Exploring the role importers play in custom coffee packaging

Esther Gibbs
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January 29, 2024
custom coffee packaging, custom coffee bags, custom printed coffee packaging, custom printed coffee bags, harvest times

With 2024 underway, an essential factor that specialty coffee roasters must consider is the harvest calendar and what coffees they intend to buy. Harvest schedules are likely to differ across countries. Therefore, your business needs to understand which crops are going to be landing in which seasons. 

Forward planning means a brand is prepared and will not miss out on the coffees it wants. Beyond this, it helps to ensure the business will not run out of coffee. There’s nothing worse than having an offering become popular when you’re unable to purchase more of the same coffee because the next harvest won’t be ready for months and the importer is out of stock. 

It’s also important to note that forward planning can help with custom coffee packaging. When brands know what to expect, they can confidently invest in full print runs for custom coffee bag designs. 

To learn more about how forward planning can help when it comes to custom coffee packaging, I spoke to Abbie Manning, the Quality Laboratory Manager at Caravela Coffee

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The importance of understanding coffee harvest times 

Caravela Coffee is a B Corp, Latin American green coffee exporter and importer. Its primary mission is to make specialty coffee prosperous by “facilitating the equitable exchange of green coffee between highly-skilled coffee farmers in Latin America and high-quality roasters around the world”, explains Abbie, who has over 10 years of experience working various roles in the industry.

Abbie explains why timing is a huge consideration for planning any coffee offering. It’s essential that the coffee is fresh and delivered on time to meet the demands of wholesale customers and coffee shops. 

The other factor to consider is the volume needed throughout the year. “This can be challenging, especially for roasteries with fluctuating consumption in their wholesale programmes. Estimating volume becomes a tricky task,” Abbie admits.  

When aiming to show a wide range of coffees, Abbie’s best advice is to consider the peak harvest period of each origin. “Receiving the coffee once it is loaded gives you the ability to release it at its peak freshness,” she says. “This ultimately enhances the customer’s appreciation for its quality.” 

However, if brands require the same coffee all year round, she recommends scheduling shipments in advance with forward contracting. Abbie suggests that coffee roasters consider Colombia, which is fortunate to have two harvest periods. This allows roasteries to ship the same coffee twice a year. 

“This ensures freshness, regardless of the required volume,” Abbie explains. “Relying on just one large container of a specific coffee throughout the year poses the risk of running out or compromising its shelf life, leading to a decline in intensity and quality.” 

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Forward planning: How it benefits every aspect of your business

Caravela, for example, has a spot offering designed to be diverse. It offers coffees with varying characteristics that are both accessible and suitable for blending. The brand offers versatile but balanced coffees that are great for filter or single-origin espresso, as well as more innovative and complex selections. 

‘We provide roasteries with the opportunity to try coffees as pre-shipment samples,” Abbie says. “If they like it, we reserve the coffee in advance before it lands. Additionally, we conduct cupping events when our selections are ready to ship, providing roasteries with the advantage of trying and securing the coffees.”

Notably, forward planning can have a positive impact on coffee producers, as it ensures they can meet volume requirements. Additionally, it gives coffee producers stability for the future, as they can determine the amount of coffee they will sell in the following year. 

“At Caravela, we strongly advocate for forward contracts, ideally before the harvest commences,” Abbie explains. “These contracts enable us to collaborate closely with the farmers, allowing us to plan the appropriate processes and varieties before they begin harvesting. This reduces uncertainties for coffee growers and guarantees our ability to provide customers with precisely what they need when they need it.” 

To help brands better understand the harvest calendar, Caravela has a dashboard available on its website. It is updated monthly with valuable information about what’s happening on the ground in the seven origins the brand operates in.

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How forward planning can help with custom coffee packaging

Abbie expresses the importance of communicating with importers to get support with purchase planning and decision making. This can help facilitate a seamless, stress-free process from start to finish. 

“At Caravela, our first step is to work closely with you in identifying and sourcing the exact coffee profile you are looking for,” Abbie explains. “We recognise that each roastery has its own distinctive flavour requirements, and our team is dedicated to finding the perfect match.” 

“We’ve discovered that it’s not only the profile but also the stories and details behind the coffee that matter,” she adds. Studies show consumer concern about coffee origins stems from the need to understand the composition of the product, as well as the social, economic, and environmental impacts involved

In terms of marketing, storytelling refers to the story behind a product or brand. This is usually told through packaging, advertising, and digital content. Storytelling should inform consumers about how the company started, what it represents, and what it stands for. In short, it should be completely transparent about the company’s origins, production process, and company ethos.

Caravela is able to provide its customers with the traceability and transparency consumers expect. As a B Corp certified company, the brand understands the importance of transparency and sharing this information with customers. 

“We offer a comprehensive traceability and transparency report,” Abbie explains. “This allows you to see the impact of your coffee purchases on individual producers. Understanding how many producers benefit and the farm-gate prices they receive adds a layer of transparency that you can proudly showcase to your wholesale clients and customers.”

Importers are more than just ‘suppliers’ to your roasting business: they are partners. A good importer will support you in making the best decisions to plan for your coffee offering in the upcoming year. 

Understanding harvest schedules allows you to offer the best product to consumers. Beyond this, it can help you design custom coffee packaging that represents the flavour profiles and origins clearly, helping to boost consumer loyalty. 

At MTPak Coffee, we offer recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable coffee packaging solutions made from natural sources such as kraft paper, rice paper, and LDPE with an eco-friendly PLA lining. We also give you the freedom to create custom coffee bags that reflect your brand ideals and information about your coffee importers. 

For more information on custom coffee packaging, contact our team

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