Story-driven coffee packaging: What are the pros and cons?

Yker Valerio
February 27, 2023
An image of custom coffee bag with story-driven coffee packaging design in an article on story-driven coffee packaging

Story-driven coffee packaging has become a common practice among specialty roasters and cafes.

It should inform consumers about how the company started, what it represents, and what it stands for.

Alternatively, it can help convey the entire journey of the coffee from seed to cup.

In short, it should be completely transparent about the company’s origins, production process, and company ethos. While the majority of coffee brands realise the importance of a compelling story, many struggle with how to convey it effectively on their coffee bags.

To learn more about the implications of story-driven coffee packaging, I spoke with Gustavo Villota, founder of San Alberto Coffee, and Edwin Acosta, co-founder of Trinidad Coffee Estate.

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Why do roasters use story-driven coffee packaging?

A recent study suggests storytelling can help customers create an emotional and personal connection with the brand, boosting customer engagement.

Furthermore, researchers have discussed the efficacy of storytelling in branding across different industries, such as fashion, non-profits, and finance, among others.

Storytelling has grown in importance and recognition among businesses since it gained notoriety in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

One of the early promoters of storytelling for business purposes, Stephen Denning, started using it at the World Bank to capture and share knowledge. Since then, the effectiveness of storytelling has been proven across different functions and for different goals.

Branding has been one of the most notorious uses of storytelling, and story-driven coffee packaging is one of its most interesting applications.

The story is the brand, according to Gustavo Villota from Café San Alberto. “It identifies an essence and a differentiator for the brand and connects with the consumer,” says Gustavo, who is also the director at Café San Alberto.

Edwin Acosta, who is also the marketing director for Trinidad Coffee Estate, agrees with Gustavo about the importance of stories for human connection. “Using stories is the best way to connect with people,” he adds.

“I believe that stories are the more straightforward way to talk to consumers. Showing every person and client the why, the motivation, the coffee’s origin, and how it was cultivated,” says Edwin.

Besides aromatic profile and high quality, one of the most interesting aspects of specialty coffee is traceability.

For this reason, story-driven coffee packaging tends to display information about the origin of the coffee, such as the history of coffee growing in the region, altitude, and details about the producers.

Moreover, it’s common practice to print the varietal and post-harvest processing.

Overall, story-driven coffee packaging can offer consumers a few snapshots of different milestones across the coffee value chain.

An image of a custom coffee bag with storytelling illustrations custom printed onto coffee bag in an article on story-driven coffee packaging

The pros of story-driven coffee packaging

Gustavo believes that including a story in coffee packaging helps consumers make informed purchase decisions.

“It can enable the introduction of the brand to new consumers, as the story helps to widen the reach of the brand’s essence,” he explains.

“When a story is visible on the bag, there is a context that provides a conceptual framework, aligned with the visual identity and the brand aesthetics.”

Additionally, Edwin claims that story-driven coffee packaging has two main advantages.

First, consumers become more aware of coffee production aspects through in-depth learning.

Second, it makes people identify with the brand, which can help them share that knowledge, with others.

When it comes to using stories in coffee packaging, there are few creative restrictions.

For instance, Trinidad Coffee Estate uses different names, colors, and images to differentiate its post-harvest processing methods.

More so, the brand includes a number with the cupping score of the beans inside.

Another example is RAVE Coffee, which has experimented with different types of packaging in its search to reduce its ecological footprint.

After trying biodegradable and recyclable packaging, RAVE customers have engaged in an interesting conversation about reducing waste, reflecting on their coffee consumption.

Café San Alberto, for instance, uses its package to talk about the origin, quality controls, varietals, and even awards the brand has received over the years.

Thus, telling a story through coffee packaging is a powerful branding tactic.

It enables the company to build stronger relationships with its clients while talking about its value, traceability, transparency, and environmental impact.

An image of a custom coffee bag with customised side panels in a custom-printed coffee bag in an article on story-driven coffee packaging

The cons of story-driven coffee packaging

As much as materials and printing have evolved considerably, packaging is restricted in the space available for storytelling.

For some brands, using different layers of packaging allows them to enrich their narratives. That said, this can feel cumbersome, and single-use layers around the coffee packaging are often considered wasteful.

Additionally, story-driven coffee packaging requires careful design to be effective.

As Gustavo puts it, this is more a risk than a disadvantage. “We want to tell a story through the coffee package, but we don’t want to lose our ability to be concrete and impactful – which are key features of a good package.”

Moreover, telling stories can be more captivating for the people executing the brand strategy than for customers.

In some cases, brands forget to talk about the coffee and focus excessively on the story behind them. As a result, some consumers may feel overwhelmed and choose other coffee brands that are easier to understand.

However, by custom-printing QR codes on coffee bags, brands can avoid the limitations and risks of story-driven packaging.

Others use social media to expand on the stories around the brand so that packaging can offer a simpler version or direct consumers to their social media presence.

Overall, story-driven coffee packaging requires expert designers and copywriters to deliver a powerful message that attracts and engages with customers.

Telling stories won’t have a positive impact on its own. Crafting meaningful stories to highlight the work, value, aesthetics, and impact of a brand’s coffee is an effective way to connect with customers on an emotional level. 

As a result, it’s reasonable to expect improving customer engagement and inspiring loyalty.

By bringing coffee stories to life, brands can tap into their unique potential to shape and enhance customers’ coffee-drinking experience.

It also helps to connect with clients, emphasise added value, and differentiate from competitors.

MTPak Coffee offers roasters and coffee shops a range of 100% recyclable coffee packaging options that can be custom-printed to share your story.

Our range of coffee packaging options is made from renewable materials: our line of coffee boxes is made using 100% recycled cardboard, while our sustainable coffee bags are made from kraft paper, rice paper, or multilayer LDPE packaging with an environmentally friendly PLA lining.

More so, both our sustainable coffee bags and coffee mailer boxes can be fully customised to reflect your brand details about your coffee offerings. Our talented design team is ready to work with you in order to make coffee packaging Instragammable.

MTPak Coffee offers our clients a quick turnaround time of 40-hours and 24-hour shipping time. 

We also offer 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 how to customise your coffee packaging, contact our team today.

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