How it all began 25 years ago

Dear readers,

Today, on the occasion of our anniversary, I would like to thank all those who have made PETplanet Insider what it is today, namely an integral part of the PET industry. In addition to the team and our many other supporters, I would also like to pay particular tribute to four people who helped implement key strategic decisions during the early years of the magazine. In chronological order:

Twenty-seven years ago, Gerd Liebig, then Head of Marketing at Mannesmann Demag, now CEO of Sumitomo Demag, and I were in a car together, researching an on-site article about Demag injection moulding machines at Siemens Telefone in the former GDR. The wall that used to divide Germany had fallen but the infrastructure was still very basic. It took us around five hours to cover the 200 km journey – enough time for us to think about a new idea for a trading magazine.

Gerd: “I will never forget that trip and the openness and breadth of our discussions. We came up with ideas, rejected and rethought them before finally creating the PETplanet Insider concept. In fact, it continues to do very well”. Gerd and I decided to abandon the idea of the classic horizontal trade journal. With such a concept, a PET bottler needs several magazines and has to select topics of relevance to them from a mountain of information, e.g. a plastics, beverage or mechanical engineering journal etc. The new idea was to develop a vertical magazine that only picked out specific elements from the whole production chain across all the above-mentioned specialist areas.

PETplanet Insider was launched twenty-five years ago in 1999 with this concept. The response from the supplier industry was enormous as they no longer had to advertise their PET machines in 30 different trade journals. The narrow target group focus of PETplanet Insider enabled them to concentrate on one publication. Processors worldwide were also enthusiastic as shown by their comments, some of which were sent by postcard.

I thought that Gerd and I had found the philosopher’s stone until I met Romeo Corvaglia on a fact-finding tour to Retal in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine in 2000. He already knew us, having seen our first issue at one of his customers in Indonesia. It covered the whole process – material, preform, stretch blow moulding, filling, drying line. “BUT” he pointed out “every bottle needs to have a closure, so why don’t you write about that as well?”. The scales fell from my eyes. Yes, of course, especially as I had completed an internship over several weeks at Alcoa in Worms during my mechanical engineering studies and had designed caps, most likely for glass bottles.

Wolfgang von Schroeter (left) and Alexander Büchler (right) visit Volker Kronseder at the Krones premises in Neutraubling, Germany.

Joining our project was Wolfgang von Schroeter, CEO of Mannesmann Demag, who took early retirement at 60, built a finca in Mallorca, explored the world on his motorbike and was bored at 61. That is when I got him interested in our Top Talk series. From the age of 62, he travelled around the world for us to interview all the greats. His many years of journalistic work in South Africa stood him in good stead when it came to writing and, in so doing, put PETplanet Insider into the minds of really big names. His period of boredom was over.

We created a trade fair concept for the magazine. And where would be the best place for it? The Interpack fair in Düsseldorf. The project manager at the time Erhard Wienkamp, now Managing Director of Messe Düsseldorf, said that our focus on plastics meant that the K’ trade fair was a more appropriate forum for us. I said no, the readers were all going to Interpack so I rented a few rooms at Messe Essen, organised a shuttle bus service and, hey presto, PETpoint was born.

Petra Westphal, Executive Vice President Yontex

This caught the attention of Petra Westphal, then new as project manager at Drinktec and now Executive Vice President Yontex, the organiser of Brau and Drinktec. Petra (affectionately written as PETra) wanted to expand the old Drinktec concept, with an emphasis on beer as part of the whole drinks industry. So we quickly agreed that PETpoint would move to Munich and be one of the initiators of Drinktec’s broader focus. Petra and I moved into the Indian market from 2004. Petra: “I had never been part of such a strategic partnership before. We visited trade fairs in India, met processors, travelled the continent and developed ideas which is how DTI drink technology India was born”.

Strategic thinking is still a feature of our work today. One major step forward has definitely been the Editours with which we have been visiting our readers on all the world’s continents for the past fifteen years. This brings us back full circle. Dear Gerd, I am delighted you are now travelling around the country with a roadshow and lorry for the first time this year (see article on p. 46), although I could have lent you our truck right at the outset.

And on that note,


Alex Büchler