How to appeal to millennials through coffee packaging

TJ Grant
May 11, 2021
millennial coffee trends

For a number of years, millennials have been one of the most important target markets for specialty coffee roasters. Defined as anyone born between 1981 and 1996, they account for approximately 23% of the global population, with more than 72 million people classed as millennials in the US alone. 

With an estimated spending power of more than $200 billion, they wield considerable influence when it comes to the success of coffee businesses. As a result, catering to their demands has become a priority for many specialty roasters, from improving the traceability of their coffee to adding more single-origin offerings.

An effective way of appealing to millennials is through packaging. Often the first contact with a product, it has the potential to reflect a brand’s values and enhance perceptions of quality. But which colours work best? How much information should you display? And does the recyclability of the materials really matter?

To find out more, I spoke with Head Roaster and QC Manager at Belleville Cafe, Mihaela Iordache.

See also: Understanding Millennial Coffee Trends

millennials coffee consumption

Why’s It Important To Appeal To Millennials?

Sandwiched between Gen X and Gen Z, millennials are the most populous age group in the US and represent the largest percentage of the workforce. Globally, their spending power is tremendous, with some putting it at more than $1.2 trillion.

Naturally, this means it’s vital for companies to appeal to their values and demands – and coffee businesses are no exception. Research shows that millennials spend over $2,000 per year at coffee shops, with 41% admitting they spend more money on coffee than on retirement. Therefore, a failure to attract millennial customers could end up costing a coffee business a significant amount in lost revenue.

Mihaela Iordache has worked in the coffee industry for over half a decade in everything from barista to head roaster. She organises the Frog Fight coffee events across France and, in 2019, she won the Roast Masters competition in Milan. She tells me that to run a successful business in the coffee industry, it’s paramount to appeal to a millennial audience.

“Millennials are the demographic that has the highest impact on specialty coffee consumption and trends,” she says. “They make up the largest segment of our customers and have been shown to value their personal experience with a product over the product itself. 

“Millennials are the first digital generation who turns to social media to discover, share, and review products or brands, and appealing to them often means appealing to their entire tribe.”

coffee trends millennial

The Importance Of Telling A Story

According to Packaging Strategies, millennials are 70-80% less loyal to brands than previous generations. This is supported by a recent global study, which showed that only 29% of millennials usually buy the same brand, compared with 35% for the generation before them.

“Millennials are so well-connected that they know if a product is inferior, if the customer service isn’t good, or if the brand does not live up to expectations,” Mihaela tells me. “They’ll be able to find an alternative almost immediately and they’re highly likely to use social media to publicly criticise the brand that disappointed them.”

Rather than an unwavering commitment to brands they recognise, millennials are more interested in each brand’s story and how it reflects their values. If they feel as though a company’s ethos or direction no longer aligns with their own set of beliefs, they will be quick to jump ship in search of a brand that does.

For specialty coffee roasters, one of the best ways of portraying their brand’s story is through packaging. Research indicates that factors such as font, style, colour schemes, illustrations, and logos on a product’s packaging can all effectively contribute to a consumer’s recall of a brand in the context of its story. This is opposed to large blocks of text, which can be overwhelming and confusing.

“A coffee roaster’s choice of packaging is a crucial storyteller for their brand identity and vision,” Mihaela says. “It’s probably the most efficient way of positioning their brand’s aesthetics and beliefs.” 

She continues by explaining that telling stories has become a way for people and brands to connect, to inspire, and to share knowledge. Visual content, she says, is a lot more appealing and efficient than text in sharing stories. “As long as the customer perceives it as authentic and loyal to the overall identity of the story and the brand, it will be effective.”

sustainable coffee packaging

Showcasing Sustainability

Over the last few years, sustainability has shot to the top of the agenda and it’s been driven predominantly by millennials. Sometimes referred to as “generation green”, millennials are more environmentally conscious than previous generations and are eager to demonstrate this sentiment via their buying habits.

According to the Environment Journal, three-quarters of millennials are willing to pay extra for sustainable products, while around half say they seek products from brands that are proactive in their sustainability efforts. This includes taking measures to reduce their carbon footprint and create a circular economy.

“Young people prefer brands that support a cause and they’re more likely to buy a product that benefits society and the environment,” Mihaela tells me. “This should be a won battle from the start for specialty coffee, but in the fast paced world of never-ending information overload, roasters have to find creative ways to communicate their commitment to sustainability.”

Again, coffee packaging is one of the most useful tools at the disposal of specialty coffee roasters. In addition to using earthy colours such as green to showcase a commitment to the environment, they can also take advantage of sustainability certifications

Sustainability certifications on packaging not only let consumers know how to correctly dispose of their coffee bags, they also inform them that the packaging has been independently-certified as environmentally-friendly. Common certifications found on coffee packaging include the seedling logo, the FSC’s “tick tree”, and OK compost HOME. 

recyclable packaging

At MTPak Coffee, we know the importance of designing packaging to suit any brand – and to appeal to one of the most forward-thinking and powerful consumer demographics.

Our plant-based and fully customisable packaging range can meet the growing demands of modern consumers, with most of our coffee bags certified by the European EN 13432 standard.

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

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