Should green coffee suppliers invest in custom sample bags?

Esther Gibbs
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August 1, 2023
An image of custom coffee sample pouches, custom coffee sample bags, coffee sample bags, sample pouches, in an article on whether green coffee suppliers should invest in custom sample bags

In order to sell their product, farmers must be able to provide roasters with samples of green coffee. More often than not, these samples are packaged in plain stock bags with minimal labelling or branding. 

It is understandable that packaging is another expense many coffee farmers are unable to afford. However, could investing in custom sample bags increase the likelihood of a sale? 

To learn more about whether green coffee suppliers should invest in custom stock bags, I spoke with Laura Meunier, the relationship manager at Ensambles Café Mexicana.

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Reducing coffee packaging waste at origin

Earlier this year, the team at Ensambles Café switched from stock stand-up coffee pouches to custom-designed packaging for their coffee samples. “The main reason we changed was because of all the plastic being used for something that is essentially a single-use product,” explains Laura, who has 8 years of experience working with specialty coffee.

Ensambles Café Mexicana processes and markets a variety of Mexican coffees, dealing directly with producers and green coffee buyers.

“Roasters receive the samples, do a sample roast, cup the beans, and the packaging is simply tossed away. It’s never reused because it is just a lot of plastic.” Therefore, Ensambles Café made the transition to sample coffee packaging that is 100% recyclable and compostable.

Laura highlights the pressing issue of single-use packaging within the specialty coffee industry – an issue the majority of roasters are pressured to address. As a coffee roaster, have you considered the packaging waste that accompanies the samples you receive? 

Research shows packaging accounts for around 3% of the coffee supply chain’s total carbon footprint. If plastic packaging isn’t properly sourced, produced, transported, and discarded, it can be detrimental to the environment. 

Every year, coffee roasters and importers receive hundreds of sample packets to assist with purchasing decisions. Notably, investing in sustainable packaging alternatives can significantly reduce the industry’s impact on the environment. 

“We decided to make the change when I came across a start-up company that specialises in using seaweed as a packaging material. It’s still in development, but I liked how it looked, so we decided to make the change to more sustainable options.”

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Why invest in custom sample bags?

Beyond this, Laura highlights the importance of visual merchandising for consumables, as this can enhance the sensory experience or perception of the product. 

“Food starts with the eyes. If the plate looks good, then you’re likely to assume the food will be of high quality. The same goes for coffee samples: if the packaging is well-designed with suitable materials, it is a sign the contents are of value.

Presenting clients with coffee in distinctive, visually appealing packaging can enhance the perception of quality. Beyond this, it can also make the sample more memorable. More so, creating a bespoke design for coffee sample packaging is an opportunity to share origin stories and celebrate the culture of producing countries. 

Ensambles wanted to ensure the brand’s packaging was meaningful and illustrated something important to Mexico. The distinctive design on the brand’s coffee sample bags showcases a woman doing a braid in her hair.

“The braid is a typical sight in Mexico,” Laura explains. “Most of the female coffee producers we buy from in Mexico wear braids in their hair. It’s very cultural and has specific meanings depending on the community.” For instance, the way in which a woman wears her braids is an indication of her marital status. 

Laura explains the design was inspired by a recent trip to Wahaca, where she saw a similar mural on the street. “The mural was at a local building site. Before it was destroyed, I took a photo and it helped inspire the new design of our sample coffee pouches.”

Overall, customers have responded well to the new coffee packaging. “The response to the aesthetics has been really positive and people really like it.” 

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How can suppliers benefit from customised coffee packaging?

For Ensambles Café Mexicana, the change in packaging design has led to increased engagement on social media platforms. “More people are sharing photographs, and it has really helped showcase the quality of our coffee,” says Laura.

In turn, the upmarket packaging leads to more sales, which provides the producers in Mexico with more money. Beyond this, the brand exposure is helping Ensembles grow its market in Europe. 

Having a strong, consistent brand identity plays a significant role in differentiating a business in an increasingly competitive market. A well-crafted brand identity instantly communicates a business’s values and personality, making a powerful first impression on customers. More so, a professional brand identity can help build customer trust. 

As of January 2023, the percentage of consumers demanding sustainable packaging has risen to 81%. Therefore, making the change to sustainable alternatives is an effective way to gain customer trust and loyalty. 

However, as with all environmentally friendly solutions, they are a working progress. Notably,  both compostable and recyclable bags have their pros and cons. 

For example, the majority of compostable coffee bags are only able to break down in a commercial environment. On the other hand, many consumers are confused by the recycling symbols on packaging, which sees these materials end up in landfill. 

Green coffee producers and importers looking to offer something unique with sample coffee packaging must ask themselves three essential questions.

  1. How can the packaging be more sustainable? 
  2. How can the packaging design effectively communicate the brand, story, and quality of coffee? 
  3. How can the sample be distinguished? This means some sort of labelling is required unless it is printed directly on the packaging. 

At MTPak Coffee, we understand the need to create unique coffee packaging to make your brand stand out, whether you’re selling in retail bags or offering coffee samples. We offer 100% recyclable LDPE packaging that uses just two layers, compared to the three or four in many coffee bags around the world. This means we use less energy when manufacturing and our packaging is easier for roasters and consumers alike to dispose of sustainably.

Furthermore, our range of coffee packaging solutions includes compostable and biodegradable materials made from renewable sources. This includes kraft and rice paper, as well as LDPE and PLA.

Our digital printing techniques mean we can customise your coffee packaging in the most eco-friendly way possible. Our services include a range of packaging finishes, including a metallic sheen or rough matte feel, as well as creative design techniques, such as embossing, debossing, and hot foil stamping.

For more information on custom coffee sample packaging, contact our team

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