Gloss vs Matte: Which coffee bag finish is best?

Hayley Osbourne
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April 24, 2023
An image of gloss coffee bags and matte coffee bags side by side in an article on which coffee bag finish is best

Within the packaging industry, a “finish” refers to an additional coating on the exterior layer of a bag or box to help protect the design and inks from damage. Additionally, certain finishes can be used to highlight elements of the packaging design. Within the specialty industry, several roasters choose to use unique finishes on their coffee bags to attract customers and increase sales.

Premium design techniques and packaging finishes can be an effective way to increase the product’s perceived value among customers. Notably, two studies conducted in 2021 found premium packaging designs have a strong positive impact on consumer quality perception, and in turn, purchasing decisions. This implies customers are likely to determine that a product is of higher quality based solely on the packaging.

While there are several techniques available, such as hot stamping, spot UV, and soft touch, the most common within the specialty coffee industry is either a gloss or matt coffee bag finish. While both can provide a premium appeal, some designs may appeal more to people of certain ages or genders. If a brand understands its customer base, it can invest in a packaging finish that is likely to resonate with its audience.

Read on to discover which coffee packaging finishes work best for your brand and what to consider before investing.

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Coffee packaging with a gloss finish

A coffee bag with a gloss finish boasts a smooth texture and shiny coating that often reflects light. A glossy finish or coating is a clear polymer that is applied to the exterior packaging material in a liquid form. It is then dried immediately using ultraviolet (UV) light.  

This packaging finish can help showcase the vibrancy of the colours used in the design. More so, in terms of durability, a glossy finish can provide additional protection for the bag’s design features. A gloss finish is dirt-proof and resistant to minor wear and tear, however, fingerprints and smears are likely to show on the smooth surface.

One of the most important factors to consider is a gloss finish on coffee packaging will have little effect on the sustainability of a brand. As it is a UV-based varnish, a coffee bag with a gloss finish is both biodegradable and recyclable. The process uses UV light as opposed to conventional heat to seal the coating, meaning a gloss finish uses less energy, making it a highly sustainable option.

A gloss finish can be applied to several packaging materials, including those that are recyclable and biodegradable, such as kraft paper, rice paper, and recycled cardboard. It is important for roasters to note that a gloss finish forms part of the “mixed waste” band of recycling. Therefore, roasters should print clear disposal instructions on these bags to ensure consumers recycle them properly.

An image of a matte finish on kraft paper coffee bags, matte coffee bags, coffee bag finishes in an article on which coffee bag finish is best

Implementing a matte finish on coffee packaging

Coffee packaging with a matte finish will have a softer appearance, as it is less reflective than gloss. As it reflects less light, the imagery and logos on these bags are likely to stand out better on the shelf, helping to entice customers to make a purchase. More so, a matte bag will have a soft, slightly rough texture compared to the smooth surface of a gloss finish.

While matte and gloss will look and feel different, the finishes are produced in a very similar manner. A matte finish is created in the same way as a gloss finish: by applying a semi-gloss polymer coating over the packaging and setting it with UV light. This ensures no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air during the sealing process, and the matte finish is biodegradable and recyclable.

It is important to note laminated gloss and matte finishes are likely to be petroleum-based, making them unrecyclable and unable to degrade naturally. Laminated products are unlikely to biodegrade unless in a controlled environment, and most end up in a landfill. Therefore, roasters should consider investing in water-based coatings, also known as aqueous coatings.

An image of a coffee tasting session with a matte coffee bag in the foreground 
in an article on which coffee bag finish is best

Which coffee bag finish is best?

Deciding which finish is best is likely to come down to the roaster’s personal tastes, packaging budget, and the personality of the brand. For instance, an eco-conscious roaster may choose a matte coffee bag, as the natural texture may further highlight the brand’s ethos.

Notably, several studies show packaging texture can influence consumers’ perception of the quality of the product inside. More so, other studies show customers who are concerned about the environment are more likely to purchase a product with matte packaging. This indicates an eco-friendly brand that invests in a matte finish is likely to increase its income by appealing to customers who want to support sustainable brands and reduce their carbon footprint.

That said, research also shows customers are naturally attracted to “shiny objects”, as they are often associated with luxury. Many consumers may also be able to spot a shiny surface quickly, meaning a gloss finish on coffee packaging can stand out among competitors. Additionally, a gloss finish may elevate the design of the bag and present a premium product, encouraging customers to pay a higher price.

An effective way to determine which finish is best is to use social media tools to deduce the brands’ main consumer base and cater the design of packaging towards them. These tools can help roasters determine the main age and gender range of their followers and the location they are based in. Social media tools can also help roasters see what type of content receives the most engagement, which may help influence design decisions. 

MTPak Coffee understands the need to offer high-quality, attractive coffee packaging that is also sustainable. Our range of packaging options is made from renewable materials. Our coffee boxes are made using recycled cardboard, while our sustainable coffee bags are made using kraft paper, rice paper, or multilayer LDPE packaging with an environmentally friendly PLA lining.

Our coffee bags and coffee boxes can be customised to reflect your brand’s characteristics, as well as vital information about your product. MTPak Coffee offers a wide range of customisation techniques, including spot UV with a glossy, satin, or matte finish, embossing and debossing, as well as hot foil stamping in a variety of colours.

We also offer our clients a quick turnaround time of 40 hours and 24-hour shipping time in addition to low minimum order quantities (MOQs) for those looking to remain agile while showcasing a commitment to the environment.

For more information on how to best customise your coffee packaging, contact our team.

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Hayley Osbourne
Hayley Osbourne

Hayley is a writer for MTPak Coffee and is very passionate about her craft.

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