Modern consumers want to know as much about the coffee they buy as possible. However, overwhelming packaging with information can make the product less appealing. Therefore, many specialty coffee roasters favour a minimalistic approach and print Quick Response (QR) codes on coffee bags.
A QR code is a small, square barcode that consumers can scan with their smartphones to learn more about products, brands, and more. Specialty coffee roasters often use QR codes to convey information about variety and roast profile to elevation and processing methods.
Notably, a recent survey found over half of respondents would scan a QR code to learn more about a brand. Moreover, 70% of those surveyed would use their smartphones to inform themselves about a purchase before making it.
QR codes can help brands communicate and interact with customers. So, could they be used to educate consumers about how to dispose of empty packaging correctly? To learn more, I spoke with Jean Orlowski, the owner of Hala Tree Coffee, in Kona, Hawaii.
The benefits of including QR codes on coffee bags
QR codes have become beacons for cafes, helping deepen connections with their takeaway customers during some of society’s most antisocial years.
A 2019 report shows that 52.6 million smartphone users in the US scanned a QR code. This figure increased to 75.8 million in 2021 and projections suggest the number will continue to rise, reaching around 99.5 million by 2025.
Essentially, they allow establishments to offer consumers unique, personalised, yet simplified information daily. This may include upcoming promotions, social media links, and even brand sustainability efforts.
Within the specialty coffee industry, QR codes often provide consumers with additional details about the beans’ quality, origins, and flavour notes. Beyond this, they can serve as a tool for authenticity and transparency.
As consumers are demanding more accountability from coffee brands, specialty coffee roasters can use QR codes to showcase the entire journey of their product, from seed to cup.
“The benefits of QR codes are endless,” explains Jean, who is also the Chief Executive Officer at eCropOrigin, a mobile app that allows coffee farmers to monitor and track all aspects of farm production.
“They provide flexibility for coffee roasters to inform clients. The information can be about traceability or the farmer’s story. Additionally, it can convey certifications and processing methods,” he says.
Hala Tree Coffee produces and roasts its own coffee and customises each bag with QR codes. The brand believes part of the customer experience is to provide clients with complete transparency. Through the use of QR codes, Hala Tree Coffee has ensured that each coffee bag has a story.
“Depending on the tool you use to build your QR code pages, you can customise them entirely at will,” Jean says.
Could QR codes on coffee packaging help prevent waste?
In recent years, an increasing number of coffee brands are adopting sustainable business practices. At the same time, more consumers are aware of what “greenwashing” is, and how often it can take place.
Greenwashing refers to a practice in which organisations make unsubstantiated or exaggerated claims to portray an environmentally friendly image.
A QR code can help roasters communicate how every point of the coffee’s journey from roasting to delivery is as eco-friendly as possible. More so, they can help educate consumers on how to dispose of empty coffee packaging without contributing to plastic waste.
Research shows that nearly 17% of household and business waste in the UK cannot be recycled because of contamination. In an article, David Heaton, the business director of MRFs and PRFs at Biffa, stated that contamination occurs when individuals dispose of items in the wrong bins or fail to rinse them before recycling. “This means recyclable resources are lost and cannot be reused.”
In light of this, specialty coffee roasters could use these codes to communicate local recycling standards to customers. This, in turn, can help create a deeper connection with consumers who admire a brand’s sustainability efforts. Recent studies show a third of consumers admit that brand sustainability commitments are a major factor in their buying decisions.
Coffee waste frequently occurs when consumers are unaware of their consumption levels or lack knowledge of proper at-home coffee storage practices. Printing QR codes on packaging can mitigate this issue by providing guidance on the lifespan of coffee.
For example, a study conducted in 2020, focusing on best-by dates on milk cartons, demonstrated that QR codes are more successful in communicating a product’s shelf life.
Implementing QR codes on coffee packaging
It’s clear that QR codes can take the relationship between coffee roasters and consumers to a new level, while simultaneously communicating important sustainable mentions.
However, there are a few misconceptions many coffee roasters have when it comes to implementing QR codes on coffee packaging. For instance, a common drawback is the assumption that it can only be done during large print runs, which makes them less suited to small roasters.
Another misconception is that mistakes cannot be corrected easily, and will cost coffee roasters more. Furthermore, it would not be cost-effective to promote a seasonal coffee or time-limited messaging, as brands would have to pay for an entirely new print run.
However, traditional packaging printers often encounter this issue, which can be resolved by using digital printing methods. Digital printing allows coffee roasters to print small quantities of orders with manageable turnaround times.
QR codes have revolutionised the way brands communicate important information within the coffee industry.
Instead of incorporating lengthy web addresses or printing detailed narratives on packaging, coffee roasters can now integrate these uncomplicated barcodes to provide consumers with access to a wealth of information about their brand.
MTPak Coffee can help roasters seamlessly integrate QR codes into their coffee packaging using innovative digital printing technology. Our design team can custom–print directly onto coffee packaging and give roasters complete control over the look of the design, as well as the amount of information the QR codes contain.
MTPak Coffee offers 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, all of which minimise waste and contribute to a circular economy.
Images courtesy of Hala Tree Coffee