Flexible packaging has emerged as a promising alternative to rigid, traditional plastics. Characterised by its non-rigidity and versatility, it’s used to protect and transport a variety of goods, including chocolate bars, juice pouches, and single-use detergents.
In the coffee industry, flexible packaging has been used for both whole-bean and ground coffee for decades. Flexible coffee bags are affordable, convenient, lightweight, and hygienic. Additionally, they are designed to consume fewer materials and resources throughout their entire lifecycle.
Beyond this, flexible packaging offer brands a versatile surface on which to print designs and attract customers.
Why choose flexible coffee bags?
Flexible packaging is designed to use as little material as possible to package goods, ensuring a high packaging-to-product ratio. This has the dual benefit of reducing the amount of waste and keeping down carbon emissions involved in transportation.
Large quantities of flexible packaging can be packed and shipped in single containers, helping to limit the number of journeys between supplier and roaster.
“I would define flexible packaging as a material we use to safely and securely pack our coffee while using as little material and waste as possible,” Alex explains. While the brand also makes use of compostable coffee bags, the website states its “bags are currently “fully recyclable”, label 4, which means they need to be recyclable via your local supermarket bag collection or similar.
Flexible packaging is also highly favoured for its convenience and versatility. For instance, flexible coffee bags can be adapted to include multiple layers and additional components, such as degassing valves and resealable zippers to preserve freshness.
Ribbo Coffee is a woman-led agroecology and coffee value-addition company. Company founder, Piloya, explains that the brand uses flexible coffee pouches lined with aluminium foil that also feature degassing valves and ziplock seals.
What are the benefits of flexible coffee bags?
Deciding which coffee bags to use often boils down to affordability, practicality, sustainability, and marketability. However, there’s a lot to gain for both businesses and consumers by investing in flexible coffee bags.
For instance, the use of fewer base materials results in lightweight packaging. “It requires less space to store and transport flexible packages,” Piloya says, adding that this has enabled the brand to transport more products per truck while reducing carbon emissions.
Beyond this, flexible coffee bags can be tailored to a brand’s needs. Specialty coffee roasters can opt for sustainable packaging materials such as PLA laminated kraft paper, and add more barrier layers or components to optimise efficiency.
Alex explains that West Berkshire Roastery changed its approach to flexible packaging. “We recently switched from recyclable packaging to compostable coffee bags and received very positive feedback.” Notably, a new study found that consumers who are aware of compostable packaging options would prefer using them over plastic.
Another important benefit is how convenient flexible packaging is for consumers – something Piloya noticed while interacting with customers. Flexible coffee bags are easier for consumers to carry while they shop or travel. Additionally, “consumers can roll the bag down and reseal it as the coffee decreases,” she says.
Customising flexible coffee bags: What to consider
In such a competitive market, every specialty coffee roaster works diligently to leave a lasting impression on consumers. At Ribbo Coffee, this ranks above all the brand’s challenges. “As most brands use flexible packages, we’ve struggled to make our coffee pouches stand out,” Piloya noted.
Alex shares a similar observation. “Branding and customising packaging is a tricky one as most specialty coffee roasters provide a number of different origins and products.” He advises that you focus on the visuals. “Finding a generic good-looking theme is key while bearing in mind what labels will be applied to the packets,” he explains.
“We chose a matte back finish because it matches the stickers we put on our coffee bags,” Piloya says. “We’ve had no issues branding our pouches as the finish matches our style, and we can easily put stickers on them.”
Shape and size
It’s important to remember that, in addition to design, the shape and size of coffee bags are of equal importance. Research shows both shape and colour significantly influence consumer expectations of a product, particularly in the case of coffee.
Printing methods and inks
Specialty coffee roasters should ensure packaging reflects not only brand identity but also the quality of the coffee. Digital printing methods are the most effective methods for high-definition clear, accurate patterns and labels. Unlike conventional printing methods, it uses less energy and produces far fewer emissions. Above everything else, it’s faster and incredibly versatile.
As for inks, the printing experts from the Flexographic Technical Association (FTA) vouch for water-based over solvent-based inks. This is because they use simpler ingredients and have reduced concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
“These days, sustainability isn’t really an option. Customers expect it as a standard,” Alex observes. Ribbo Coffee customers are no exception. “Customers are always asking what to do with the coffee bags after use,” Piloya noted.
Many specialty coffee roasters have developed solutions beyond using eco-friendly inks, printing methods, and materials. Alex explains that at West Berkshire Roastery, they provide “obvious labels and logos on the packaging to assist customers in proper recycling.” He adds the brand provides advice alongside the brew guides that are offered with every coffee.
Piloya admits the plastic lining inside Ribbo’s coffee pouches has been a challenge when it comes to sustainability. However, she’s developed a creative solution. “We’ve started repurposing our coffee bags to raise plant seedlings,” she says.
Flexible coffee bags can be customised to any shape, size, and colour, which will make them attract attention and reflect the distinct characteristics of the coffee inside. Additionally, their unique form allows roasters to create a clean, uncluttered pouch that appeals to a growing group of younger coffee consumers.
At MTPak Coffee, we offer multilayer, flexible coffee pouches for a range of products, including roasted, ground, ready-to-drink (RTD), and cold brew coffee. Our flexible coffee packaging options can be fully customised to your specifications, including shape and size.
More so, our coffee pouches offer high-barrier protection, while being made from biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable materials that will help reduce your carbon footprint. Choose to include sustainable components such as resealable zippers, tin ties, spouts, and degassing valves to preserve product freshness.