Using QR codes on coffee bags to communicate sustainability efforts

Jane Merchant
November 4, 2022
QR codes on coffee bags to communicate sustainability efforts

Quick Response (QR) codes were first introduced to the public in 1994, but only since 2020 have they become widely popular. 

QR codes helped provide businesses with contactless communication during the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then, their low costs and ease of use have cemented them as an effective tool for reaching customers. 

Notably, 2022 has already seen over 6 million dynamic QR codes scanned around the world – a 433% increase compared to 2021. 

Both roasters and coffee shops could use QR codes as a tool to communicate their sustainability efforts. This is particularly important as modern consumers are actively seeking brands with environmentally friendly values

For more insight into how roasters can include QR codes on their packaging to communicate their sustainability efforts, I spoke with the owner and operator of Hala Tree Coffee in Kona, Hawaii, Jean Orlowski. 

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter

Sign up
An image of a multilayer LDPE coffee bag with a custom-printed QR code on the side of label in an article on using QR codes on coffee bags to communicate sustainability efforts

Why use QR codes?

Just 20 years ago, the average customer was presented with a fraction of the coffee options available today. 

Modern coffee consumers have access to a broader range of coffee origins and blends in a wider range of sizes throughout the year. It is common for this to lead to an information overload, with multiple products and packaging designs competing for consumer attention. 

As a result, businesses have to find a balance: they must include enough information to encourage customers to purchase the product without overwhelming them. 

A 2021 marketing study suggests the volume of product details consumers face has increased, while their memory capacity has lapsed behind. 

Therefore, it is common for customers to forget information about a product, or where they heard specific details about it. 

In some cases, it may be inconvenient for customers to verify this forgotten information online, which may encourage them to make a purchase based on a product’s overall attributes. 

When looking from a roaster’s perspective, some may have sourced coffee from small producers in a specific origin country and ensured they have been paid fairly for their efforts. 

Those producers would have taken steps to produce and process the coffee with as little negative impact on the environment as possible. 

Once the roaster has received the coffee, they may have used an energy-efficient and emissions-free roaster to roast it and packaged it in 100% compostable bags.

Considering the size of an average coffee bag, it would be almost impossible for roasters to include all these details in their packaging.

Custom-printing QR codes can allow roasters to link to a URL that showcase their sustainability efforts. 

An image of a multilayer LDPE coffee bag with a custom-printed QR code in an article on using QR codes on coffee bags to communicate sustainability efforts

How roasters use QR codes on their packaging

Hala Tree is an estate coffee farm that cultivates, processes, roasts, and packages its own coffee. 

The company supports local coffee producers in attaining organic certification, and the coffee is produced without the use of pesticides. 

“I view sustainability as the ability of a company to support itself and those working for it,” explains Jean, who is also the founder of eCropOrigin, a mobile app that allows coffee farmers to monitor and track all aspects of farm production.

“Sustainability communication is important for us for multiple reasons,” he explains, “as it helps the business demonstrate that it makes every effort to protect the environment and our farm.” 

Hala Tree Coffee initially used standard ways to communicate with customers, such as directing them to the website or offering newsletter subscriptions.

However, the company now uses QR codes generated from eCropOrigin. The application automatically generates a QR code when the company packages their coffee. 

Scanning this will summarise the path that particular coffee has taken: from when and where it was picked, to when and where it was roasted and packed for shipping.

“We have used this application for the past five years to offer traceability of what’s in a bag of coffee and what it takes to get there.”

Accessing and editing the content that the QR code leads to is relatively easy. “Therefore, the team at Hala Tree Coffee continues to make the experience better every time by adding pertinent information for the customer,” Jean says.

An image of a coffee customer using a QR code to pay for a takeaway cup of coffee in an article on using QR codes on coffee bags to communicate sustainability efforts

How to start using QR codes

Roasters who want to start using QR codes to communicate their sustainability credentials have numerous options. 

For instance, they can follow Jean’s route, or choose to use a free online service to generate their own QR codes. 

Important to note is there is a slim chance QR codes can be replicated. However, this is more likely to happen with large organisations that sell high-value and frequently counterfeited products, such as medication or cosmetics. 

Therefore, roasters should ensure their QR codes add value to a customer’s shopping experience without overwhelming them. 

“It is important for you to know what you want to communicate to customers and have the data to support it,” Jean says. 

Additionally, he advises roasters to include basic details, such as the coffee’s roast date, the location and region where it was farmed, as well as any certifications it may have

He also highly recommends adding a personal touch. This can be anything the roastery does that contributes to sustainability efforts, but differs from the norm. 

For example, roasters can mention whether their packaging is home-compostable, or that they have used non-toxic inks on their coffee bags

An image of a white multilayer LDPE coffee bag with a custom[printed QR code on coffee bag in an article on using QR codes on coffee bags to communicate sustainability efforts

Custom-printing QR codes on coffee packaging is a simple, effective, and easy way to connect with modern consumers. 

Rather than inputting full web addresses or including the story on the side of coffee bags, roasters can now insert these simple barcodes to give access to a whole world of information.

However, roasters must ensure what they communicate with customers is relevant and aligns with their sustainability principles. 

MTPak Coffee can help roasters seamlessly integrate QR codes into their coffee packaging using innovative digital printing technology

Our design team can custom–print QR codes directly onto coffee bags, and give roasters complete control over the look of the design, as well as the amount of information the QR codes contain. 

MTPak Coffee offers 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.

In addition to offering low minimum order quantities (MOQs) of packaging, no matter what size or material, we are able to custom-print coffee packaging with a quick turnaround time of 40-hours and a fast 24-hour shipping time. 

For more information on custom-printing QR codes onto sustainable coffee packaging, contact our team

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter

Sign up

MTPak recommends