What coffee packaging appeals most to Gen Z consumers?

Hayley Osbourne
May 16, 2023
An image of custom printed coffee bags, customised coffee packaging, in an article on what coffee packaging appeals most to Gen Z consumers

A recent study by McKinsey & Company found Gen Z consumers tend to value the expression of personal identity, being authentic, and matters of ethical concern. This often materialises in the brands they choose to align themselves with. For instance, a brand that promotes ethical living and fair wages and uses sustainable materials is more likely to gain a higher Gen Z customer base.

Alternatively, Gen Z consumers, who are prolific in their use of social media, are likely to take a strong stand against brands that are found to be less transparent about the morals they promote. This has opened up an era of “cancel culture”, which has seen several digital campaigns make significant changes across several industries, including the likes of Hollywood.

Specialty coffee roasters looking to expand their customer base should take note of Gen Z preferences. According to a study by Nescafe, Gen Z customers are avid coffee drinkers, with 86% having said they bought coffee out of the home in the past three months. Many said they bought coffee multiple times a day.

Keeping abreast of current design trends and Gen Z preferences can help roasters create a product and coffee bag design that appeals directly to that market. This, in turn, could help boost brand recognition and profits – at the cost of a simple coffee bag redesign.

Read on to learn more about what kind of coffee packaging appeals most to Gen Z consumers.

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An image of a custom printed coffee bag, custom coffee packaging, customised coffee packaging in an article on what coffee packaging appeals most to Gen Z consumers

What are Gen Z coffee consumers looking for?

Several studies show that the preferences of Gen Z coffee consumers can be narrowed down to four key aspects. First is convenience: according to a YouGov study, convenience is one of the most important factors for Gen Z when purchasing coffee. Notably, the same study found a higher share of Gen Z consumers purchased ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee than other generations.

In light of this, roasters could benefit from providing more convenient options, such as ready-to-drink canned coffee. Another highly effective option could be to provide freshly ground coffee bags or drip coffee bags alongside whole beans. Gen Z consumers are more likely to use quick brew appliances at home, making them less likely to want to have grind beans first.

The second aspect to consider is offering healthier options. Studies show Gen Z consumers are more concerned with their health and feelings of wellness. Notably, a recent article revealed Gen Z coffee consumers cited reaching health goals as a priority over other milestones, such as having a baby. More so, a LesMills study found Gen Z make up 80% of its health club members. Therefore, roasters and cafés can benefit from offering healthy alternatives, such as decaffeinated coffee and non-dairy milk options. Almond milk, for example, is less fattening than cow’s milk, while soy milk has nutritional aspects that meet the nutritional needs of humans.

Third, it is essential to remember that Gen Z consumers value price when purchasing coffee. Numerous studies have found price is a strong motivator when purchasing, most likely because Gen Z consumers grew up during a recession and many have not had a steady wage during their work life. That said, this generation is by no means slack on the quality of the coffee they purchase. Gen Z enjoys speciality coffee, and studies show that, combined with their preference for sustainability and high morals, these consumers are more likely to enjoy coffee that has been audited as of high quality and with good treatment for the farmers, such as Fair Trade coffee.

The last, and possibly most important aspect, is sustainability. Living an eco-friendly lifestyle seems to be extremely important to Gen Z consumers, with three-quarters of them stating sustainability is more important to them than brand names. Interestingly, Gen Z consumers have reported feeling higher levels of anxiety about climate change. An Ulster University study found 71% of Gen Z youth are concerned about their future based on the effect on the climate and environment.

Another recent study found 90% of Gen Z consumers said they made changes to their lifestyle to live more sustainably. More so, this generation is more specific about what they consider sustainable. According to Forbes, half of Gen Z consumers value products made from recyclable and naturally harvested fibres and materials. However, they also take into account if products are sustainably manufactured. Therefore, it is important roasters use sustainable methods of manufacturing as well as eco-friendly materials when creating coffee packaging. Doing so could help increase brand awareness and boost sales.

An image of custom printed coffee packaging for instant specialty coffee, customised coffee packaging in an article on what coffee packaging appeals most to Gen Z consumers

Using coffee packaging to appeal to younger consumers

As younger consumers seem to favour eco-friendly packaging, roasters would benefit from investing in sustainable coffee bags and takeout accessories. For example, coffee bags made from kraft paper are often easily recognisable as recyclable and sustainable compared to other packaging materials, such as recycled plastic. Notably, a 2020 study found that paper-based packaging is preferred by consumers due to its known ability to be recycled. Kraft paper is also compostable, making it a very eco-conscious material.

More so, the use of earthy colours, such as brown and green, can also help a Gen Z customer subconsciously evaluate the coffee packaging as being sustainable. The proper use of colour can improve brand recognition by 80%. This could help to gain new followers and, through brand recognition, spread the word that a roaster is sustainable.

When it comes to the design, roasters can use social media to determine what would be more enticing to younger consumers. Over half of Gen Z consumers are more likely to engage with advertisements on social media than on regular websites. At least 46% agree advertising helps them choose what they buy, while 42% say they are likely to engage with adverts tailored to them.

To engage their target market, roasters can use mock-up designs coupled with Instagram polls or ask consumers to comment on their favourite looks. This can help brands get an idea of the preferences of their consumer base, and help promote them further afield through the use of the social media platforms algorithm. At MTPak Coffee, we cater to a range of different packaging preferences and work with you to design coffee packaging that accurately reflects your brand. We’ve worked with a range of specialty coffee roasters from around the world, designing packaging that’s recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable, while simultaneously preserving the freshness of the coffee inside.

For more information on sustainable coffee packaging design, contact our team.

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