NFT coffee packaging: Exploring its role in the specialty sector

Aidan Gant
April 27, 2023
An image of custom printed coffee packaging as an example of NFT coffee packaging, NFT coffee bags, in an article on NFT coffee packaging

For a brief moment, NFTs, also known as non-fungible tokens, were a wild phenomenon that originally emerged from blockchain technology in 2017. In essence, NFTS are virtual tokens that can be used to prove digital ownership of unique items, such as artwork and collectibles. For several businesses, this offered an opportunity to harness the power of crypto-currency to build hype around a marketing campaign. More so, NFTs helped further transparency and support social causes. 

It was in 2021 when the popularity of NFTs reached its peak, resulting in a high surge in supply and demand. Players within the specialty coffee industry also took advantage, with brands such as Coffee Bros using NFTs to help raise money for Cup of Excellence and World Coffee Research projects. More so, the brand returned a portion of the profits to coffee farmers to increase their wages.

Coffee Bros released a limited set of NFTs that comprised a digital image of one of their top-ranked coffee producers. The digital artwork featured the name and face of the farmer, as well as the coffee’s rank, variety, and competition score. 

That said, there are significant complications around the climate cost of the underpinning blockchain cryptocurrencies. This has left doubt over whether NFTs can be used as part of an environmentally sustainable marketing strategy. Due to the quantity of jargon involved, it can be a tough concept to get to grips with, which may be why the trend failed to take off with regard to coffee packaging. 

Read on to explore NFT coffee packaging, and how the trend affected the specialty industry. 

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What is an NFT?

An NFT is an encrypted digital file that leverages blockchain technology and cryptocurrency to authenticate a type of ownership of a piece of digital artwork. Within coffee packaging, the most common manifestation of this is as a cartoon character produced by an illustration artist. While the image remains available for anybody to view online, the holder of the NFT is visible as the official owner on a data register held in a secure archive online.

Essentially, the relationship between the owner and the artwork reflects one between a private art collector and an artwork that is held on display in perpetuity at a public museum. While the owner has no exclusive rights of access to the image itself, they do have the “right to be socially recognised” as the owner. It is almost like a relationship of patronage between the artist and a collector or financier.

At first glance, this cultural sensation may appear unique. However, it is just one of the most recent examples of conspicuous consumption. Many goods in society hold a superficial value, which is often over-inflated when compared to their intrinsic value. For example, the perceived value of the Rolex brand means watches can sell for up to $17.8 million, despite the production process costing much the same as any other watch.

Clearly, the ownership of certain goods in society can provide access to social prestige and a feeling of elite belonging. Arguably, NFTs may be an effective way to attach value to digital artworks, protect the creator’s digital intellectual property, and create online cultural communities around a given theme or issue. Overall, NFT coffee packaging could highlight social opportunities along the supply chain in a variety of ways.

An image of NFT coffee packaging, NFT examples, poster advertising NFT sales in an article on NFT coffee packaging

What is NFT coffee packaging?

NFT coffee packaging was a recent trend where digital NFT artwork was attached to a tangible product, such as a coffee bag. NFTs can help drive marketing campaigns and build lasting connections with consumers.

It is fair to assume there may be some areas of crossover fascination between the inherently esoteric crypto-craze and the complex nature of specialty coffee. As specialty coffee tends to focus on detail and scientifically quantifiable and understandable quality in the cup, this overlap may allow room to exploit NFT coffee packaging as a marketing tool.

Arguably, the two most successful and high-profile examples of this in recent years have been Coffee Bros’ digital coffee project Crypto Baristas and the NFT coffee subscription model Bored Breakfast Club. Crypto Baristas was established in 2021 with the stated aim of leveraging blockchain technology to improve coffee quality and value chain transparency.

The brand partnered with digital artist Tony Bui to create a series of NFT coffee-themed cartoon characters and used the revenue generated from NFT sales to establish the first NFT-funded physical cafe in New York City. The Bored Breakfast Club, on the other hand, have opted for an alternative route, employing NFT artwork on its physical packaging and running various limited-release coffee blends in collaboration with various partners to fund a reward programme for NFT holders.

This fresh approach to the subscription model is certainly eye-catching. However, critics suggest the benefits to the roaster are outweighed by the impact on the environment. Research suggests a lack of consideration for sustainability is likely to harm the roaster’s sales in the long term.

An image of a coffee consumer pouring waterover a V60 coffee dipper in an article on NFT coffee packaging

Is it worth using NFT coffee packaging?

Notably, both roasters and coffee shops can harness the marketing power of NFTs in several ways. The most obvious of these is in engaging NFTs as part of a limited-release branding campaign. Characters could be created to sit on coffee bags, merchandise, and customers’ social media profiles, and then sold as NFTs. This type of engaging marketing can bridge the gap between a brand’s digital and real-life customer base and build lasting relationships with consumers. It is also an extra revenue source with the added bonus of creating a shareable brand image customers will be pleased to promote on behalf of the brand.

The other key way NFT coffee packaging can work for a business is as part of a subscription model in the style of Bored Breakfast Club. The overwhelming factor to consider, though, should be the environmental impact. 

NFTs are currently traded most commonly with cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum or Bitcoin. Due to the huge amount of fossil-fuel-reliant energy required to maintain cryptocurrency through the “proof of work” validation system, NFTs carry a heavy carbon cost. Basically, the cryptocurrency used to trade NFTs requires lots of high-energy computers to run constantly.

A single Bitcoin transaction requires the same amount of carbon emissions as over a million Visa transactions. More so, the annual energy needed to keep the system afloat is equivalent to the energy requirements of a country the size of the Netherlands. Ultimately, it becomes important to consider if the benefits are worth the implications for a brand’s sustainability strategy.

MTPak Coffee offers roasters and coffee shops a range of packaging options 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.

More so, our coffee packaging options can be fully customised using eco-friendly methods such as digital printing. Choose to custom-print environmentally friendly QR codes on your coffee bags to encourage customers to support social initiatives and more. 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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