Covid-19 has given rise to a number of unexpected challenges around the world, affecting virtually every industry in one way or another.
In the coffee sector, various areas of the supply chain have been affected, forcing businesses to change the way in which they operate. In addition to café closures, roasters have experienced a dip in wholesale, while coffee producers have suffered with logistical delays and fluctuations in demand.
The coffee packaging supply chain has also experienced its own set of challenges, not least due to the sudden and unexpected shift towards home brewing and a new focus on subscription coffee models.
Read on to learn more about how Covid-19 has affected the coffee packaging supply chain.
See also: Understanding Millennial Coffee Trends
The Rise Of At-Home Coffee Consumption
Since the start of the pandemic, ecommerce, subscriptions, and at-home consumption have all increased significantly.
According to a study by investment bank JPMorgan, Starbucks at-home products, Nescafé, and Coffee-Mate all grew at double-digit rates in the US during the first six months of 2020, as much of the world was forced into partial or full lockdown. In Italy, coffee grocery sales increased by 23% in the country’s first full week of lockdown.
“During the pandemic, there was a shift to brewing coffee at home, either because more people worked from home, or because they felt uncomfortable going out to buy coffee during the early months of the pandemic,” says Yannis Apostolopoulos, the CEO and executive director of the Specialty Coffee Association.
As a result, many specialty coffee roasters have moved their businesses online and ramped up their products for at-home consumption. In most cases, this has involved adapting their coffee packaging, from additional boxes to personalised flyers.
However, this sudden change in consumer habits has naturally put a strain on packaging manufacturers, largely due to labour shortages.
Automation World reports that the Covid-19 pandemic “brought the labour shortage in manufacturing into sharper focus because while many industries in the manufacturing sector were deemed ‘essential’ and continued to produce, many employees were hesitant to continue working”.
One of the solutions to this problem has been automation, which has supported packaging manufacturers in keeping up with this new demand for online sales. Automation helps solve labour shortages, as well as addressing social distancing in factories and health concerns involved in the handling of goods. Extensive use of automation, however, can put jobs at risk if manufacturers start to replace staff with machines.
Transportation And Raw Materials For Coffee Packaging
Covid-19 has also had a considerable impact on the shipping and transport of coffee packaging. The border closures between countries, fewer freight-carrying passenger flights, and an increase in the number of “blank sailings” in which ports are skipped have all contributed to bottlenecks across the supply chain.
For example, to limit the spread of Covid-19 during the early stages of the outbreak, several EU countries decided to close their borders, which resulted in 37-mile long queues of trucks transporting goods.
This has had a knock-on effect for specialty coffee roasters, who have, in many cases, found it difficult to meet rising numbers of deliveries on time.
Other logistical issues have involved raw materials, specifically fluctuations in their price and supply. The price of commonly used materials in coffee packaging such as pulp and cardboard increased considerably during the pandemic due to shortages, whereas plastics became cheaper due to a fall in the price of crude oil.
At MTPak Coffee, we offer a wide range of packaging materials for specialty coffee roasters. This ensures a degree of flexibility and consistency should any logistical issues arise.
The Impact Of Health & Safety Protocols
The outbreak of Covid-19 has prompted many businesses and manufacturers to implement a series of strict health and safety protocols to help prevent the spread of the virus.
Measures such as frequent hand-washing, wearing masks, and social distancing have become standard across the majority of factories where packaging for food and beverages is produced. However, the rapid implementation of these protocols have naturally had an impact on the coffee supply chain.
Benjamin Dollar works for the global supply chain practice at Deloitte. He says: “Finding a way for people to work together without transmitting an illness is not the most complicated concept, but when you get into what it means in practice, bearing in mind you have factory lines that have operated the same way for many years, the execution and implementation of it is extremely challenging.”
For coffee packaging manufacturers, implementing these protocols and understanding how to effectively limit the spread of coronavirus has been a top priority, despite the challenges.
In addition to mask wearing and social distancing, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the meticulous cleaning of machinery have also been rolled out across a number of factories and warehouses.
Management consultancy experts Mckinsey & Company highlight how a renewed focus on health and safety has led many consumers to sideline sustainability in favour of what they consider to be the most “hygienic” packaging.
“Because of the pandemic,” they write, “there is a new appreciation by consumers and industries of the hygiene advantages plastic packaging can offer that seems to be outweighing concerns about recyclability and plastic-waste leakage into the environment.”
However, a recent survey by GlobalData found that 43% of people consider recyclable or reusable packaging as more important to them as a result of the pandemic.
MTPak Coffee offers a range of sustainable packaging products across a selection of fully recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable materials, including kraft paper, polylactic acid (PLA), and low-density polyethylene (LDPE).
We’ve also introduced a number of measures to ensure the safety of our workers and the products we make. In our factories, employees have their temperatures taken upon arriving at work and are issued with masks, while working areas are regularly disinfected. During working hours, employees must register where they have been if they leave the factory.
Covid-19 has caused a number of hurdles that the coffee packaging industry has had to overcome. From labour shortages to shipping and transportation issues, it has been a testing period for all those involved in the supply chain.
Nevertheless, as businesses in the supply chain have adapted and protocols have been put in place, we, at MTPak Coffee, are able to continue offering high-quality coffee packaging solutions for specialty roasters.