What’s the best coffee packaging material for high-quality printing?

Jane Merchant
June 13, 2022
What's the best coffee packaging material for high-quality printing?

Coffee packaging plays a significant role in not only protecting the beans during transit, but introducing and marketing it to consumers.

Whether on the shelf or online, coffee packaging conveys details that can sway a customer’s decision to purchase it over that of competitors. This includes pricing, origin stories, as well as any eco-credentials a roaster may have.

Research shows the print quality of product packaging is also a major deciding factor. Notably, a 2022 report found a significant percentage of consumers are willing to pay more for products advertised with high-quality images. This, in turn, can inspire stronger brand trust.

For coffee roasters, their choice of printing technique will determine the packaging’s print quality. Additionally, the majority of the specialty coffee industry is making the switch to eco-friendly packaging materials, which will affect printing techniques.

Read on to find out how different coffee packaging materials can impact a roaster choice in printing techniques.

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Printer colour card examples displaying the quality of print.

What determines packaging print quality?

Packaging printing makes up at least half of all printing that takes place today.

Label print quality is typically unaffected by a roaster’s choice of packaging material, as it usually takes place on adhesive paper that can easily adhere to most surfaces.

In regards to coffee packaging materials, environmentally friendly alternatives such as paper and bioplastics have replaced aluminium and petroleum-based plastics. These usually take the form of flexible packaging that protects the coffee inside without taking up too much space during transit or on the shelf.

Typically, printing is outsourced to suppliers that can manage the volumes required. However, this can cause delays, as well as limit personalisation and quality control.

It is important to note there are no universally accepted parameters used to determine print quality. This is because it can depend on a combination of objective qualities such as contrast, graininess, and a specific audience’s evaluation.

Furthermore, it depends on how complex an image or print is. This means roasters will need to consider their chosen packaging material, and what will be printed on it. They will then have to cross-reference this with various printing techniques available, such as rotogravure, flexographic, UV and digital printing.

Close up image of unbleached brown kraft paper with white floral print.

How common packaging materials impact print quality

An increasing number of roasters are choosing to prioritise eco-friendly packaging, such as kraft or rice paper, which will impact the print quality of their packaging.

Here are a few ways popular coffee packaging materials can impact print quality.


Two popular forms of paper packaging in the specialty coffee industry are kraft paper and rice paper.

Rice paper usually comes in a white colour and can support monotone and duotone printing, including images. However, it may struggle to reproduce complex designs and gradient colours.

Furthermore, as rice paper is a fibrous and porous material, ink may not absorb evenly onto its surface. This, in turn, could lead to print variations.

Kraft paper can be bleached or unbleached. Bleached kraft paper is usually white and can take a variety of colours with little restrictions.

However, as natural unbleached kraft paper is a brown colour, it works best with dark and muted tones that won’t clash. For instance, pale colours and white may not show up against the texture of kraft paper.

Additionally, as this material has a high ink absorbency, anything printed on it will have a decreased ink strength compared to other materials. For this reason, it is advised that roasters avoid using photo images when using this material.

Ideally, kraft paper packaging should comprise simple lines and limited colours for a clean design. Heavy fonts are also ideal, as they are less likely to lose their definition due to the paper’s roughness.

Plastics and bioplastics

Depending on the recycling facilities available to their audience, roasters can choose easy-to-recycle plastics, such as low-density polyethylene (LDPE) or polylactic acid (PLA) – bioplastics that are biodegradable and recyclable.

Plastics such as LDPE are versatile and well suited for ‌flexible packaging. As it is a non-absorbent material, it escapes some drawbacks associated with printing on paper.

That said, LDPE is not suitable for heat curing printing, as the high temperatures can distort and warp the material.

However, it offers more versatility with foreground and background colours, as roasters can choose to print on clear plastic windows and use lighter colours.

As a bioplastic, PLA performs similarly to LDPE in printing. It is able to achieve high clarity packaging and lends itself well to most printing techniques and inks.

White rice paper coffee bag with transparent window displaying dark roasted coffee beans.

Making a final decision

It is clear a roaster’s chosen packaging material will affect the print quality – but probably not to the extent as first thought.

While simple, clear designs are possible on most materials, the majority of roasters will want something more complex to differentiate themselves from the dozens of other coffees on the market.

For this reason, it is advised that roasters prioritise digital printing. As a dynamic printing form, it allows for immediate printing with no set-up time.

Additionally, digital printing allows for more personalisation and collaboration, and any changes to design can be action remotely and online. Furthermore, it offers less waste and can affordably cater minimum order quantity (MOQs) runs to micro-roasters.

When it comes to print quality, digital printing offers superior colour calibration, characterisation, conversion, and feedback. This means a roaster’s desired high quality end result is all but guaranteed.

Built-in sensors ensure no hue shifts occur, and that high-resolution images with clean lines, smooth gradients, and solid colours are produced accurately.

Print quality and packaging printing can be a complex process. However, working with an expert who can help design, print and package coffee can reduce a roaster’s costs and get coffee into customers’ homes quickly and conveniently.

At MTPak Coffee, we can help you choose the ideal coffee packaging from a range of different sizes and shapes. Our recent investment into the HP Indigo 25K allows us to custom design and digitally print coffee packaging with just a 40-hour turnaround and 24-hour shipping time.

We also offer a perfect solution for micro-roasters by providing low minimum order quantities (MOQ) on both recyclable and traditional options.

We can also ensure that packaging is completely recyclable or biodegradable, as we offer bags made from sustainable materials such as kraft and rice paper, as well as LDPE and PLA-lined bags.

For more information on eco-friendly printing for sustainable coffee packaging, contact our team.

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