The Coffee Bag Design Series explores specialty coffee brands with unique designs that stand out and fire the imagination. This week, we spoke with Equator Coffees about how the brand grew from roasting in a garage to becoming a successful business with multiple locations. Furthermore, we’ll focus on how the brand uses its unique packaging to communicate its values to customers.
Helen Russell & Brooke McDonnell founded Equator Coffees in 1995 with the goal of sourcing and roasting world-class coffees, and building an inclusive company where they, as LGBTQ+ women, could bring their whole selves to work. They felt that business and coffee could be a force for good, and have spent the last 28 years in pursuit of that mission.
Over the last 28 years, the brand has been dedicated to sourcing and roasting world-class coffees while building an inclusive company. As the first B Corp coffee roaster in California and an early adopter of Fair Trade certification, Equator Coffees believes in holistic sustainability, from paying for the teams’ healthcare to seeking the most environmentally beneficial solutions to sourcing, roasting, and serving coffee.
Equator Coffees is a retail and wholesale coffee roaster and coffee farm owner with ten retail cafes throughout California, from Marin County to San Francisco to Oakland and beyond. Throughout the years, Equator Coffees has spearheaded industry-leading sourcing and roasting practices and has forged progressive partnerships with Michelin-starred chefs, specialty grocers, tech campuses, and more.
To learn more about how the brand’s phenomenal growth over the years, and how it uses its packaging to engage with customers, I spoke with the marketing manager at Equator Coffees, Laura Beaudrow.
A blend and bag that celebrates inclusivity
“Since its inception, Equator Coffees has prided itself on its strong sense of social responsibility and inclusivity that is at the heart of its business,” Laura explains. As such, the design of its coffee packaging is about more than aesthetics: it is a deliberate attempt to communicate its values to its customers. The coffee bags for the brand’s latest offering, a limited-edition Super Bloom blend, is no exception.
“We collaborated with illustrator and muralist Rymie to bring the design concept for our spring seasonal coffee to life,” she says. The front of the bag features a tiger, Rymie’s interpretation of the brand’s iconic logo, peering over a steaming pour-over cone. Equator Coffees chose a tiger as the emblem of its brand, as it symbolises rarity, grace, and strength. The tiger is surrounded by a mix of flora native to California and Nicaragua, as an homage to both the coffee origin and where the beans were roasted: the roastery in Marin County, US.
On one side of the bag, a same-sex, interracial couple toasts steaming tumblers of coffee, while the other side showcases a Chemex filled with flowers that are basked in sunlight. More so, the phrase “Proud Since 1995” is clearly displayed: a play on their typical “Roasting Since 1995” to celebrate the brand’s commitment to LGBTQ+ representation. “The back of the bag features a woman hiking through hills that are surrounded by Pride Poppies, another nod to LGBTQ+ pride at the core of our identity, while a parrot flies overhead as a nod to Nicaragua,” Laura explains. All of these elements together amount to a visually stunning design that celebrates this new seasonal blend.
“The design and campaign concept is inspired by the blend’s namesake – Super Bloom: a rare botanical phenomenon that occurs when dormant wildflower seeds germinate in unison, bringing the desert landscape to life in a riot of vibrant colour. Our Super Bloom Blend is a reminder that when we bloom together, we can transform entire landscapes,” Laura adds.
For the limited-edition Super Bloom blend, the brand has combined the unique qualities of sustainable coffees from Nicaragua, Thailand, and Java. This has created a celebratory and diverse profile with flavours of confetti cake, cherry blossom, and starfruit. Laura explains that 5% of sales from the Super Bloom collection will be donated back to the brands’ producer partner in Nicaragua, Cooperativa de Servicios Múltiples Sacaclí, with the money contributing towards equipment for their newly built coffee quality control lab.
Equator Coffees: Showcasing holistic sustainability
As noted by Equator’s co-founder Helen Russell in their recently released annual Impact Report, as “there is no finish line when it comes to sustainability work.” The brand is constantly striving to improve its impact on sustainability and partner with like-minded companies to help reduce its footprint. For their core 12oz. packaging, Equator Coffees uses Biotrē™ 2.0, which is 60% compostable, with nearly all plant-based, renewable film layers.
Equator Coffees’ approach to packaging design is a testament to how much thought and care can go into creating a coffee bag that reflects a brand’s values. From the use of eco-friendly materials to the inclusion of LGBTQ+ representation and nods to the coffee’s origin, every element of the limited-edition 12oz. Super Bloom packaging design is carefully crafted to communicate a strong, personal message.
Equator Coffees’ packaging design is an excellent example of how a coffee brand can effectively communicate its values through its packaging. By choosing the right materials and design elements, they have successfully conveyed their commitment to inclusivity, sustainability, and quality.
Roasters who are looking to create packaging that effectively conveys the brand’s values and ethos will need to put the same amount of care and attention to detail as Equator Coffees. Choosing the right packaging materials, colours, illustrations or graphics, and typography can make a huge difference in how a brand is perceived by customers.
Take a look at our Roasterpreneur Series, which is dedicated to showcasing inspiring up-and-coming roasters and offer advice on running a successful roastery. We’ve spoken to Manumit Coffee Roasters, Owens Organic Coffee, and Cafès El Magnifico.
The Community section of our Education Centre is dedicated to highlighting the work of specialty coffee roasteries and cafes around the world. By sharing tips, tricks, and knowledge gained through years of experience, we hope to help support the future of a sustainable supply chain.