The power of illustrations on coffee bags

Tori Taylor
February 14, 2024
coffee bags, coffee packaging, custom coffee bags, custom coffee packaging, OZO Coffee Company, custom printed coffee bags, custom printed coffee packaging,

Known as the ‘secret salesman’, custom packaging has become a key marketing tool for specialty coffee roasters. Coffee bags that stand out have become essential in an industry that is becoming increasingly competitive. Notably, statistics show the global specialty coffee market is expected to reach $51,404 million by 2030.

Custom printed coffee bags are a powerful marketing tool, allowing brands to showcase identity and company values. Beyond this, custom packaging provides an opportunity to connect with consumers on a deeper level.

Research shows that 72% of consumers are influenced by packaging design. These design factors can range from the colour and shape of the packaging to graphics, images, and illustrations. In the specialty coffee sector, an illustration can be used to say as much about a brand as it can about the coffee, depicting everything from flavour notes to the farmers who grew it.

Illustrations on coffee bags can help entice consumers in a highly saturated market. Additionally, they are an effective way for brands to convey brand identity, particularly when words may not be enough.

To learn more about the power illustrated coffee bags can have, I spoke to Justin Hartman, the CEO and Founder of OZO Coffee Company

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Coffee bag design inspiration: What are illustrations?

An illustration is defined as a picture or diagram that helps make something clear or attractive. They can be used as part of a strategic visual marketing strategy, as they allow marketers to present large amounts of information in an easy-to-understand manner. 

Beyond this, illustrations look good on boxes or bags. They’re also universally liked by men and women, regardless of age. OZO Coffee, based in Boulder, Colorado, US, was launched in 2007. The brand uses a variety of packaging formats and materials, including custom coffee boxes. OZO Coffee Company uses flat bottom coffee pouches for its 340g (12oz) offerings, stand up pouches made from kraft paper for its sampler packs, and recyclable cardboard for its instant coffee. 

The brand’s flat bottom pouches are matte black and feature bold custom printed labels. Each pouch features illustrations of coffee plants that stand out thanks to a spot gloss finish. Additionally, each label features the brand logo and a distinct illustration alongside essential information on the coffee inside. Each of the brand’s coffee bags and boxes feature a custom label. 

“We have had several iterations of bag and label designs over the years,” owner Justin explains. “We draw inspiration for the design of our coffee bags from our original logo and the farmers that we buy from.”

An illustration of the coffee plant makes for original and interesting subject, with its long, arching leaves and plump red cherries. This type of graphic not only promotes the natural side of coffee but also showcases where life begins for the world’s favourite drink.

A coffee plant illustration can also help foster a sense of transparency by bringing the coffee’s origin closer to the consumer. Rather than focusing on the brand or the roasting, it’s unveiling the very earliest stages of the supply chain and inviting the customer to connect with it.

coffee bags, coffee packaging, custom coffee bags, custom coffee packaging, OZO Coffee Company, custom printed coffee bags, custom printed coffee packaging,

What other illustrations are common on coffee bags?

In few industries does provenance sit as front and centre as it does in coffee. Consumers are eager to know as much as possible about the story of the brew, from who grew it to how it was processed. 

Coffee origins and producer stories

While providing this information can be useful, it’s important to remember that too much text on coffee bags can overwhelm and confuse consumers. Not everyone will be inclined to read about the soaring altitudes at which coffee is grown, for example. Nor are they likely to pay much attention to the methods of anaerobic fermentation popular in Brazil.

An illustration, on the other hand, can skilfully encapsulate an origin without taking away from the overall aesthetic of coffee bags. It can help bring a ‘human’ element to the product while conveying different aspects of the region beyond just the coffee.

Flavour notes 

Flavour notes are a simple way of conveying preferences without getting bogged down in varieties, growing conditions, and fermentation techniques. Notably, they’ve become so important to the industry as a whole that the SCA released an official flavour wheel to help develop a common language around them.

Both coffee professionals and consumers can use the flavour wheel to pinpoint certain characteristics and work their way out from the centre, becoming increasingly specific as they go. The widespread use of flavour notes in coffee has made them a popular subject matter for illustrated packaging. 


Coffee brands that use illustrations across packaging and marketing materials can gain uniqueness and character. Illustrations can convey a brand story in a fun and informative way. Creating an illustrated mascot for your brand acts as a virtual ambassador. It embodies the values of a brand and audience, ‘talks’ to people, and creates positive emotions.

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What to consider when using illustrations on coffee packaging

“Understanding your customer base is helpful and can guide you in design,” Justin explains. “We attended a Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) lecture on the subject and came away with some great ideas.”

“We’re also always thinking of the customer experience as well,” he adds. “Our newest design has a focus on the word ‘roaster’. We also increased the font size of our logo and brand name to gain more attention on retail shelves. We are focusing on a clean, easy-to-read look that is approachable to the average coffee consumer and inspiring for the third-wave drinker.”

At MTPak Coffee, we can help you create a completely bespoke coffee bag that shows off your illustrated designs in their best light. With high-quality printing methods and vibrant water-based inks, we can make your illustrations jump off the shelf and grab the attention they deserve.

We also have a range of sustainable materials to choose from, including kraft paper, rice paper, low-density polyethylene (LDPE), and polylactic acid (PLA). Each can be applied to different pouch structures, from side gusset bags to stand up pouches.

Add a number of components to improve the convenience and usability of the bag without compromising its eco-friendly credentials. Our BPA-free degassing valves and resealable zippers are fully recyclable, meaning they can be disposed of along with recyclable packaging materials.

Images courtesy of OZO Coffee Company.

For information about our customisable coffee bags, contact our team.

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Tori Taylor
Tori Taylor

Victoria is a highly experienced content creator, writer, and editor based out of South Africa. With the experience gained by working in newsrooms and writing for lifestyle magazines, she is now focussed on creating insightful and relatable content for the specialty coffee community.

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