How to Select the Best Packaging for Your Coffee Beans: A Complete Guidance to Coffee Companies
Choosing the best packaging for your coffee is about a lot more than just an attractive design – although that’s important too.
Your packaging is what keeps your coffee fresh for longer, meaning it has a direct impact on the taste of those coffee beans you’re selling. It’s also what you have to work with every single day. And it’s what your customer will picture when they hear your name.
So that means you really need to get the packaging right. Of course, there isn’t one right type of packaging – it depends on various factors such as the scale of your business, your filling processes, and what you customers are like.
So what major factors should you consider when selecting your coffee bean packaging?
We would like to share six factors for your reference. If you take them into account, you’re sure to choose the best packaging for your business.
- POUCH STYLES
There are a variety of pouch styles available for coffee beans. The most common pouch styles favored by coffee roasters are:
Stand Up Pouch
A common and convenient style of packaging, the stand up pouch
is a bit round at the bottom, almost like a can, and flat at the top. A preformed foot allows it to stand up nicely, regardless the filling weight, and also makes the product stand out on any shelves. It also typically has a zipper for reclosing it. All these features give consumers the impression that what they buy is worth their money.
Side Gusset Pouch
A more traditional style of packaging, the side gusset pouch
is cost efficient and easy to use, meaning most retail packaging in larger weights is of this variety. The straight lines give it a characteristic minimalistic look, and the pouch won’t stand up well but will have a solid feel when you hold it. A side gusset pouch is typically closed by rolling up or folded over the top and then using a label or tin tie after sealing; an integrated zipper is not an option here.
*Quad Seal Side Gusset Pouch
The quad seal side gusset pouch is of a similar style to the side gusset pouch. The main difference is that, as the name indicates all four corners are sealed. This gives the pouch more of a square look, and makes it possible to integrate a zipper.
Flat Bottom Pouch
(also commonly named as Block Bottom Pouch / Box Bottom Pouch)
The latest popular pouch style available, the flat bottom pouches
bear resemblance to the quad seal gusset pouches but have a flat bottom. The name says it all: its square style makes it look almost like a box. This gives it perfect stand-up properties and great marketing possibilities. It also allows you a lot of possibilities in terms of zipper, sizes, and designs.
In the US, where this type of bag is common, it’s usually rolled up to create a tight brick-shaped package, while in Europe and Asia, it’s commonly sold with a re-sealable zipper.
- BARRIER PROPERTIES / SUSTAINABILITY
It’s vital that your coffee beans stay fresh, which means that your packaging needs to be airtight. You can recognize this by the presence of a degassing valve, which lets CO2 out of the bag after the beans are roasted. However, it will only work if you seal the bags with a heat sealer, so make sure you purchase a good one.
Your packaging will also need a barrier. Coffee is very sensitive to external influences, and this will keep out oxygen, UV, and other factors that might affect your beans’ profile.
- Nowadays, most stand up coffee pouches come with a metalized or pure aluminum barrier as a 3-ply laminate. The downside is that creating these aluminum barriers isn’t great for the planet.
- Another option is a Fully Recyclable Pouch – made of 2-ply laminate with a high-barrier polyester, which will keep your beans just as fresh as a metalized film would do but has the advantage of being made from 100% mono plastic – including the valve and the zipper. In most Northern European countries, these bags can be recycled in the recycling streams. And many countries are following the trend by implementing regulations as well as building up recycling systems to recycle these pouches.
- The most sustainable option is Fully Biodegradable & Compostable Pouch – made of plastic free plant-based materials such as PLA, cellulose films. This is still a niche option at the moment – raw materials are rare, production techniques are high-demanding, and costs are the highest among all packaging solutions. East West Packaging, the industry-leading developer and producer of compostable pouches, has just successfully managed to produce Compostable Coffee Bags with wide options including: paper substrate, bio film substrate, and even the zipper and degassing valve are fully compostable. Most excitingly, there are no limitations to printing – up to 10 colors including matte finish (the favorite solution to coffee brands).
To keep UV out of the package as much as possible, you can also consider a black or white-based polyester or dense artwork printing. However, for specialty coffee, which is typically consumed within six months, it’s usually not a problem if the bag is a little see-through so long as it’s kept out of direct sunlight or in a carton box or tin.
As a note, the paper block bottom bags you used to see years ago may look authentic and traditional but aren’t the best way to pack your beans unless you’re planning to use them within several days after roasting. A modern airtight variant of the block bottom bag would be the flat bottom pouch or the side gusset pouch.
And an upgraded version for the traditional paper bags is the flat bottom pouches made of high barrier laminated structure – kraft paper laminated with aluminum or poly
. It creates a natural paper look while working as well as other laminated pouches to keep the coffee fresh for a long time. Though this option is not recyclable or biodegradable, it is plastic saving – about 50% plastic can be saved compared with completely plastic laminated pouches.
- THE FILLINE PROCESS
How do you fill your coffee bags? Many start-ups and micro-roasters opt to manually or semi-automatically pack them, meaning that bag design can really speed up – or slow down – the process.
If your bag comes with a zipper to reclose it, chances are the bag has two corners on the top, like with a stand up pouch. If your bag doesn’t come with a zipper, it’s more likely the bag has four corners on the top, like with a side gusset pouch. And filling that is what’s called an “open mouth execution” – as you can imagine, the opening of a side gusset pouch is larger and therefore easier to fill manually or semi-automatically.
Should you decide you want a stand up pouch, but you happen to manually fill your bags, make sure the opening is wide enough to fit your scoop or weigher funnel in. You’ll also want to check that the bag itself opens up easily, either as a result of you inserting your hand or the weight of the beans.
As for the flat bottom pouches, they could come with a two-cornered top side and a “regular” zipper, or with a four-cornered top side and a “pocket” zipper. This is a tear stroke which opens up the zipper on the front or back panel of the bag to create a pocket. Make sure to check before you commit.
Alternatively, if you do use – or are considering purchasing – a packaging machine for automatic filling, make sure you know what type of packaging the machine can handle. Fortunately, most machines available nowadays can handle both types.
Consumers who use the beans straight from the package will love a resealable feature like a zipper. Although the packaging loses its airtight qualities as soon as it’s been opened, the ability to reclose the bag will make a definite – and, some would argue, crucial – difference to the freshness of the beans. You can let your customers know that it’s best to push all the air out of the bag before closing it, leaving a minimal amount of oxygen inside.
That doesn’t mean that you should never get a bag without a zipper. However, this type of packaging is best for one-use products, such as when you empty a full bag into a hopper or espresso machine. This means that bags without zippers are often best for retail bags. Or for home users who like to consume seriously large amounts of coffee each day…
When selecting a zipper pouch, be aware that the package also needs to be consumer-friendly: users will need to be able to get all the coffee out, and back in, down to the last bean. Some packaging manufacturers like East West Pckaging even makes coffee bags with Powder Resistant Zipper
which is more user-friendly for ground coffee.
- DESIGN OF PACKAGING
Every company needs to distinguish itself from its competitors – and one of the easiest ways to do that is through your packaging. There are so many ways to create unique bags that will draw attention.
Attractive artwork is one way to establish your style. Another is to use different varnishes, metallic or neon colors, an integrated zipper and valve, shaped pouches, and even distinctive measurements. You could also focus on consumer friendliness, for instance by using laser perforation to make opening the bag easier. Be creative, because the possibilities are endless.
- PRINTING / LABELS
The specialty coffee industry loves its labels, and rightly so. Since you might deal with different origins and lots throughout the season, you need a good label to communicate the origin(s), processing method, roast date, and more of your beans. Don’t rush this design; such a crucial element deserves your time.
For stock pouches, you might want to use a larger, more complex label with a pre-printed logo and company details. But with a customized bag, you’re by-and-large better off with a smaller, cleaner label that communicates details about the coffee; the brand’s identity will be better demonstrated by the packaging design.
Try to match the material of your label with the bag itself. A matte plastic or paper label blends in nicely with a matte surface. Shiny labels, on the other hand, go better with shiny bags. A matte transparent plastic label suits a kraft paper bag
best, showing the paper texture through the label. And don’t forget to figure out if you want to draw attention to the label, in case you can use a stock pouch, or to the pouch itself if it concerns a customized bag.
Printing your own labels is cheaper and gives you more flexibility than purchasing ready-to-apply labels. Buy a good label printer and create a template in your own style, which you can then easily change the details of. Decide if you want to use colors on your labels or if you’re fine with only black. If you opt for color, it’s recommended that you get the logos and artworks pre-printed by a supplier, since color cartridges for label printers are quite expensive.
Having said that, colors and different font styles will have a bigger impact on customers than plain text will – especially if the customer doesn’t know a great deal about coffee. You can also use these different colors and styles to distinguish your espresso roasts from your filters, or your blends from your single origins. But be careful to keep it consistent and intuitive: if the message your coffee bag communicates is unclear, a consumer might just grab the next one on the shelf instead.
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Blog Editor: Jasmine Zhang
Updated on December 31, 2020
Reference: Perfect Daily Grind
Contact East West Packaging Team: email@example.com