Are coffee boxes and tins taking over the packaging market?

Tori Taylor
March 6, 2024
coffee boxes, coffee tins, coffee packaging, coffee bags, Expat. Roasters

Most consumers are used to seeing coffee bags and pouches in various shapes, sizes, and colours. More recently, however, the popularity of custom-printed coffee boxes and refillable tins has soared. Notably, it’s estimated the value of the returnable packaging market will exceed $170 billion by the end of the decade.

Most of this growth may be driven by brands wanting to operate more sustainably. This is due to increased consumer demand for eco-friendly production practices, products, and packaging. Additionally, governments are introducing laws incentivising businesses to switch to sustainable packaging while penalising those that don’t. 

The choice to use coffee boxes or tins is an innovative way to ensure your product stands out on the shelf and online. Beyond this, they can hold inexplicable value for the customers who choose to buy it. 

I spoke to Brian Kenny, the owner of Silverskin Coffee Roasters, and Shae Macnamara, the Founder & CEO of Expat. Roasters, and Gatis Zemanis, the co-founder of Kalve Coffee Roasters

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Switching out coffee boxes for tins

Some of the most common packaging structures in the specialty coffee industry include flexible bags or pouches and metal coffee tins. Most brands choose to use one or the other to keep the design consistent. Kalve Coffee Roasters, based in Latvia, has decided to use both.

Kalve Coffee Roasters has a diverse coffee portfolio, which allows the brand to offer efficient coffee solutions for both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) segments. The brand packages its coffees in both flexible coffee pouches and small metal coffee tins. The Kalve Art Collection features three metal tins adorned with labels designed to showcase great pieces of art. 

Each 250g tin from the Art Collection features intricate artwork, as the brand aims to celebrate the achievements of legendary masters of Latvian visual art. The packaging design for Kalve’s Ethiopian blend was inspired by the traditional clothing of Ethiopian women—a cultural nod to the roots of the bean they’re offering their European consumers.

“Kalve’s mission is to improve the coffee production industry, and investing in sustainable packaging is one of the things we can do,” explains Gatis, who is the managing director and co-founder of the brand. “Therefore, the basic packaging in our B2C segment is a reusable can,” he adds. “Currently, approximately 60% of the coffee we offer for home use is sold without packaging. All the coffee packages we produce for private brands are made of mono-material, which can be recycled.”

coffee boxes, coffee tins, coffee packaging, coffee bags, coffee tubes, coffee cylinders, paper coffee tubes, Silverskin Coffee Roasters,

Coffee cylinders: Breaking coffee packaging norms

Instead of opting for traditional, flexible coffee bags, Silverskin Coffee Roasters has invested in sturdy, recyclable paper tubes with a fresh seal. The logo runs along the side of the tube from top to bottom, with the silver colour standing out on the black background. 

“The coffee cylinders are a labour of love,” Brian explains. “They’re 3 to 4 times the cost of coffee bags, but we wanted to do something completely different to our competitors. Bags tend to look fantastic on the internet and Instagram, but when you get them in your hand, they never look as good in real life.”

Silverskin wanted to offer recyclable packaging that featured peel-fresh technology. This means when consumers open the canister, they still get that experiential whiff of coffee. “The cylinders are rigid which means customers can put a scoop in with ease. Plus, the cylinders can be stored in the consumer’s kitchen without fuss. It improves the whole coffee experience.”

The brand was looking for distinctive packaging that highlighted the design. “Something superior and different,” Brian adds. Notably, many of the brand’s Google Reviews feature customers praising the innovation and recyclability of the canisters. 

In fact, a regular customer loved the canisters so much that his wife used them for a Christmas craft project at her school. Children used the coffee canisters to make decorations, penholders, and even a giant rocket. This led to Silverskin visiting the school to do a presentation on sustainability and recycling.

coffee boxes, coffee tins, coffee packaging, coffee bags, Kalve Coffee Roasters,

Beyond coffee boxes: Investing in returnable coffee tins

“Offering customers returnable and refillable coffee cans helps reduce single-use plastic waste while conserving resources,” explains Shae, the owner of Indonesia’s Expat. Roasters. He adds that the brand decided to pursue more sustainable coffee packaging options in 2019 as part of its Good Coffee All Around campaign

Currently, the brand offers customers a combination of reusable coffee packaging options. It switched from traditional foil-lined packaging to 100% reusable coffee tins. “We supply our wholesale partners with 2 kg tins filled with coffee. These tins are reused an average of five times before being recycled or upcycled,” Shae says. 

“Our retail outlets sell 200g tins that can be refilled or swapped at any of our brew bar outlets,” he adds. “Plus, we’ve partnered with hotels for ‘in-room coffee menus’ that provide guests with reusable, single-serve tins that get refilled daily,” he says.

While this option works for Expat. Roasters, there have been challenges. For instance, Shae explains the brand has the advantage of controlling its own distribution channel. As it serves a limited and local market, the brands’ freight costs are low. 

“Over time, returnable coffee packaging could be more cost-effective for businesses. Integrating this option has helped our brand demonstrate a commitment to sustainability that attracts eco-conscious customers.” 

“Adopting reusable packaging in a coffee roasting business is a commendable step towards sustainability and environmental responsibility,” Shae says. “My advice would be that any small change will make an impact, so get started immediately.

“I truly believe that any steps taken towards sustainability in your business will result in a win-win situation. These steps can ensure you are not only having a positive environmental impact but also benefiting from reduced costs and a great marketing tool.” 

As specialty coffee packaging experts, MTPak Coffee can help you explore all your packaging options, whether returnable or single-use. Our coffee packaging solutions offer high-barrier protection, while being made from biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable materials that will help reduce your carbon footprint.

Our line of coffee packaging options is made from renewable materials, such as compostable kraft paper, and rice paper, as well as multilayer LDPE coffee bags with an environmentally friendly PLA lining, all of which minimise waste and contribute to a circular economy

More so, our stand-up bags, flat-bottom pouches, and side-gusset bags can be fitted with resealable, recyclable zippers. Our spout boxes can be made from corrugated board or kraft paper, and when fitted with our recyclable spout, are completely recyclable.

Our paper tubes are the perfect option for those looking to create a unique and personalised packaging experience for their customers. Our paper tubes are specifically designed to protect and add value to rare, microlot, and ultra-specialty coffees.

Images courtesy of Kalve Coffee Roasters, Silverskin Coffee Roasters, and Expat. Roasters,

For more information on custom coffee boxes for your business, 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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