How does typeface on coffee packaging influence consumer perceptions?

Aidan Gant
April 11, 2022
coffee packaging typeface

Several design elements on packaging can subconsciously affect a customer’s decision to buy a product.

One of the lesser mentioned, yet essential design factors, is typeface. It is critical to conveying a brand’s voice and cementing its identity. Furthermore, the choice of typeface can affect how customers perceive a brand and its products.

For specialty roasters, typeface can help create an aesthetic package while conveying important information about the coffee, such as origins and roast profile.

Interestingly, recent research suggests it may significantly affect how consumers perceive a coffee’s characteristics, including sweetness, acidity, mouthfeel, and body.

Read on to find out how roasters can use typeface to manage customer expectations.

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Why is typeface important?

Most businesses consider typeface, or at least its consistency, as vital to building brand recognition across a range of products.

When the same typeface is used across several products, they can easily be identified as belonging to one brand. In fact, typeface can be as effective as a logo when it comes to brand recognition.

This is why, when designing coffee packaging, roasters should consider how they want their coffee to be perceived by customers. Do they want to come across as easy going and fun, or more sophisticated and serious about coffee?

Professor David Dunning conducted an experiment by presenting the same New York Times article in a variety of fonts. He then asked readers whether they agreed or disagreed with the information. Interestingly, he found they believed some fonts were more trustworthy than others.

Further studies have shown typeface can build customer expectations through semantic congruence. Essentially, this refers to the concept of subconsciously relating one object to another, whether it be sound, sight, or smell.

For example, when presented with an image of a cow, customers will often associate it with the “moo” sound. If, on the other hand, a bleating sound is played, the mind will register it as incorrect as it does not connect the image of a cow to the sound of a sheep.

From a branding perspective, this could translate to a situation where customers expect certain characteristics due to the design on the packaging.

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How does typeface influence perceptions of coffee?

Dr Carlos Velasco, a marketing professor at BI Norwegian Business School, has researched how typeface may influence consumer expectations for taste.

He revealed that people associate specific shape properties with basic taste attributes, such as sweet, bitter, and sour. “It seems reasonable to suggest that typefaces might be associated with specific taste properties as well,” Velasco explains.

Essentially, the research found the psychological effects of typeface on customer expectations were significant. In particular, the roundness – or curvilinearity – of lines had an impact on consumers’ expectations and perceptions.

For example, people tend to associate sharp, angular lines with crisper, more acidic sourness. Whereas softer, more rounded curves lead people to think of sweeter, more mellow flavour notes.

This is known as the bouba-kiki effect. This effect is thought to come from the phonetic and articulatory features of the words. For example, it refers to how the visual shape of an object, either round or spiky, is linked to the shape that our lips make when we say that corresponding word – either open and rounded, or narrow and wide.

Supporting studies

Additional research carried out by the universities of Lavras and Campinas in Brazil supports these findings. Their study consisted of 146 participants who were split into groups of 12.

Half were given coffee in packaging that displayed an angular typeface, while the other half had coffee in packaging that showcased a rounded typeface.

The coffee inside both bags was exactly the same: a micro-lot, natural processed Obata from Mococa, Mogiana in São Paulo. The coffee was brewed in a V60 and the only difference was the typeface on the packaging.

Participants were first asked to fill out a survey to determine their expectations based on the visual impressions of the packaging. Then, after sampling the coffee, they were questioned about their perceptions of sweetness and acidity.

Before and after sampling, participants in the group given the angular typeface bags expected and perceived the coffee to be more acidic. Alternatively, those in the round typeface groups generally found the coffee to be sweeter.

This research shows typeface has a definite influence on people’s sensory perceptions and judgements.

The authors of the research paper believe packaging designers should match design elements, such as typeface, with product sensory attributes to better communicate the brand and product components to the consumer.

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How can roasters use typefaces to their advantage?

Packaging design, particularly the choice of font and typeface, are essential elements of a roaster’s marketing strategy.

As a coffee bag is a customer’s first impression of the product, it’s important to get it right. Roasters should consider how their current typeface may be influencing customers’ perceptions of their offerings, and whether it needs to be altered.

For instance, a rounded typeface on a Kenyan single origin coffee that is bursting with fruity acidity may make the coffee appear duller or flatter than it should.

Packaging is also one of the main ways a roaster can communicate information about their brand. Not every customer will read the “about us” section of a website, but they will see the labels and information printed on coffee bags.

All things considered, coffee packaging has a lot to say about a roaster’s business. One additional, increasingly important detail roasters must communicate with customers is their commitment to environmental practices.

By choosing sustainable coffee bags, roasters can not only extend the shelf life of their coffees, but also reduce the amount of packaging waste their roastery creates.

At MTPak Coffee, we offer a choice of 100% compostable or recyclable packaging options such as kraft paper or rice paper. Both options are natural, biodegradable and compostable.

Additional choices include PLA and LDPE coffee bags. All of our packaging options are fully customised using sustainable materials.

Furthermore, we use water-based (flexographic) inks, which are low in volatile organic compounds (VOC). This means that while they are highly resistant to abrasion, water, and heat, they are also compostable and easily removable for recycling, helping create a fully sustainable product.

They can be customised with any of our pouches to reflect the quality of your coffee, both on the inside and outside of your packaging.

With fully sustainable coffee packaging, specialty roasters can showcase their commitment to the environment as well as reducing their carbon footprint.

For more information on our sustainable coffee bags, contact our team.

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Aidan Gant
Aidan Gant

Aidan spent his early career working in cafes alongside coffee roasters and in other hospitality positions. He owned a vegan tapas restaurant, specialty coffee bar, and live jazz venue, which he operated with his partner before closing during the Covid-19 pandemic. Since 2020, he has made his living writing about coffee and the environment, and is currently a researcher and doctoral student in Creative Writing.

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