Redesigning custom coffee bags for younger consumers

Sam Shipiti
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January 19, 2024
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Younger consumers, particularly Generation Z and Millennials, have kept coffee roasters and cafe owners on their toes. Every year or so, a new obstacle appears that requires fresh ideas and reimagining of packaging. 

In 2019, Generation Z became the largest generation, constituting 32% of the global population. Fast forward to 2023, and their strength began to be reflected in their spending power, as acknowledged in a recent Mintel report

Several brands have risen to the challenge by investing in custom coffee bags specifically designed to appeal to younger consumers. However, staying ahead of the curve requires constant vigilance of what this generation, and the entire specialty coffee industry, is up to. 

To gain a deeper understanding of how younger consumers are shaping the industry, and how custom coffee bags can help attract them, I spoke with several coffee industry leaders around the globe, from Los Angeles to Kenya and even South Africa. 

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How are young consumers shaping the coffee industry?

Both Gen Z and Millennials have carved their own paths in coffee consumption. According to the National Coffee Association, iced coffee and specialty coffee appear to be their beverages of choice. 

This is a finding that Marcus Young, the executive VP at Goodboybob Coffee, concurs with. Goodboybob is a roastery and coffee retailer based in Los Angeles, California. “We sell a lot of cold coffee because it’s Los Angeles, and for younger people, iced coffee and cold drinks are king.”

The trend is also apparent across the globe. “We‘ve seen younger consumers come in and ask for iced coffee, frappes, and milkshakes,” explains Niharika Tandon, who is head of marketing at Spring Valley Coffee, a fast-growing roastery and specialty coffee brand in Kenya. 

Interestingly, this younger demographic interacts with coffee much earlier in their lives, unlike many older consumers. Marcus shares that his 11-year-old always wants to go to a coffee shop and order a frappuccino. Sometimes, she even wants coffee in it. 

This is a trend Niharika has observed at Spring Valley as well. “Many consumers between the ages of 16 and 20 were introduced to coffee through their parents, who drink at our cafes,” she says. 

In the recent past, some trends that began with Generation Z have spread to older consumers. Forbes calls it the Gen Z Mindset and attributes it to the generation being more vocal, individualised, and purpose-driven. 

With that in mind, Marcus advises that as a coffee roastery or cafe, you should “wow them with what you have and they will help you promote it to a broader marketplace.”

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Custom coffee bags: The importance of appealing to young consumers

To create an impactful first impression on younger consumers, coffee roasters must understand what matters most to them. 

“Younger consumers are more concerned with purpose and ethics,” says David Donde, the CEO of Truth Coffee, based in Cape Town, South Africa. He adds that younger consumers tend to prioritise quality and the nature of a drink’s flavour.  

But that’s not all. A survey on Gen Z drinking habits in the UK found that convenience is the driving force behind drinking coffee, alongside taste and price. This is logical, as this generation tends to prefer ready-to-drink (RTD) options. 

Gefen Skolnick, Founder and CEO at Couplet Coffee, weighs in on this by highlighting that “convenience is always going to be a huge thing for consumers.” That is why the brand is working on products that are more convenient and quicker than buying whole coffee beans.

More than 42% of Gen Z and Millennials named convenience as the primary factor behind their preference for online shopping. Keeping in mind that the same young consumers are more likely to buy gourmet coffee, this is an overlapping trend that presents a golden opportunity for brands to thrive online.

Marcus says many of Goodboybob Coffees customers now order online. “We have a significant e-commerce presence with subscriptions,” he says. At Spring Valley, they have also been capitalising on this. “You can order through our website where we offer same-day delivery or pick up from our store,” says Niharika   

She adds there is a section of younger consumers who are highly price conscious. “This is especially true for those who are just out of college and working their first job.” Gen Z and Millennials were raised in an era defined by a heavy recession and a pandemic, both of which affected wages and the economy. 

However, that’s not to mean they can excuse poor quality coffee at lower prices. Marcus warns that if brands “do not treat them well and offer a delicious product, they will not become lifelong customers.”

Equally important is ‌sustainability. Together with Millennials, Gen Z is willing to pay more than 10% for sustainable options. This means product packaging must be recyclable or crafted from renewable materials.   

For coffee roasters, sustainability should be evident not only in packaging but also across the value chain, from sourcing and production to disposal. This has been elevated to a new level by Goodboybob Coffee. “We are sourcing coffees, operating our cafes and treating our employees and community in a way that meets the criteria of sustainability”, says Marcus.  

Another study shows younger consumers will pay a premium for brands they view as transparent. Therefore, they put much weight on honesty, authenticity, and ethical business practices. 

“I think younger consumers are looking for an authentic story,” Niharika explains. For her, this ranges from how you tell your story to the way you give back to the planet and community – initiatives that Spring Valley has actively embraced. Gefen shares similar thoughts. “People want to know that the company they are supporting is sustainable, equitable, and they love to get to know the founder stories too.” 

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Custom coffee bags: What to consider in design

In addition to using sustainable materials and being convenient, transparent, and reasonable in pricing, coffee roasters must make their packaging stand out. Incorporate irresistible visual elements and designs into custom coffee bags, keeping in mind that the business only has seven seconds to make a good first impression. 

Getting all these things right sets the stage for a positive relationship between a brand and its consumers. Thereafter, provide new experiences. Marcus emphasises that “many of the younger consumers are open to trying out new things, from single-origin coffee to seasonal beverages.” 

For David, the only way to convert this age group into lasting customers is to offer what specifically appeals to them and makes them happy. “Narrow down to their flavour and ethical profiles,” he advises. 

Gefen urges coffee roasters to pay close attention to the customer experience, and make sure each bag is carefully roasted and always high quality.

Marcus further encourages coffee businesses to be consistent, adding that younger consumers appreciate that. “We have done it with our custom coffee bags where even with different artworks, customers can easily tell that this is Goodboybob coffee.”

Marcus argues that the coffee industry is yet to develop a fully sustainable package. “Being smart, I believe younger consumers see the complexity of that.” However, using materials that are easily recognised as sustainable might simplify things for them. 

To make the packaging at Truth Coffee more sustainable, David says they are “now looking to change from quad laminate packaging to a more sustainable, recycled, and recyclable or compostable product.”  

That said, the bare minimum, according to Marcus, is that coffee bags have to be beautiful, functional, suitable for coffee, user-friendly, and legally compliant. Gefen rounds this off by highlighting that “younger consumers are intrigued with packaging that has a unique flair to it — whether it be a super colourful packaging or an interesting form factor to whatever is inside the packaging.”

In their effort to redesign their custom printed coffee bags, both Goodboybob Coffee and Spring Valley Roasters have worked with artists in the community who have not only contributed bag designs but also paintings, drawings, and photographs to their brands. 

David reflects on this by acknowledging that “younger consumers are more inclined towards sophisticated or clever designs.” He insists sticking a label on packaging and calling it a day is a thing of the past. To sum this up, David advises coffee brands to be clear about their messaging and ensure their custom coffee bags unmistakably represent their brand.

At MTPak Coffee, our team of expert designers have decades of experience creating custom-printed coffee bags that reflect your brand identity. Our range of packaging options is made from renewable materials. Our coffee boxes are made using recycled cardboard, while our sustainable coffee bags are made using kraft paper, rice paper, or multilayer LDPE packaging with an environmentally friendly PLA lining

Images courtesy of Truth Coffee and Goodboybob Coffee.

For more information on custom coffee bags, contact our team

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