Roasters meticulously select the green beans and then carefully roast them to bring out the aromas and flavors, so that ultimately their customers can enjoy a perfect cup of coffee. However, as we all know, these properties degrade over time. Oxygen and moisture affect the quality of roasted coffee, and after a couple weeks, your masterful creation will become stale. For this reason, selecting the right kind of packaging can guarantee that your customer will get a high quality product. However, with the plethora of packaging options out there, what type of packaging should you select? And what are the best practices and methods involved in the selection and labeling of packaging?
Why Packaging Matters
According to Mark Howley, Chairman and CEO of PBi (Pacific Bag) “Coffee is adversely affected by oxidative rancidity. It is generally believed coffee taste will degrade within 10–14 days after roasting if coffee is exposed to oxygen. Packaging has a huge impact or effect on quality if distribution time extends beyond a week or so.” In addition, Guy Wray, Marketing Manager at MOCON Inc. says “Launch a product without adequate packaging and you’ll see the permeation of water vapor and/or oxygen in or out of the package, and that can rob the product of flavor, color, and taste. In this case the product fails, not because it wasn’t a good, but because it was poorly packaged and had too short a shelf life.”
“The selection of the proper barrier packaging for the expected shelf-life is critical since the flavors can be lost by using the wrong type of packaging” Says Robert Pocius president of TekPak. So the first and probably most important factor you should determine with your supplier is the barrier level of the packaging (from oxygen and moisture).
Types of Packaging
There are various packaging styles to select from: Bags; metal cans; glass jars; and in the past couple of years we have seen the rise in demand for the single serve, and in correspondence the packaging for it. In the bag section, the main styles are: Stand out pouch, Paper tin tie, Side gusseted bag, or Quad seal bag.
When selecting the type of packaging you want to use it is important to take the following factors into consideration: Barrier level; resistance of the material so that it can endure any shipping and handling; protection from external odors; heat seal strength; and FDA approval of the packaging. According to Joy Weedon, Sales and Marketing Manager for Pack Plus Converting “If you are packaging freshly roasted coffee, you definitely need to go with a foil bag with a one-way degassing valve to extend the shelf life and allow the roasted coffee to de-gas. Unlike a tin tie paper bag, a foil bag can be heat-sealed making it air tight and tamper proof.” In addition, Jeffrey Teich, Vice President, of North Atlantic Specialty Bag says, “A multi-layer structure, as well as the use of a one way degassing valve, will give coffee the freshest flavor.”
Another important factor to consider when selecting packaging is flavored coffee. “Some ingredients in flavored coffees can affect package integrity, so it is important to select packaging that is particularly designed to handle these products” says Heather Beaubien, Sales Manager at Printpack, Inc. In order to get optimal results, it is essential to communicate to your suppliers all the aspects regarding your coffee, and the goals and expectations you have for your product.
Depending on the size and quantity of your production, you might decide to automate the packaging process. As your company grows, you may want to consider automating parts of this process if you are seeking to increase output by 2 to 3 times. According to Bob Kelly, President of General Packaging Equipment Co. “As a packaging machinery manufacturer our task is to supply equipment that will form fill seal packages reliably. That is, the machines will run with a minimum of attention, accurately meter the product into the packages and make attractive packages with seals that do not leak.”
Finally, for the testing and analysis of your packaging, “Use MOCON’s MultiCheck system to reduce your package testing costs by using just one package to cover all 4 tests” says Guy Wray, Marketing Manager at MOCON Inc.
This is a great way to avoid distribution of inadequately packaged coffee.
After roasting, coffee releases CO2, up to 1000 cc per pound. Fresh whole beans will release gases for several weeks after roasting. While many Roasters might allow their coffee to de-gas in storage by letting it sit for 72-hours before packaging, valves allow you to package your roasted coffee right away. The main purpose of a valve, such as the one-way degassing valve, is to allow these gases to escape, without allowing any external gases, such as oxygen, to come in. According to Nick Greco, Business Development Manager, at Avery Dennison Designed and Engineered Solutions “The Avery Dennison Flexis™ Air for Coffee valve, for example, helps eliminates the bricking effect that occurs when packaged coffee travels over high elevations, such as the Rocky Mountains.”
On the other hand, Modified Atmospheric Packaging (M.A.P.), refers to a Roaster who within a few hours of roasting, evacuates the bag of all oxygen, and flushes it with inert gas such as nitrogen (to fill the voids that used to be taken up by air), and then thermally seals the bag. This is all done by specialized food-processing equipment.
Packaging As a Marketing Tool
As a roaster you may not have a huge budget, if any, set up for marketing and promotional purposes. Therefore, packaging becomes your primary medium of communication with your customers, and can play fundamental role in how you get your message across. “Use packaging as your billboard to get the message out about your product” Says Teich. In addition, Joy Weedon says, “A great shelf appeal gets you that first purchase and hopefully the great coffee inside cements a repeat purchase.”
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MIl – 1 mil = 1/1,000 inch = 0.001 inch
Gage – 1 ga = 1/100,000 inch = 0.00001 inch
Pacific Bag, SCAA Packaging: 201
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Flexible Packaging Materials
• Polyester (PET) – Clear tough, abrasion resistant, printable, temperature resistant, moisture resistant.
• Aluminum Foil (Foil) – The best oxygen and moisture barrier, silver color.
• Metallized Polyester (Met Pet) – Vacuum metabolized for oxygen and moisture barrier.
• Polyethylene (PE) – Seal layer, bulk, moisture barrier – LLDPE, LDPE.
• EZO or Easy Open – Blend of OE and something that doesn’t seal PE for peel seal, bulk, moisture barrier.
• Biaxially Oriented Nylon (BON) – Puncture resistant, tear resistant, chemical barrier, medium oxygen barrier.
Pacific Bag, SCAA Packaging: 201
According to Rodrigo Sanchez, Vice President of Masipack “’There is no second chance to make a first good impression,’ so choosing the right labeling for your product is an important step to take into consideration.” When selecting the colors, message, images, material, etc. for or your packaging, ask yourself, what message do you want to communicate to your customer? What do you want people to perceive from your coffee? “The quality of the coffee can also be equated with the quality of the visuals – high quality graphics indicate to a consumer that there is a high quality product inside” says Beaubien.
There are many creative ways you can market your brand through your packaging, Beaubien from print pack suggests: “2-D scan codes, which consumers can scan with their smartphones for more information. This adds an extra dimension of experience for the consumer that can lead to repeat purchases.” In addition, Chris Burger, Coffee Market Manager at Fres-co System USA, Inc. adds, “It is easy to integrate promotions, and connect with your consumers through social media beyond the cup of coffee; and get their feedback to improve your product, package, service, and gain insight from your consumers.” Find ways to be creative with your packaging, and make sure to engage your customers as part of your branding strategy.
When labeling, Burger suggest taking into consideration “The guidelines and requirements established in the market by regulatory organizations.” In addition he also recommends the usage of “High quality printing that will allow the coffee producers or roasters to communicate their brand identity. Printing up to ten colors in rotogravure, using lacquer finishing, and adding reverse printing, gives them the opportunity to transform their packaging in a great marketing tool.” However, the CEO of PBi comments on the fact that many small roasters cannot afford the cost of custom printed packaging “A 12oz. custom printed bag typically requires a minimum run of approximately 20,000–25,000 bags and artwork/set up costs… The solution for the smaller roaster is to use a pressure sensitive label applied to one of the solid color stock bags sold in single case quantity (i.e. 500‑1000 bags)” says Howley.
Your packaging should tell consumers the story of the coffee inside. Where is it from? Is it organic, Fair Trade, or Direct Trade? Is a customer indirectly supporting a cause buy purchasing your coffee? Consumers like to know what is behind the product they are consuming. Make sure to maximize your billboard space through your packaging, since this might be the only way you are reaching a customer.
Sustainability and earth-friendly practices have been a popular topic in the past years, and this mentality is here to stay. “In today’s world that is a major factor to consider because we need to think about the future generations and not only about what benefits us now” says Sanchez. In correlation, Sherry Gorsich, Director of Marketing at LBP Manufacturing says, “Packaging has a lifecycle – manufacturers and operators should be aware of raw materials sourcing, manufacturing processes, and disposal.” Robert Pocius from TekPak Solutions recommends, “Using a Packaging that is verifiably Home Compostable and Biodegradable in Landfills, Forests, Rivers, Lakes and Oceans, this will show the customers that the Roaster is concerned about the health of the Planet.”
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Uvu Lid Recognized for Innovation in Lid Safety
Finally, a lid that will help avoid unintentional spills. It is happening daily at coffee shops and restaurants where coffee spills on the counter, floor, or even worse…on the customer. Many times the cause of these spillages is that the lids are not secured on the cup properly. And while spills can be bothersome and inconvenient, in some cases they can be dangerous.
The uVu™ Lid provides a safer and more secure customer coffee drinking experience than any other lid in the market today. The lid contains several patented and patent pending features, which visually, audibly, and tactilely confirm a firm fit and seal on a beverage cup. Patented visual cues or slots immediately show a consumer or retail employee/barista whether the lid is seated on the cup. If the lip of the cup is present and viewable through all four slots, the lid is securely seated and ready to use. If any of the slots are left exposed with no cup lip showing, the customer or retail employee/barista is immediately prompted to press down on that exposed point thereby sealing the lid. These particular interference points differ from conventional “plug fit lids” which require countervailing sealing points from the outside of the lid as well as the inside. It amounts to a firmer seal, yet allows the lid to be removed relatively easily when the customer wishes to add condiments (such as sugar, cinnamon, etc.) to the hot beverage.
The uVu™ lid has been in development for twelve to fourteen years and first entered the market last summer with a successful in-market study at several Big Apple Bagels® restaurants in Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. David Weiss, CEO, uVu™ Lid Company says, “It is our fervent belief that as we continue to smartly scale up, that every lid, eventually, will include the uVu™ visual cues to notify a user when a lid is actually seated to a cup/container. It is easy, efficient and a simple method to assure a secure and safe fit.”
uVu Lid was the winner of the 2012 SCAA – People’s Choice Award – for Best New Packaging Product.
Various innovations and technologies are continuously being developed in the Packaging world, “The recent development of the Biotre® lamination by PBi received the Best New Product – Packaging award at SCAA 2012. Biotre allows coffee roasters the first opportunity to protect their coffee while also preserving the environment. It’s a great step forward!” Says Howley.
In a recent session at the SCAA in Portland, Packaging 201, Bill Walters from PBi discussed some of the trends he sees in packaging. He mentioned the rise in use of the Block Bottom Bag (BBB), which is a solid bottom bag that allows the package to stack well. Furthermore, Walters mentioned the increasing awareness of the importance of adequately packaging green beans, and the recognition of Vacuum seal packaging for Green Beans, specifically in the Specialty Coffee Market.
Selecting the perfect packaging will allow you to add value to your product. The right kind of packaging should extend the shelf life of your product, preserve the quality, and deliver freshly roasted coffee to your customer. A qualified supplier should be able to adequately answer your questions, and direct you to choose the packaging that will best meet your goals and needs. Moreover, make sure you are using your packaging as a marketing tool, as it might be the only way you are reaching your customer. Do not risk the integrity of your product by failing to select the right kind of packaging.
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Flexible Packaging for Coffee: The Eco-Friendly Option
By Felipe E. Sixto Director of Sales & Marketing; Sixto Packaging
The evolution of packaging has significantly affected the way many products are processed, packaged, transported, and ultimately sold on store shelves. One area within the broader retail food/beverage sector that has benefited from the extensive packaging options available is the coffee market. Advances in high barrier materials have allowed many coffee roasters to extend the shelf life of their products, use high graphic eye catching designs, reduce their carbon foot print, all the while saving considerable money.
Flexible packaging, often criticized, decried, and outright attacked, is in fact a victim of disinformation. Flexible packaging in fact offers significant value and sustainability benefits to product manufacturers, retailers, and consumers that are often overlooked. The majority of the benefits actually come from the reduced environmental impact of using less material and resources to produce.
According to “A Study of Packaging Efficiency as it Relates to Waste Prevention” by Franklin Associates, producing a typical 12oz flexible packaging coffee pack produces 69% less greenhouse gas emissions than an 11.5oz steel coffee can. Furthermore, the study demonstrates that the production of the flexible packaging delivers a 50% reduction in BTU consumption and a 71% reduction in overall solid waste. Moreover, the February 2007, “Coffee Conundrum” case study by The ULS Report, found that a typical flexible packaging coffee brick pack reduces the weight of waste to landfill by 72% vs. metal cans even taking the recycling rates of cans into account.
In a Packaging & Technology Integrated Solutions, LLC study, cradle-to-grave life cycle consumption and CO2 emissions data was compared between an 11.5 oz (product weight) metal can with a plastic lid, plastic container with a lid, and a flexible packaging bag. Whereas the metal and plastic containers energy consumption MJ/11.5oz ratio is 4.21 and 5.18 respectfully, the flexible packaging bag’s ratio is 1.14. Furthermore, emissions KG CO2 e/11.5oz was estimated at 0.33, 0.17, and 0.04 respectively.
The energy savings equivalent of changing all steel coffee cans to flexible packaging is more than 17,200,000 gallons of gasoline per year. That is without taking into account the fact that flexible packaging is lightweight and uses 20% less space in shipping further reducing transportation emissions. Flexible packaging is also resource efficient, having a product weight to packaging ration of nearly 29:1 compared to 3:1 to metal cans with a plastic lid and 5:1 for a plastic container with a lid.
Even though the environmental benefits of flexible packaging is evident over the use of rigid containers in many food and beverage sectors, the flexible packaging industry is investing heavily in research and development of bioplastics which are either biodegradable or composed of biological materials or both. Furthermore, the American Chemistry Council recently created a new Flexible Film Recycling Group, whose focus will be to try to improve the recycling rate of plastic films, particularly, high barrier laminates like those used in coffee packaging. Upcycling partnerships with companies like TerraCycle often result in significant reduction of flexible packaging waste ending up in the landfill.
When a coffee roaster takes into account the environmental benefits listed above, the significant cost differential between flexible packaging and rigid containers, and the diverse packaging options for packaging coffee including roll stock for automated machines, zippered stand up pouches, gusseted premade bags with and without degassing valves; Flexible packaging should be the clear choice.
Sixto Packaging is a family owned and operated flexible packaging convertor. They specialize in high barrier packaging for the snack food, coffee, and pet food industries.