Is digital printing the most accurate technique?

Jane Merchant
June 2, 2022
digital printing

Packaging has become an integral part of a coffee company’s marketing plan and overall success.

While it is the coffee’s quality that keeps customers coming back, it is the packaging that initially catches their attention. Studies show 81% of consumers tried a new product simply because of the packaging. Furthermore, over half of consumers have switched brands because of new packaging.

At the same time, consumers are growing increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of packaging materials. As a result, roasters have to ensure that coffee bags meet customer expectations while successfully reflecting their brand voice.

Therefore, roasters will want to make sure the colours, images, and typography used on their coffee packaging are reproduced accurately – whether executing a small or extensive print run.

To create attractive and presentable coffee packaging, there are several printing techniques to choose from, and digital printing is the latest innovation. Eco-friendly and efficient, digital printing techniques can help reduce a roaster’s carbon footprint by printing on recyclable materials.

Read on to learn more about the advantages of digital printing on coffee bags.

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Shelves in supermarket displays various coffee products in flexible bags, paper boxes and multilayered packaging.

Why is high-quality printing so important?

Modern customers are often presented with a dazzling array of product choices, including ground and whole bean coffee options.

Packaging is a key way to differentiate an offering from competitors when customers have a split second to decide on which option to choose.

That said, recent research shows Gen Z consumers tend to prioritise appearance when shopping for beverage products. Notably, they are more likely to purchase a product that has aesthetic packaging.

Additionally, the typical store shelf has also been redefined, expanding beyond brick and mortar to become more digital. This, combined with social media and e-commerce sales, means more brands are competing for the same market space.

A roaster’s choice in printing technique can impact packaging in many ways. Quality printing ensures that not only will packaging accurately reflect a brand’s identity, but the design elements are crystal clear, no matter what packaging material is used.

The right choice in printing technique will help communicate a coffee’s origins, tasting notes, and brewing information. This can help justify its pricing and encourage brand loyalty and trust.

Digital printing for coffee bags colour examples on desk.

What printing techniques exist for coffee packaging?

The most common printing techniques available for coffee packaging are  rotogravure, flexographic, UV, and digital printing.

Rotogravure printing transfers ink directly onto a laser engraved cylinder or sleeve using a printing press. The press contains cells which store ink in the sizes and patterns needed to create an image before releasing them onto a surface. Then a blade removes the ink from parts that do not require colour.

As this technique is precise and the cylinders are reusable, it is a relatively cost-effective option. However, it generally only prints one colour at a time. Therefore, it requires different cylinders for each colour, making it an expensive investment for small print runs.

Flexographic printing has been used since the sixties and involves applying ink to the raised surface of a flexible printing plate, which is then pressed onto the packaging material.

Several plates can be used to add different colours, which makes flexographic printing highly accurate and scalable. 

That said, it can take time to set up a flaxographic printer, which makes it poorly suited to smaller or time sensitive print runs. It is best suited for simple packaging that only requires two or three colours and has limited text.

Alternatively, UV printing involves using LED printers to add fast-drying ink into surfaces. It then uses UV light to evaporate the inks solvents photo mechanically. Additionally, it supports full-colour printing, can use eco-friendly inks, and is able to print on most surfaces. However, it is important to note that the initial start-up costs to begin UV inks are higher.

The latest addition to packaging printing techniques is digital printing. This involves using digital printing presses to imprint images and text directly onto surfaces. This is done without plates as digital files such as PDFs are used.

Digital printing is cost-effective, can be done on demand, and is easy to personalise. More so, the technology may help cut the environmental impact by as much as 80% compared to flexographic and rotogravure printing techniques.

Image of the HP Indigo 25K Digital Press used for digital printing on coffee bags.

Is digital the best and most accurate printing technique?

Digital printing has many benefits over other forms of printing, which has seen its popularity increase rapidly.

It has become accessible and affordable over time as investments are made into research and development. Furthermore, as it is so reliant on technology, it has become easier for brands to calculate what a print run will cost in advance in terms of capital cost, setup, energy, and labour.

The Covid-19 pandemic also increased the demand for digital printing. During the various worldwide lockdowns, logistics and supply chains were shut down.

This inevitably led to shipping delays, price increases, and product shortages – paving the way for digital printing and its short turnaround times.

As e-commerce sales increase, so has the popularity of flexible packaging that is durable enough to survive the transport and storage process. This has also contributed to the popularity of digital printing.

While the above factors are important, the quality of digital printing is what may make roasters choose to invest.

As digital printing can combine the four base colours of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, it is able to match any colour required. Additionally, it can use up to seven toners to create better colour coverage.

Many digital printers also integrate colour automation through an inline spectrophotometer. For example, machines such as the HP Indigo 25K Digital Press use liquid electrophotographic technology to apply inks.

Digital printing is also more eco-friendly as it uses less ink and paper. It also integrates water-based, soluble inks and chemicals that release fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Research shows digital printing can decrease supply chain waste by up to 26% and the printing process’ carbon footprint by up to 80%.

Two multilayered kraft paper coffee pouches, one red with rocket illustration, one blue with astronaut illustration, on pink and blue background. Display of digital printing on coffee bags.

Roasters looking for a printing technique that offers the best quality may want to consider investing in digital printing. For the best results, they can partner with specialty coffee packaging printing experts.

At MTPak Coffee, our investment in the HP Indigo 25K Digital Press means we have the ability to meet rapidly evolving roaster needs across a wide range of sustainable coffee packaging types, including compostable and recyclable bags.

This means we can facilitate low minimum orders (MOQs) with a 40-hour turnaround time and a day’s shipping time.

We are also able to custom print coffee bags and integrate QR codes, text or imagery on labels – reducing the number of materials needed to print on and lowering packaging costs. We can help roasters to continue providing customers with an environmentally friendly product without compromising on materials or designs.

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

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