Does the metallic sheen on custom printed coffee bags affect their sustainability?

Holly Szakal
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December 4, 2023
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Regardless of the efforts you take to keep your businesses sustainable, there are always opportunities to learn more – particularly about packaging materials and custom printed coffee bags. Finding further ways to reach your target audience through sustainability efforts can help your brand stand out in the increasingly competitive specialty coffee market. 

While product packaging is designed to protect its contents, the design of custom coffee bags plays a major role in shaping consumer perceptions of its contents. So much so that a recent survey found 72% of respondents said a product’s outer brand packaging has a significant impact on whether they’ll make a purchase.

Custom printed coffee bags have become a canvas for brands to express their unique identity and stand out from the crowded competition. One packaging finish that has become increasingly popular is a metallic sheen coating.

However, does this metallic sheen on custom coffee bags affect their sustainability? To learn more, I spoke with Amalia Ebbensen, the CEO of Made by Mama in Brooklyn, New York City, US. 

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Metallic sheens on custom printed coffee bags

Essentially, a packaging finish is a design technique that is the final step in the packaging manufacturing process. It is usually a layer, most commonly a varnish or laminate coating that helps protect the packaging from smears, dirt, and tears. Furthermore, it can elevate a design and bring further attention to a brand and product.

A metallic sheen creates a visually stunning, reflective-like appearance on the exterior layer of the packaging materials. Metallic sheens are shiny and bold without feeling too cold and metallic. They are often used under a base colour to give it an extra gold glow or silver shimmer.

A metallic finish is created by transferring a very thin layer of aluminium coating on the packaging materials by using heat and pressure. The unique technique is the final step in the custom printed coffee packaging process.

The surface of the coffee bag goes through a thorough preparation process to ensure its complete cleanliness. From there, the bags are coated in flexible materials with a thin layer of aluminium, or a sustainably alternative material, in a vacuum chamber. Then, it is evaporated and condensed onto the surface, forming a thin and reflective metallic layer.

The thickness of the metal coating can be controlled, and a protective coating may be applied for even further durability. The metallised bags may undergo an additional finishing process, such as printing or laminating, based on design and branding wants and needs.

Furthermore, a metallic finish on the outer layer of custom coffee bags can further enhance barrier properties. Metallic sheens can help protect the inner packaging from smears, dirt, and imperfections that it may endure in its transportation process to ensure it arrives at consumers’ doors in pristine condition. 

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What benefits do metallic sheens offer?

Visual identity is a core part of consumer memorability. Notably, recent research suggests it takes consumers roughly 0.05 seconds to form an impression of a brand or product. Therefore, creating a consistent visual identity is essential to building a relationship between your business and its target market.

Sparking the creative side of consumers’ minds can help ingrain your brand into their memory better than through the use of words. For example, studies show that colour has the potential to enhance brand recognition by as much as 80%. This is because our brains process and retain visual content to a far greater extent than shapes, numbers, and words.

Custom coffee bags can also entice consumers to make additional impulse buyers. More so, it can give them the impression that the coffee inside is of a higher quality.  

However, it’s not all about aesthetics. Amalia explains why she and her partners invested in metallic sheens for the brand’s in-house coffee products. “We use this material because it is fantastic for storage and offers an excellent barrier to light, heat, and moisture.”

“The aluminium in the bag blocks out and reflects light and strengthens the heat and moisture barrier offered by the plastic. It is a primary focus for us when producing coffee; we are always aiming to protect the product from external factors that can dilute its potency and its wonderfully complex aroma,” she adds. 


“Some multilayer paper options are available, but their barrier is weaker. Our priority is to sell the best, most wonderfully fragrant coffee, and therefore we have opted for a metallic sheen type of packaging.”

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How do metallic sheens affect custom printed coffee bags?

Under the dazzling exterior lies a question that resonates with eco-conscious consumers: does this metallic sheen compromise the sustainability of the coffee bags? This will depend largely on the packaging materials chosen, and the application techniques used. 

Research shows 78% of consumers admit that sustainability plays a major role in their buying decisions. Therefore, it is essential for specialty coffee roasters to choose metallic sheens that comply with the sustainability expectations of today.

More importantly, brands must convey how consumers can separate packaging materials and discard them responsibly. 

Alternatively, specialty coffee roasters can choose to invest in metallic printing inks. These inks can be spot applied just like regular inks, but reduce waste by only using metals where the design requires.

Metallic inks can also help keep single-use items out of the landfills. Packaging materials such as paper and cardboard that use metallic ink can be de-inked. This refers to a process of removing ink from plastic or paper.

This allows the packaging to be recycled as it normally would without any metal. Metallised substrates can’t often be recycled since the metallisation process binds materials together.

At MTPak Coffee, we offer a wide range of customisation techniques, including spot UV with a glossy, satin, or matte finish, embossing and debossing, as well as hot foil stamping in a variety of colours. Our range of packaging options is made from renewable materials. 

Our coffee boxes are made using 100% recycled cardboard, while our sustainable coffee bags are made using kraft paper, rice paper, or multilayer LDPE packaging with an environmentally friendly PLA lining.

We also offer our clients a quick turnaround and shipping time in addition to low minimum order quantities (MOQs) for those looking to remain agile while showcasing a commitment to the environment.

For more information on coffee packaging finishes and customisation, contact our team. 

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