Is UV printing the future for customised coffee packaging?

Janice Kanniah
October 26, 2021
uv printing coffee bags

In recent years, UV printing has broken through to become one of the most highly sought-after printing methods in the coffee industry.

Not only does it provide a clean, consistent, and high-quality image across a range of materials, it is also significantly “greener” compared to other printing methods. The absence of mercury lamps to dry the ink means it requires less electricity, while it doesn’t use inks containing polluting volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Furthermore, it has become a popular option among micro coffee roasters, who don’t always have the capital to spend on high-volume printing methods, such as rotogravure. Rather than expensive rollers, UV printing relies solely on UV lights and inks, opening up opportunities for minimum order quantities as low as 500 units.

However, despite its widespread use in the coffee industry, not everyone has switched to UV printing for their packaging. So, is it really the future?

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UV printing produces a consistent, high-quality finish

What is UV printing?

Conventional printing involves applying ink to a material’s surface (known as a substrate) and waiting for the ink’s solvents to evaporate and dry, binding the ink into the printed surface.

UV printing, on the other hand, is a form of digital printing that uses UV lights to dry (or cure) the ink as it’s printed.

Specially designed UV lights follow closely behind as the printer distributes ink on the substrate, instantly drying the ink. This is called a photomechanical process.

The result is a consistent, high-quality, and densely coloured image, namely because the dots of wet ink do not have time to spread out once printed. UV cured inks are also weather-resistant and offer good resistance to fading, while they can create a variety of finishes, such as embossing.

Although the technique was first introduced in the 1960s, demand for it has steadily grown over the years. Today, it is thought to be among the most popular printing techniques on the market.

One of UV printing’s biggest appeals is its relatively low environmental impact compared to other forms of printing.

For one, it tends to use considerably less energy than traditional printing methods. This is because the time required for each print is thought to be around 40% shorter, with most machines capable of completing around 4,800 sheets per hour.

It also has instant on/off functionality, which means it consumes less energy between jobs and, therefore, produces fewer carbon emissions.

However, one of the most significant environmental benefits of UV printing concerns the inks themselves. Most traditional solvent-based inks contain between 60% and 70% solvents that need to evaporate off, producing harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the process.

VOCs are responsible for the formation of ozone and fine particulates in the atmosphere that can cause damage to the health of plants, animals, and people. Because UV-cured inks are not solvent-based, they give off no VOCs.

With UV printing, micro roasters can avoid expensive, high-volume print runs

Advantages of UV printing 

UV printing’s unique qualities afford it several advantages when it comes to packaging packaging:

High-definition results

Whether your packaging is monochrome, black and white, or runs the full gamut of colours, UV printing creates superior clarity and more precise printing compared to most other printing methods.

It is versatile, with the option to create glossy, matte, textured, or 3D finishes, while it is also resistant to smearing thanks to the quick change from liquid to solid during drying. UV inks are also water and heat resistant.

Faster and smaller print runs 

For micro roasters, UV printing opens up unique opportunities to print custom coffee packaging with a minimum order quantity (MOQ) of 500 units.

Because flexographic and rotogravure printing methods require custom-made rollers to print designs on packaging, manufacturers tend to set MOQs significantly higher to cover the costs of production.

However, with UV printing there is no such barrier. Low quantities of customised packaging can be produced at no loss to the manufacturer.

Therefore, roasters selling limited edition or micro lot coffee can take advantage of this and order just 500 bags, avoiding the need to bulk order.

Improved environmental outcomes 

One of the central appeals for specialty roasters is its low impact on the environment.

The absence of mercury lamps to dry the ink means it requires less electricity, while it doesn’t use inks containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a byproduct of inks that pollute the atmosphere.

Additionally, LED lamps warm up quickly and are unidirectional, thus reducing their power consumption and printing more efficiently.

They can last up to ten times longer than mercury lamps and, as they switch off between uses, they don’t consume electricity on standby.

Find a manufacturer that offers low MOQs and fast shipping

Where to find UV printing for coffee bags

Despite the benefits of UV printing for coffee packaging, investing in the equipment to do it yourself is costly and will require you to train your staff how to use it. What’s more, time spent away from roasting could reduce your total coffee output, which could hit profits further down the line.

A more convenient, practical, and long-term solution is to partner with a coffee bag manufacturer that offers UV printing. Not only are they likely to have more expertise than you on everything from inks to maintenance, they will also be able to offer advice on sizing, designs, and shapes.

However, before doing so, there are a few things to consider. The first is the minimum number of units per order, otherwise known as MOQs. There’s little sense, for example, in partnering with a manufacturer that offers UV printing with an MOQ of 10,000 units as this cancels out one of its main advantages.

Instead, look out for those that offer an MOQ of 1,000 units or fewer. This will help you steer clear of making a commitment to any single design, while removing the pressure to sell a certain amount of coffee.

It’s also a good idea to review shipping times. The reason UV printing is so popular is largely thanks to its quick turnaround, from order to delivery. But if the manufacturer quotes a significant shipping time, then again, this could remove one of the most significant benefits of UV printing. For this printing method, look for shipping of days, rather than weeks or months.

MTPak Coffee offers high-quality UV printed coffee bags, with an MOQ as low as 1,000 units

MTPak Coffee has invested in the latest UV printing technology to provide high-quality, low MOQ coffee packaging with quick delivery times. Developed with micro roasters and limited edition coffee in mind, our UV printing machines allows us to print and ship your packaging in as little as five working days.

It can be applied to a range of substrates, including recyclable and compostable materials such as LDPE and PLA. We can print the full spectrum of colours and designs using our water-based inks.

For information on our low MOQ coffee bags, contact our team.

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Janice Kanniah
Janice Kanniah

Janice is freelance writer based in South Africa and has written for MTPak Coffee since 2020. Her interests are in writing about sustainability, the circular economy, and the future of the environment.

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