Exploring options to make coffee packaging lightweight

Janice Kanniah
September 25, 2023
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Curbing the pollution crisis requires businesses across all industries to explore the environmentally friendly packaging options available to them. 

For some, however, this may not always be possible because of financial, practical, or safety reasons. However, consumers still expect these businesses, particularly coffee brands, to use as little packaging materials as possible. In an ideal world, businesses would do both. 

One trend that is starting to appear is the practice of making coffee packaging lightweight. Lightweighting is a concept typically used in the automotive industry to describe making individual components lighter without compromising their performance or safety. 

Making coffee packaging lightweight will involve revisiting every aspect of how a product is packaged. This will help determine if less material can be used, or smaller packaging can be created. Lightweight coffee packaging can help specialty coffee roasters and cafes save money on materials and storage while reducing their environmental impact. 

I spoke with David Pierce, the owner of Hammer & Chip Coffee Roasters in Alberta, Canada, about how roasters can explore how to make coffee packaging lightweight without compromising product quality. 

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Lightweighting: What is it and how does it work?

The automotive and aerospace industries have historically produced heavier vehicles. However, over time, our understanding of how weight impacts fuel consumption and payload has increased. 

Therefore, manufacturers are moving from traditional materials and design techniques to more energy-efficient, cost-effective, and functional ones that use or compromise less material. 

It’s important to remember not all materials are recyclable. More so, they may be disposed of in areas that lack appropriate material collection, separation, recycling, and processing facilities. 

In these cases, using less of certain materials can improve a product’s environmental footprint. Essentially, it makes the packaging easier to dispose of or it is more likely to end up in the appropriate waste disposal stream. 

The practice of lightweighting could potentially be a boon for roasters, who in the past have erred on the side of caution when packaging products for long transit times. For example, many specialty coffee roasters may use additional packaging to protect the beans against external elements that could compromise their quality. 

“From my perspective, the advantage of lightweight packaging is the reduction of overall weight and size for shipments,” explains David, who is also the chief product officer at Hammer & Chip Coffee Roasters. 

“Making coffee packaging lightweight can result in reduced shipping costs, emissions, and damage incurred by stacking heavier products. In my experience, retailers also prefer lighter, thinner, and taller bags that efficiently use their shelf real estate,” he adds.

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The benefits of lightweight coffee packaging 

Lightweighting product packaging is affecting many consumer products, including coffee. Notably, the thin wall packaging market, identified as packaging with a thickness of less than 0.8mm, is set to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 4.6% until 2030.

Part of this increase can be attributed to upcoming government legislation. For example, the European Union’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive of 2024 will require countries to reduce waste by between 5% and 15%. More so, packaging materials must be scaled down to the minimum required for functionality and safety. 

Countries adopting Extended Producer Responsibility may also require non-participating businesses to pay for their own packaging disposal. This further encourages the adoption of lightweighting.

While using less packaging material has several financial benefits, there are others worth considering. This includes lower and more optimised shipping costs, as packaged products often weigh less. It also means that products can be stacked and layered for transport and delivery more efficiently – with less dead space. 

More so, it makes the packaging process easier to scale up via automation with fewer margins for error while preventing packaging and product waste. 

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What to consider when making coffee packaging lightweight 

David explains that specialty coffee roasters can make use of lightweighting, provided they’re aware the packaging must remain robust enough to protect the beans from moisture, oxygen, and sunlight. 

“Anything under 0.5mm in thickness tends to lack durability,” he says. “It degrades quickly and may lack the structure needed for packaging machinery.” He adds that now is a good time for coffee roasters to reevaluate their packaging in this way, as it can help facilitate a packaging redesign to keep the brand modern.

“Lately, roasters have been opting for minimal designs and simplistic artwork. Removing cumbersome information that often confuses consumers saves on unnecessary labelling,” he explains. 

For brands that are concerned about a lack of packaging space to print on, David suggests QR codes. “These codes can refer customers to the brand’s website, instead of overloading information labels.” 

“Using a single stock rotogravure printed bag with a small identifier label has been our solution,” David says. “Another way roasters can reduce weight and size is by opting for tear zippers and gusset style bags with roll bottoms, instead of block and tin ties. Hand stamping and hot stamping coffee bags can also work for smaller operators, providing a craft feel.”

It is essential for specialty coffee roasters to remember that making coffee packaging lightweight plays just one part in reducing its carbon footprint. They will still need to consider how customers receive the product, whether they can recycle or return the packaging, and if they know how to do so. 

Coffee roasters making the transition to lightweight coffee bags will need to communicate this to customers so they know how to use and responsibly dispose of it. 

At MTPak Coffee, we are committed to promoting recyclable and compostable packaging and creating more lightweight packaging options for clients to choose from. Our team can help specialty coffee roasters and cafes make the switch to lightweight coffee packaging that customers can dispose of easily, without contributing to the plastic waste crisis.  

Our range of 100% recyclable coffee packaging options is made from renewable materials such as kraft paper, rice paper, or multilayer LDPE packaging with an environmentally friendly PLA lining. Our coffee bags and custom coffee boxes can be embossed, debossed, or fully customised with interior and exterior branding, transparent windows, and sustainable accessories such as resealable zippers or degassing valves

Using innovative digital printing technology, we are able to help you with a quick turnaround time and shipping time. MTPak Coffee also offers low minimum order quantities (MOQs) to micro-roasters who are looking to remain agile while showcasing brand identity and a commitment to the environment.

Images from Hammer & Chip Coffee Roasters 

For more information on lightweight coffee packaging, contact our team.

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