How to reduce transport costs for coffee subscription boxes

Holly Szakal
December 14, 2023
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Consumers today enjoy an unprecedented array of choices when it comes to subscription services. From music and TV shows to beer and magazines, the global online subscription market is predicted to reach $196.35 billion in 2023. 

Notably, in the US alone, it’s estimated that coffee subscription boxes in particular saw a 190% increase in demand from 2020 to 2021. Research shows the Covid-19 pandemic fuelled rapid changes in consumer habits, with online spending currently at the highest it’s ever been. 

That said, a recent survey discovered that 80% of respondents prefer online orders to be delivered in appropriately sized packaging to reduce waste. Beyond this, 58% revealed they’d prefer paper packaging for online orders. 

This is something specialty coffee roasters should keep in mind. Reducing excess packaging with coffee subscriptions can help reduce transport costs and appeal to a growing number of eco-conscious consumers. 

To learn more about how to reduce the transport costs for coffee subscription boxes, I spoke to Jeff Woods, the Chief Growth Officer at Verve Coffee Roasters.

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The benefits of coffee subscription boxes

Coffee subscriptions allow customers to receive regular deliveries of freshly roasted coffee. Like most subscription services, they operate on a rolling basis – typically weekly or monthly – with the flexibility to cancel at any time. Yet, what truly captivates consumers is the introduction of new blends and single origins they might not have considered trying.

Coffee subscriptions often contain a variety of coffees from different regions to introduce consumers to new flavour notes. Ultimately, these services can help build a connection between the consumer and the coffee roaster and encourage repeat purchases.

Additionally, coffee subscription boxes ensure consumers receive the freshest coffee available, as their monthly or weekly product is usually on their doorstep within days of its roast date.

For specialty coffee roasters, implementing a subscription service can provide a more accurate forecast for revenue and help streamline orders. Opportunities for roasting efficiency can also result in the reduction of the overall per-unit roasting cost. This, in turn, mitigates the risk of unsold inventory going stale.

Beyond this, coffee subscription boxes provide brands with creative ways to captivate consumers. Coffee boxes can be fully customised to increase brand awareness to an audience well beyond the brand’s local market. 

In addition to including the brand’s logo and branding, custom coffee boxes can be tailored to the individual customer’s preferences and needs. This kind of personalisation not only makes the customer feel special but also encourages them to engage with the brand. For example, they may post images of the product on social media channels or leave a review on the website.

Breaking into an international market can yield powerful results. Global branding and familiarity can increase a coffee roaster’s customer base and propel their business to a much larger scale. However, when it comes to international offerings, many brands are rightfully concerned about shipping costs.

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How to reduce transport costs for coffee subscription boxes

Jeff has spent many years working in specialty coffee before settling at Verve Coffee Roasters, a specialty coffee roaster based out of Santa Cruz in Southern California.

He shares his tips on how the brand saves on international shipping when sending out subscription boxes.

“There are a few things we’ve adjusted to ensure shipping is efficient and sustainable, starting with increasing the free shipping threshold from $30 to $35,” Jeff explains. “We’ve also started to use UPS-Surepost, especially to help bring down shipping costs for subscribers whose order quantity is just one bag of coffee. Beyond this, we’re using lightweight materials and consolidating packaging as much as possible with each order.”

Some specialty coffee roasters are exploring shared shipping or ‘ship your own container’ alternatives. This avenue gives customers the option of sharing shipping costs with others for a reduced fee and less packaging.

Other brands, such as Verve Coffee, are embracing more lightweight and eco-friendly packaging materials and removing excess packaging. This not only lowers shipping costs but also allows them to showcase their commitment to sustainable practices. 

“We’ve always used recyclable packaging,” Jeff explains. “Recently, we switched to compostable mailers. Our new mailer is made from a combination of kraft paper, bio-sourced plastic, and plant extracts, making it safe for the environment.

He adds the brand’s new eco-friendly packaging breaks down in six months and can be planted in consumers’ gardens or placed in their compost heaps. 

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Why is reducing waste with coffee subscriptions important?

Recent studies indicate that 81% of consumers are actively seeking sustainable packaging solutions and are against excess packaging. Therefore, coffee roasters must adopt environmentally friendly packaging, alongside packaging minimalism.

This holds especially true for coffee subscriptions and online purchases. A standard online coffee order typically involves a coffee bag with an accompanying label, marketing materials, a packing list or receipt, along with a shipping box, packing tape, and a shipping label. 

This surplus of coffee packaging not only poses environmental risks but can also result in a less favourable consumer experience. 

If coffee roasters fail to keep sustainability in mind, they risk alienating their eco-conscious customers, thus losing a large portion of their market. This is because excess or non-eco-friendly packaging materials are major contributors to the growing waste crisis and global warming.

One specialty coffee brand that takes packaging extremely seriously is Torque Coffees. The brand combined its retail coffee box and shipping box into one simple package to reduce materials by 50%. 

“We designed our packaging from the ground up specifically for e-commerce and shipping to use 100% recycled paper products,” explains Andy, who has worked across several facets of the specialty coffee industry. 

The brand uses no stickers or tape, investing only in compostable shipping labels that are easy to recycle or for consumers to compost at home. The Torque Coffee box comprises a coffee box, an inner coffee bag, and a compostable shipping label. By stripping it down to the bare essentials, Torque Coffee offers a subscription box that is 100% plastic-free, 100% plant-based, and 100% home-compostable.

At MTPak, we understand the importance of sustainable shipping all too well. We can help you create coffee packaging that has a minimal impact on the environment. With our range of biodegradable, recyclable, and compostable coffee packaging materials, you’ll be able to offer a fully sustainable product to your consumers. 

More so, both our sustainable coffee bags and coffee boxes can be fully customised to accurately reflect your brand, or inform customers of how to dispose of empty coffee packaging. 

Additionally, our low MOQ options will help keep costs down, allowing you to remain agile in an increasingly competitive market. More so, thanks to our eco-friendly and innovative digital printing technology, we can offer our clients quick turnaround and shipping times.  

Images courtesy of Verve Coffee Roasters

For more information on custom coffee subscription boxes, contact our team

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