How Limited Edition Coffee Can Boost Sales & Gain Mindshare

TJ Grant
February 15, 2021
specialty coffee packaging

Although most specialty coffee roasters devote their time to sourcing, roasting, and packaging the same product year-on-year, once in a while they may decide to launch a “limited edition” coffee.

Limited edition coffees are an effective way of gaining mindshare, boosting sales, and providing coffee farmers with higher prices for their beans. They also give roasters the freedom to explore new coffees and deviate from their usual branding, helping to breath life into their line of products.

To explore the benefits of limited edition coffees roasters and producers, I spoke with Head of Quality Control at Bella Vista Coffee, World Cup Taster finalist, and MTPak Coffee Ambassador, Dulce Barrera.

See also: A Pocket-Sized Guide To Roasting Ethiopian Coffee

What Is Limited Edition Coffee?

While most specialty coffee roasters will usually offer at least two or three different coffees at any one time, every now and then they may decide to launch what’s known as a “limited edition” coffee.

A limited edition coffee is a small run of a particular type of coffee intended to promote a sense of urgency and exclusivity among potential customers. They have finite availability, which means they usually retail for only a short period of time and at higher prices compared to the “normal” range.

For example, the global market for limited edition whiskies and wines alone reached nearly $500 million in annual sales in 2018, with some bottles selling for thousands of dollars each.

With limited edition coffees, there is a sense of higher quality, traceability, and distinction of flavour attached. This is because these coffees are usually sourced from micro or nano lots.

Micro lots and nano lots are essentially coffee farms that have been divided into smaller lots. Typically, growing conditions such as altitude, shade, soil, and varietal are different from elsewhere on the farms and, as such, the harvested cherries are processed separately. This combination of factors gives rise to a set of distinct characteristics that distinguish these coffees from those which have been grown and processed on the larger farms.

Dulce Barrera is in charge of Quality Control at Bella Vista Coffee in Guatemala. She’s participated in three World Cup Tasters Championships as a cup taster, finishing fourth in 2019. She tells me that what truly sets micro and nano lots apart is their quality.

“Micro lots are coffees of excellent quality, and may represent one or several producers, a farm or a portion of a farm,” she says. “They don’t usually produce more than 20 bags a year, with scores between 86 and 89 Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) points.

“Meanwhile, nano lots are smaller than micro lots and usually produce even higher quality coffees. They generate approximately five bags annually, with scores of more than 90 SCA points.

“Because of the different processes and varieties, [nano lots] are much more difficult to find [than micro lots], making up just 5% of world production,” she adds.

This combination of scarcity and quality that Dulce refers to naturally drives up the price of green beans from micro and nano lots, making them obvious choices for limited edition coffees.

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The Benefits Of Limited Edition Coffees

Limited edition coffees offer a number of benefits to both specialty coffee roasters and the farmers who produce them.

For one, it presents an opportunity for roasters to gain mindshare by deviating from their regular branding. Over time, consumers will become accustomed to seeing your product on the shelf, as it starts to blend in among dozens of other brands. However, by launching a limited edition range, roasters have an excuse to change the way they market their product without redesigning their original packaging.

For example, coffee company Nespresso is known for regularly launching limited edition coffees to market their machines. In 2019, they released two limited edition coffees that paid homage to the first European coffee houses – Café Istanbul and Caffè Venezia – while in 2020 they launched Variations Italia to celebrate Italian coffee culture. 

For each limited edition coffee, Nespresso adapt their branding around the chosen theme and send out press releases to various publications, helping to further put their products at the forefront of people’s minds. They also provide added value to existing customers, who will feel as though their loyalty is being rewarded by new and exciting products that are available for just a short period of time.

However, Dulce points out that limited edition coffees are not only beneficial to specialty coffee roasters; the greater traceability and higher prices typical of these products mean that producers benefit, too.

“Producers of micro and nano lots often have direct contact with the roasters,” she explains. “They may visit the farms and consult with them about their processing methods. Naturally, this helps to establish long-term relationships and put them in a better position to negotiate higher prices.”

Indeed, research from the Borderlands Coffee Project shows that specialised coffee farmers have the highest levels of income, food security, and access to education. 

Although coffee prices are subject to drastic fluctuations and micro lots only represent 9% of a coffee farmer’s production, it’s believed that limited edition coffees can earn producers as much as three times more than commodity coffee.

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Designing Limited Edition Coffee Packaging

When deciding on packaging for limited edition coffee, there are a few things for specialty coffee roasters to consider. 

One of the most important is remaining true to brand image. While limited edition coffee offers roasters a chance to renew consumer interest and differentiate themselves without changing their line of products, they must make sure their branding is still recognisable for regular customers. 

According to Surefire, a digital marketing agency, brand consistency is critical in reinforcing your identity and driving positive sentiment among consumers. Ultimately, your limited edition packaging should stand out in a way that lets your brand to continue to shine through. 

Roasters may also consider using their coffee bags to showcase the unique characteristics of a particular micro or nano lot. Typically, this type of coffee will possess qualities that are different from the coffee found elsewhere in the region. With the use of clever packaging design, roasters can draw attention to these unique qualities, helping to market their coffee in a way that’s new and exciting to customers. Essentially, it’s an excuse to experiment and be creative.

For example, malic fermentation is a process in which organic malic acid is added to the harvested coffee beans in order to enhance the naturally occurring acids in coffee. Malic acid is often associated with tart, fruity flavours, such as green apples, which can be demonstrated in your coffee packaging through vibrant, fruit-like colours.

Limited edition coffees are an effective way for specialty coffee roasters to breathe life into their brand and put their products at the forefront of consumers’ minds. They offer a unique opportunity to design eye-catching packaging that not only reflects the quality of the coffee but also encourages renewed interest in the product.

Whether offering limited edition coffee or redesigning your regular line of products, MTPak Coffee has a range of sustainable coffee packaging for specialty roasters. Our fully customisable coffee pouches can be designed in any way you want, while we have a selection of components that will help preserve your coffee’s freshness. 

For more information on our limited edition coffee packaging, contact our team here.

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