak attends the Packaging Distributors of America’s Annual Meeting, and 2022 was no exception. PDA Annual Meeting sign

The PDA Annual Meeting is one of our favorite events to attend, as the relationships we have developed at the event have proven to be invaluable.

Keep reading to learn more about our takeaways from the event — and what we’re looking forward to (with Jeff as chairman of the supplier council!) in the upcoming year.

A Place for Networking and Business Opportunities

According to PDA’s Director of Client Services Barb Dammann, the general feedback around the conference’s meetings was very positive.

“People value the opportunity to have great networking time together, and they really appreciate the 30-minute one-on-oneSign of PDA supplier sponsors of the welcome reception meetings between the Members and Suppliers because they learn a lot,” she said. “There were many business opportunities that came out of those discussions.”

PDA is comprised of distributors and Suppliers and aims to provide value-added ideas, programs and services to help the growth of its Members and Suppliers. The business opportunities at the annual meeting are some of the most important takeaways Versa Pak has every year — and this year was no different.

“We’ve been in the group for 13 or 14 years, and there are still brand-new business opportunities for us,” Versa Pak Sales Manager Jeff Knapke said.

Top Discussions at the PDA Annual Meeting

Besides the networking opportunities, the current market was naturally a topic of interest at the annual meeting.

“The feedback I’ve been getting from or in the meetings is that the price increases are starting to slow down a little bit, which is a good thing,” PDA President and CEO George Strobel said. “The problem is, it’s going to be harder to fill the supply chain or get the supply chain to move. As these prices come down, people will want more orders, and it will be more difficult.

“For the most part, almost every supplier felt that if we weren’t already in a recession, we are definitely moving to a recessional kind of environment. But, again, when this thing goes into full bloom — and I don’t know what it’s going to look like, nobody really does — I think we’re all crossing our fingers that’s a very short-term kind of thing, and adjustments are made pretty quickly.”

Sustainability was also a popular topic of discussion at this year’s event.

“It’s a big push,” Knapke said. “People want to know, ‘What are you doing?’”

“It’s interesting because I think one of the things we need to do as an organization is to define what sustainability means because it’s different things to different people,” Strobel added. “And I think we need to [collectively create] a PDA definition of what sustainability is, so that when our sales people go out and somebody asks them, ‘Well, what kind of sustainability projects are you involved in?’, there’s this set of messaging that takes place with it.”

Jeff Knapke Named Chairman of the PDA Supplier Council

Knapke, who was recently named chairman of the PDA Supplier Council, noted one of the items on his agenda is to bring back PDA Days, regular sales and industry networking sessions that were halted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The overwhelming answer was, ‘Yes. We want to get back to those.’ Some people weren’t able to attend — for example, one company said they only have three to four salespeople. To accommodate the smaller companies, in our supplier meeting, we also discussed offering a virtual training day.”

Another goal Knapke mentioned was offering an onboarding program for new sales representatives, which would include a list of the PDA Supplier network members and recordings of the virtual training sessions.

Also on the agenda for later this year is bringing back the Champions Meeting. Suppliers will name a champion who will represent them at the annual discussion along with PDA Member champions to address successes and frustrations in the industry.

“Hopefully, by the end of the day, they walk out with a better sense of each other, and a better sense of some processes that may be taking place,” Strobel added. “But the key is to start that relationship building so that Member champions start talking to Supplier champions on a regular basis and build up a relationship.”

Motivational speaker at the Annual PDA Meeting

Photo by Packaging Distributors of America

2022 Packaging Distributors of America Annual Meeting

This year’s PDA annual meeting was held from June 26 to June 29 at Montage Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, S.C.

The picturesque venue was a hit among members, and Strobel credited the relaxed atmosphere of this year’s event to the laid-back property.

Montage Palmetto Bluff, the venue for the Annual PDA Meeting

“The one thing I heard differently this year than I have heard in the past from almost every Supplier I was talking to, was how relaxed our members came into the meeting this year,” he said. “It was very different from stoically walking in and going through an agenda.

“I think it really did have something to do with the property. There was a very special feel about this property, and I think it allowed people to feel a bit more relaxed and open.”

Every year during the event, PDA holds a raffle and various other opportunities, like the annual golf outing, for event attendees to raise money for a local organization. This year’s recipient was Bluffton Self Help, which helps with education, jobs, food and clothing in the Bluffton, S.C., area. Attendees raised $7,500, and with PDA’s match, the organization received $15,000.

During the event’s annual awards dinner, PDA announced this year’s winners:

  • Member of the Year: The Packline Company
  • Supplier of the Year: Pregis Corporation
Supplier of the Year: Pregis Corporation

Photo by Packaging Distributors of America

  • Champion of the Year: Amy Packer, Hughes Enterprises
Champion of the Year: Amy Packer, Hughes Enterprises

Photo by Packaging Distributors of America

President’s Award: Jim Dawson, Morissette Packaging