How can specialty coffee roasters speed up the labelling process?

Jane Merchant
July 13, 2021
labelling coffee bags

Fully customised coffee packaging is an attractive option for a lot of specialty coffee roasters. Not only does it utilise every inch of the bag, it’s also incredibly convenient: roasters need only put their roasted coffee beans in the bags and seal them.

However, budget constraints, high minimum order quantities, and frequent changes to coffee menus mean that it isn’t always a viable option for specialty roasters.

Instead, a popular alternative is to buy stock bags and apply customised labels to them. As well as keeping down costs, this option helps roasters stay agile – a crucial quality in the early stages of running a business.

The downside to labelling bags is that it’s time-consuming and prone to human error. For specialty roasters with a small team or even working alone, this is often time they don’t have and errors they can’t afford to make.

Read on to find out how specialty roasters can speed up the labelling process and reduce the risk of mistakes.

coffee bag labels
Applying labels to coffee packaging can be time-consuming and prone to human error

Why do specialty roasters use labels?

When it comes to marketing your coffee, packaging is one of the most important tools available.

It’s often the first point of contact consumers have with your brand and can strongly influence purchasing decisions. According to recent research, 59% of customers say they examine a product’s packaging before making a first time purchase.

“59% of customers say they examine a product’s packaging before making a first time purchase.”

In specialty coffee, packaging has taken on an important role as a carrier of information on everything from roast date and origin, to flavour notes and brewing instructions. Third wave coffee consumers want to know as much about the coffee they drink as possible, which means roasters need to ensure these details are clearly and conveniently displayed.

However, while customised packaging is perhaps the best option for specialty roasters, it’s not always the most economical. Unless using UV printing, packaging manufacturers will need to create custom print rollers for each new design, which can be exceedingly expensive.

What’s more, most fully customised packaging options carry minimum order quantities (MOQs) of at least 10,000 units. For small-batch roasters, this restricts their ability to switch between coffees and can eat into profit margins.

As a result, a popular option is to order plain stock bags and apply customised labels as and when needed. Not only does this allow roasters to remain agile and keep down costs, it also limits the risk involved in making big orders.

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coffee bag labelling
A popular option for roasters is to order plain stock bags and apply customised labels

What are the problems with labelling coffee bags?

After choosing your stock bags (flat bottom, stand-up, or side gusset) and ordering your custom labels (or printing them yourself), you then have to apply the labels to the bags.

This is one of the most simple and economical ways of packaging coffee, offering great flexibility over where and when you apply the labels.

However, labelling coffee bags has two main downsides that can affect the day-to-day running of a roastery:


Specialty roasters are busy people. When they’re not roasting coffee, they’re managing stock, sourcing green coffee, talking to suppliers, hiring new staff, and ordering equipment, to name but a few of their daily responsibilities.

While labelling coffee bags may seem like a simple enough task, it can quickly eat into the day if a big order comes in and dozens of labels need to be applied. This can inevitably disrupt workflow and cause delays to other important jobs.

Labelling errors

Like all tasks, it’s difficult to achieve 100% consistency when labelling coffee bags. Some labels might not adhere to the material properly, they may be incorrectly placed, the roaster’s hands may smudge the inks – the list goes on.

Although a few mistakes here and there are to be expected, over time they can start to add up. Not only is this frustrating for the roaster, it can also begin to hit profits as more and more stock goes to waste.

coffee packaging
There are a number of ways of speeding up the labelling process

How to speed up the process

Today, consumers want their coffee to be as fresh as possible. As well as keeping packaging airtight and preventing exposure to light, moisture, and heat, this means distributing the coffee as soon after roasting as possible.

To ensure a timely delivery, specialty roasters must do everything they can to speed up the labelling process and limit the opportunity for errors. While this could be as simple as employing another set of hands, most roasters will want to avoid the costs involved in hiring extra staff members.

A good alternative is to automate the process. Automated labelling is consistent, reliable, and significantly cuts down the time spent applying labels by hand.

The machines can be adapted to suit different bag shapes and sizes, ensuring a high level of precision. Dozens of labels can be applied in a short space of time, making it the perfect option for high volume orders.

However, this option tends to suit large-scale, commercial roasters far better than it does small-batch, micro roasters. Automatic labelling machines involve significant upfront costs, which will only be recouped across thousands of orders.

A good middle ground is manual handheld applicator machines. Designed specifically for small volume orders, they can apply labels to a wide range of bag structures without risk of smudging or bubbling.

Although they’re not as time efficient as automatic machines, they can help speed up the process and reduce the risk of incorrect label placement. They also work well with custom-print rewind rolls.

coffee packaging
Stock bags and custom-printed labels offer a versatile and economical alternative to fully customised packaging

As a specialty roaster, your coffee packaging represents one of the most important parts of your business. It protects your coffee, preserves its freshness, markets your product, and reflects your brand identity.

While fully customised coffee bags may not be a viable option for all roasters, stock bags and custom-printed labels offer a versatile and economical alternative. They can carry all the information you want to display, while keeping down costs and allowing you to remain agile in a competitive market.

If you need help with your coffee packaging, whether designing, printing, or applying labels, we can help. Our team of expert designers and printers have years of experience working alongside some of the world’s most renowned specialty coffee roasters.

As such, we know exactly what it takes to produce the perfect coffee packaging, from choosing the best sustainable, high barrier materials to creating designs that stand out on the shelf.

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

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