Why are some coffee bags lined with foil?

Janice Kanniah
November 21, 2022
Why are some coffee bags lined with foil?

Globally, the cost of living has been growing and is now impacting every aspect of people’s lives. 

For many, rising costs may mean takeaway coffee has become costlier than ever. According to Eurostat data, the price of takeaway coffee rose by almost a fifth in the year leading up to August 2022, compared to 0.5% over the previous 12 months.

This may result in more customers swapping out takeaway coffee for preparing it at home – a trend that became popular during the Covid-19 pandemic. For many roasters, it is an opportune time to reevaluate their take-home coffee offerings.

This requires selecting the right coffee packaging or risk alienating customers with a product that loses freshness too quickly. One of the most common ways roasters have preserved their coffee’s quality is by storing it in coffee bags lined with foil. 

That said, this option may suit some roasters more than others due to the costs and environmental impact. 

Read on to discover why some coffee bags are lined with foil and whether it is the best option for packaging your own coffee. 

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An image of coffee roasters packaging coffee in coffee bags lined with foil in an article on coffee bags lined with foil.

A history of foil packaging

Traditionally, aluminium foil is manufactured by casting slabs from molten aluminium.

This process involves rolling the aluminium until it reaches the desired thickness. It can be made into individual rolls of foil that vary in thickness, from 4 to 150 micrometres. 

Aluminium foil has been used in commercial food and beverage packaging throughout the 1900s. Notably, one of its earliest uses was to wrap chocolate bars for French confectioner Toblerone. 

Additionally, it was used to cover a pan filled with corn, which customers could purchase and heat at home to make fresh “Jiffy Pop” popcorn. It also became popular in packaging compartmentalised TV dinners.

Today, aluminium foil is popular for its use in producing rigid, semi-rigid, and flexible packaging. Foils have become a popular material for lining bags of ground or whole-bean coffee. 

Typically, it is processed into a very thin metal sheet and adhered to an outer packaging layer that is usually made of plastic, paper, or bioplastics, such as polylactic acid.

The inner layer acts as a barrier, while the outer layer allows for customisation, such as printing the details of the coffee within. 

Aluminium foil provides protection against light and moisture, is food safe and will not corrode easily, and is lightweight. 

That said, using coffee bags lined with foil often comes with certain conditions. As aluminium is mined, it is considered a finite resource that will eventually run out, making it costlier to use.

More so, aluminium foil may sometimes lose its form or develop microscopic punctures if folded or creased. As foil can be impervious to airflow, using it to package coffee will also require a degassing valve to be fitted to the bag.

As roast coffee degasses, its expelled carbon dioxide must be allowed to escape to preserve its taste and keep the packaging from rupturing.

A close up image of specialty roast coffee in a kraft paper coffee bag with a foil lining in an article on coffee bags lined with foil.

Is it necessary to line coffee bags with foil?

As the global population grows, so will the demand for flexible packaging. 

The demand for flexible coffee packaging is also likely to increase, thanks to its functionality and accessibility. 

Flexible packaging also uses fewer materials than other alternatives, with its packaging-to-product ratio 5 to 10 times lower than other options.

If more brands switched to flexible packaging, it is estimated over 20 million tons of packaging materials could be saved in the EU alone.

Therefore, roasters who offer more eco-friendly packaging could sway consumers to choose their product over other brands. That said, a recent Greenpeace study revealed most materials end up being incinerated or dumped instead of recycled.

This means the packaging roasters choose to use should be as sustainable as possible. While foil is a valuable material for lining coffee bags, it has pitfalls that have made roasters seek alternatives.

Many roasters choose to use a polyethylene (PE) outer layer and a metalised polyethylene terephthalate (PET) inner layer. However, these materials are often bonded together with an adhesive, which makes them inseparable. 

Currently, aluminium used in this way is unable to be recycled or recovered, so it often ends up being incinerated. 

A polylactic acid (PLA) lining may be a more environmentally friendly option. This bioplastic is free of toxins and made from renewable resources such as corn and maize.

Additionally, PLA offers a strong barrier against high temperatures, moisture, and humidity, and is able to break down in a commercial composting environment. When used to line a coffee bag, PLA can help extend the lifespan of the product by up to a year.

An image of coffee roasters packaging coffee in coffee bags lined with foil in an article on coffee bags lined with foil.

Keeping coffee packaging environmentally friendly 

While lining coffee bags with foil may have positive qualities, roasters have many options that can help preserve freshness.

Several sustainable options are available, provided roasters educate their customers about how to dispose of them. For example, roasters who choose PLA-lined coffee packaging must direct customers to throw the empty bag into the appropriate recycling bin or bin number.

If the local recycling facilities are unable to process this material, roasters may want to collect used coffee bags themselves. 

Roasters can offer customers an incentive to return empty coffee packaging, such as discounted coffee. Then, the roaster can direct the used bags to the manufacturer for responsible disposal or reuse. 

This will also ensure that its outer packaging and packaging accessories, such as zips and degassing valves, are separated and processed correctly.

To meet the needs of today’s coffee customers, packaging must be sustainable, too. Roasters need to offer customers a way to preserve their coffee with a minimum negative impact on the environment.

An image of a white multilayer LDPE coffee bag with a PLA lining next to a chemex with filter coffee in an article on coffee bags lined with foil.

At MTPak Coffee, we offer a range of 100% recyclable coffee packaging options made from renewable materials such as kraft paper, rice paper, or multilayer LDPE packaging with an environmentally friendly PLA lining, all of which minimise waste and contribute to a circular economy.

More so, we give our roasters complete control over the design process by allowing them to build their own coffee bags.

Our design team is available to help you create the ideal coffee packaging. Plus, we are able to custom-print coffee bags using innovative digital printing technology, with a quick turnaround time of 40-hours and 24-hour shipping time.

MTPak Coffee also offers low minimum order quantities (MOQs) to micro-roasters who are looking to remain agile while showcasing brand identity and a commitment to the environment.

For more information on sustainable, custom-printed coffee packaging, 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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