Packaging is down for the first time in seven years, but the news isn't all bad. According to a new report from packaging association PMMI, Arlington, Va., total U.S. shipments of packaging machinery decreased by 0.4% to $5.885 billion in machines sold during 2008. The annual state-of-the-industry report, the 2009 PMMI Shipments & Outlook Study, is based on data supplied by PMMI member companies and others. Domestic packaging-machinery shipments fell 2.5% to $4.7 billion, while exports grew 8.6% to $1.2 billion. Imports also increased slightly, up 1.2%, with $1.7 billion shipped into the U.S. Demand for packaging machinery was down in 2008, with domestic shipments and imports totaling $6.4 billion, 1.2% less than 2007, according to the report.

“Given the state of the economy, it should be no surprise that shipments were down in 2008. However, the decrease in domestic shipping was offset by a continued strength in exports as member companies took their products overseas to benefit from favorable exchange rates,” says Charles Yuska, president and CEO of PMMI.

Despite the global economic downturn, higher commodity prices, and tight credit markets, the study found a few bright spots in the packaging equipment arena. These include pre-made bag hanging, opening, weighing, filling, and closing machinery, dry-product filling machines, palletizing, depalletizing, and checkweighing machinery, and forming, unpacking, closing, and sealing machines. Three other machinery hot spots include inspecting, detecting, and checkweighing machines, cartoning, multi-packing, and coupon-placing equipment, and conveying, feeding, orienting, and placing machinery. For more information on the new report, visit www.pmmi.org.