Coffee bag design that promotes inclusivity 

Yker Valerio
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October 6, 2023
coffee bag design, custom printed coffee bags, custom coffee bags, custom coffee packaging, Aspire CoffeeWorks, Metropolis Coffee Company

Adults with disabilities face many challenges, including underemployment and exclusion. One brand that has been working on a solution for this problem for over a decade is Aspire CoffeeWorks. Even the brand’s coffee bag design promotes the inclusivity of the specialty coffee community.

Aspire CoffeeWorks employs adults with disabilities and funds beneficial programmes inside the brand’s larger scope. Since 2009, it has partnered with Metropolis Coffee, a top-quality coffee roaster in Chicago. 

To get a deeper understanding of how this partnership works, and the impact on those with disabilities, I spoke with Katie Welge, managing director at Aspire CoffeeWorks, and Tony Dreyfuss, the co-founder at Metropolis Coffee Company.

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What is Aspire CoffeeWorks?

For over ten years, Aspire CoffeeWorks has delivered high-quality coffee by working with a team of able-bodied adults, as well as those with disabilities. The organisation defines itself as a social enterprise coffee company, with 100% of its proceeds going to Aspire, its parent non-profit. 

These funds help to support beneficial programmes for adults with disabilities. The programmes include work-related and independence-enabling training. Additionally, the organisation helps to fund the often costly devices many people with disabilities need.

Inclusion has been at the core of Aspire since its inception in 1960 when it was created by a group of families whose children had a disability. 

“At the time, the State would tell these people to put their children in an institution,” explains Katie, who has been with the organisation for over six years. “That’s not what this particular group of families wanted: they wanted their children to be part of the community.”

Aspire CoffeeWorks employs a “team of adults with autism, down syndrome, and other developmental disabilities. This team helps grind, label, package, and distribute all of our coffee,” Katie explains.

The organisation has a long-term partnership with Metropolis Coffee Company, which selects, sources, and roasts its coffee. Tony Dreyfuss, the co-president of Metropolis Coffee Company explains most of the coffees roasted for Aspire CoffeeWorks are dual-certified organic and fair trade. 

“That was something very important to the organisation. The team wanted to be able to say the coffee did not harm any people and that it benefited the people who produced it through certification,” he says.

“I think the programme is special in the way that it can help people not only to live independently but also find pride and value through work,” he adds. 

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Coffee bag design: Customisation that supports a worthy cause 

Tony explains that he met Jim Kales, the founder of Aspire CoffeeWorks through a mutual desire to start a coffee programme that would raise money to provide job opportunities for adults with disabilities. Beyond this, they wanted the programme to provide exposure to the problems of underemployed adults with disabilities. 

“It started out small but grew fairly quickly through early distribution into offices,” Tony explains. “We’ve been partners ever since. Notably, they are our primary nonprofit partner. We absolutely love working with them!”

Katie’s account complements Tony’s story. “Tony and Metropolis Coffee Company answered the call enthusiastically and welcomed us in. It’s been an amazing partnership ever since, and allows us to operate out of their roastery in the Evandale neighbourhood of Chicago,” she says.  

Tony says, “We have a relationship where Aspire gets extremely preferential pricing on the coffee, such that they make most of the profits on every bag of coffee. So, we’ve helped them to find distributors.” 

The roasted coffee is packaged in white side gusset coffee pouches, allowing the organisation’s logo to stand out. ‘Aspire CoffeeWorks’ sits at the top of each bag in multiple colours, while a custom QR code encourages customers to learn more about the organisation. Beyond this, each bag features a picture of a member of the Aspire CoffeeWorks staff

This unique personalisation essentially puts a ‘face’ on the product, allowing a further level of brand engagement. Additionally, the bag informs consumers that 100% of the proceeds from their purchase are going to a worthy cause. 

“This partnership has become a community, and that’s what’s important to us,” Tony says. “That’s what feels vital and necessary. I think businesses trying to find a signature nonprofit partner should think about what is important to them.

“Then they can learn how their business can support this, as there are plenty of opportunities to help people.” 

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Specialty coffee roasters: How can you get involved? 

Social initiatives within the specialty coffee industry are crucial. They can help extend the positive impact of teamwork and collaboration across the value chain and within the surrounding communities. 

“When we talk about great coffee, all the people that come into contact with it can benefit,” Tony says. “From the people who grow and produce it to those who consume it, there’s a certain amount of benefit in a pound of coffee. I think that there’s enough benefit to be shared. So everyone benefits from a successful nonprofit partnership.”

“Our goal is to be an example to other companies and organisations,” Katie adds. “We want to demonstrate that when people with and without disabilities work together, we all benefit. Plus, we want to show how partnerships between nonprofits and for-profit organisations can be successful.” 

Those interested in supporting Aspire CoffeeWorks can buy their coffee wherever they are inside the US, as the company ships nationwide. “Companies in the Chicago area can partner with Aspire and Aspire CoffeeWorks in different ways, from volunteer opportunities, rolling up your sleeves during our holiday season and helping us package up corporate gift boxes,” Katie says. 

“Even better, invite us to your office for a meet and greet. Our team loves to share their coffee experiences and break down those barriers around coffee communication.”

At MTPak Coffee, we offer roasters and coffee shops a range of 100% sustainable coffee packaging options that can be custom-printed to your business specifications. 

Choose from renewable materials such as kraft paper, rice paper, or multilayer LDPE packaging with an environmentally friendly PLA lining, all of which minimise waste and contribute to a circular economy. Plus, we can help roasters seamlessly integrate QR codes into their coffee packaging using innovative digital printing technology

Our design team can custom–print QR codes directly onto coffee bags, and give roasters complete control over the look of the design, as well as the amount of information the QR codes contain. 

Images from Aspire CoffeeWorks and Metropolis Coffee Company.

For more information on custom-printed coffee packaging that includes QR codes, contact our team

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