Year after year, the popularity of coffee increases, with around 166.63 million 60kg bags consumed globally between 2020 and 2021. In the UK alone, around 80% of people purchase instant coffee and visit coffee shops at least once a week. This is fantastic news for coffee businesses, however, these consumption levels can have a significant impact on the environment.
While roasters selling coffee through retail avenues have more direct control over the product, those going the wholesale route have to rely solely on their packaging in order to connect with and educate consumers. Put simply, wholesale coffee is the distribution of coffee in bulk from roaster to retailer. These retailers – typically cafés and grocery stores – then act as “middlemen” by selling the coffee to consumers at a higher price.
Therefore, roasters supplying wholesale coffee must find ways to help their clients reduce the environmental impact of the product. At first glance, this may seem challenging, but several ways roasters can achieve this.
To learn more about how roasters can help their wholesale coffee customers reduce their environmental impact, I spoke with the media manager from Terbodore Coffee, Hugh Pines.
Understanding the environmental impact of coffee
As the cultivation and consumption of coffee is global, so is its environmental impact. Coffee is predominately grown in tropical or subtropical climates. Notably, coffee grown in the shade of surrounding trees is considered more environmentally friendly as the method helps support the ecosystem and protect local wildlife. However, since 1996, the land used for shade-grown coffee has dropped significantly due to the demand for cheaper coffee. As a result, farmers began to cultivate sun-grown coffee, which provided higher yields.
It is important to note that sun grown coffee tends to lower the quality of the soil due to the monoculture system of cultivation. Without the shade of the trees, the soil is vulnerable to topsoil erosion, affecting the biodiversity of the ecosystem. Several studies estimate by 2050, half of the land used to grow coffee now will be unusable, and in Latin American countries, this could rise to 88%. More so, the increase in coffee plantations worldwide has accelerated the rate of deforestation, putting multiple plants and animals at risk.
In addition to processing and roasting, coffee packaging contributes significantly to the product’s environmental impact. That said, there have been several innovations in packaging materials and sustainability. Due to customer demand for more eco-friendly alternatives, many companies now use packaging that is either recyclable or compostable.
While studies show consumers favour sustainable packaging materials, they often misunderstand the best way to dispose of them. As a result, many inadvertently contribute to the plastic waste crisis, as coffee cups and used bags end up in a landfill as opposed to being composted or recycled.
How does this affect wholesale coffee customers?
“All of these factors can affect the availability and quality of coffee crops, leading to supply chain disruptions and price fluctuations,” says Hugh. “As a result, wholesalers may have to pay higher prices for coffee or deal with inconsistent quality, which can impact their profitability and reputation.”
Choosing to sell coffee wholesale allows roasters to introduce products to a wider range of customers in various locations, helping expand brand awareness and increase profits. Through consistent exposure and revenue, roasters can budget better and more prominently for future purchases and hires. More so, they are able to better plan on how to build on the brand.
As wholesale coffee customers are unlikely to understand the logistics behind the supply chain, roasters must do their best to help educate them, and in turn, the consumers purchasing the beans. However, interactions between roasters, wholesalers, and consumers are fairly limited. Therefore, roasters must rely on their coffee packaging materials and design in order to impart this information.
How can roasters help?
Roasters can help by reducing the carbon footprint of their product and sourcing coffee from ethical farmers, such as those who produce shade-grown coffees. Buying from farmers such as these, for example, can help contribute towards much-needed sustainable practices. These, in turn, aid the local ecosystem and wildlife, reducing the need for pesticides and other chemicals to protect the crops.
There are also low-carbon varieties of coffee roasters can invest in. Compared to standard varieties, it is believed the two new low-carbon robusta varieties deliver up to 50% more yields per tree. Additionally, these plants use the same amount of land, fertiliser, and energy, this results in up to 30% reduction in the CO2e footprint of the beans.
More so, roasters can invest in energy-efficient equipment or switch to renewable energy when roasting coffee. This can be done by investing in solar panels for roasteries, helping ease the demand for energy to power the machinery and lights. Notably, ensuring the entire business and establishment is energy efficient can help reduce a roaster’s carbon footprint.
“Roasters should make sure to source coffee beans from sustainable and environmentally responsible suppliers, “Hugh advises. “They can also improve their energy efficiency by upgrading their equipment, using smart technologies, and optimising their roasting process. This can help reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. In the next couple of months at Terbodore, we will be taking delivery of a very efficient 30 kg roaster from Genio. This larger roaster will help optimise our roasting process on a massive scale. We will also be implementing a very advanced stock management system, which will help with stock inefficiencies.”
Roasters can help wholesale clients and consumers reduce the environmental impact of their coffee habits by custom-printing their coffee bags. For example, coffee packaging can explain the ways in which the roaster uses energy-efficiency manufacturing tactics and sustainable packaging materials. More so, it can provide consumers with more information on the farm the coffee is sourced from.
Customising wholesale coffee bags in this way may help attract customers with an interest in living an eco-friendly lifestyle, as well as increase awareness of sustainable farming methods. Roasters can further highlight the importance of renewable resources by investing in sustainable packaging materials, such as recyclable or compostable coffee bags.
By using sustainable packaging, roasters are reducing their carbon footprint and ensuring less waste ends up in landfills. “I definitely recommend investing in recyclable coffee packaging,” Hugh says. “ A few years ago, Terbordore introduced recyclable coffee bags in 250g and 1kg form. We also offer compostable coffee capsules that obviously get packaged in cardboard boxes.”
MTPak Coffee understands the importance of sustainable wholesale coffee packaging. We offer a range of 100% recyclable coffee packaging options made from renewable materials such as kraft paper, rice paper, or multilayer LDPE packaging with an environmentally friendly PLA lining. Choose from our range of coffee bag structures to ensure they fit perfectly into your coffee mailer boxes.
All of our coffee packaging options can be fully customised to your specifications, including debossing, embossing, holographic effects, UV spot finishes, and custom printing using digital printing technology. This allows us to offer low minimum order quantities (MOQs) to micro-roasters, as well as a quick turnaround time of 40 hours and 24-hour shipping time.
For more information on sustainable wholesale coffee packaging, contact our team.
Image credits: Terbodore Coffee