Does hot stamping work on compostable coffee bags?

Tori Taylor
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April 11, 2024
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As more players enter the specialty coffee sector, brands must find innovative ways to make their products stand out. Ultimately, the design of coffee packaging will catch the consumer’s eye first, giving them that crucial first impression of the brand. 

Sustainable packaging options, such as compostable coffee bags, imply that a brand cares about its environmental impact. Additional design techniques, like hot foil stamping, can ensure that consumers perceive the brand as more luxurious. 

While the coffee has undergone rigorous testing and consideration, it is often the design finish on the packaging that encourages consumers to purchase. However, could design techniques like hot foil stamping affect the durability and sustainability of compostable coffee bags? 

Ashley Bodine, the chief financial officer and co-founder of Vigilante Coffee Company, and Tom Saxon, Head of Coffee at Batch Coffee Club in the UK, share their thoughts. 

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Are compostable coffee bags the best option for your business?

According to a 2023 report, at least 78% of consumers admit that sustainability is essential to them. Beyond this, over 80% say poor environmental ethics are likely to dissuade them from making a purchase. One advantage to investing in compostable materials is that they break down into organic compounds that do not harm the environment. 

In many instances, these compounds can even benefit the soil. Two out of five UK households either compost at home or have access to shared composting facilities. This allows people to use composting to grow fruits, vegetables, and flowers, boosting sustainability and encouraging insects and birds to visit their gardens.

Compostable coffee bags are typically made from various natural materials, such as sugar cane, corn starch, potato starch, and wood pulp. Therefore, there are several benefits to investing, such as:

  • Diverting organic waste from landfills
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
  • Reducing dependency on fossil fuels
  • Lowering the carbon footprint of your business
  • Ability to be recycled into nutrient-rich compost

“As coffee roasters, we have a responsibility to try to reduce as much plastic use as possible,” says Tom, who has over 10 years of experience working with specialty coffee. “Although many roasters use recycled or recyclable plastic bags, I think, as a business, it’s important to lead by example.” One way Batch Coffee is doing this is through compostable coffee packaging. “At first glance, it may be difficult to spot the difference between compostable coffee bags and those made from other materials,” Tom explains. “On closer inspection, you may find that compostable bags are slightly thinner. For me, there’s no difference in quality in terms of the material and print.”

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The art of hot stamping coffee bags

Hot stamping was developed in the 19th century. It is a reasonably simple relief printing technique commonly used in design projects in various industries. The process involves applying a printed design to packaging materials. Essentially, a die or printing block must be produced, which carries the design to be imprinted on the substrate. Traditionally, the die would be cast from metal or carved from silicone.

That said, modern 3D printing techniques have allowed for highly intricate designs to be produced more efficiently and at a significantly cheaper price. During the hot stamping process, the die is fixed into a simple two-way press. The substrate or packaging material is then placed below. Finally, a sheet of foil or dried ink is positioned between the plate and the substrate. When pressure and heat are applied, the die pushes through the printing medium and transfers the design to the substrate below.

This method of relief printing has been used for almost two hundred years. The technique began in the book publishing industry, where bookbinders used it for printing and embossing leather and paper. After the introduction of mass-produced thermoplastics to packaging and design, hot stamping became a popular way to print designs onto plastic surfaces. It is now used widely across many industries, notably on cigarette packages, wine labels, luxury perfume brands, and coffee bags.

Hot stamping coffee packaging can bring wider customer appeal to a brand. This particular style of label is often associated with more premium brands, reinforcing the value of the product to customers. This can be beneficial when pricing products, as hot stamping can create a more professional impression of your branding. 

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Combining compostable coffee bags and hot stamping 

Roastworks is a specialty coffee roaster that has incorporated hot foil stamping onto its coffee bags. Using gold foil lettering and a clear font on a plain black side gusset coffee pouch has helped elevate the brand’s packaging. The brand has also added a custom-printed coffee bag sleeve to its Curious and Classic offerings. This additional touch, with a personalised font, ensures the product appeals to consumers who are drawn to more unique product designs. 

Another example of a brand that effectively uses hot foil stamping on coffee packaging is Lamill. As a brand, Lamill has kept its coffee bag design simple: the flat bottom coffee pouches each boast a plain pastel colour with a simple font highlighted by silver foil. Both are prime examples of how hot foil stamping works best when paired with a simple design. Furthermore, hot foil stamping on coffee packaging creates a strong, long-lasting finish that is resistant to fading, wear and tear, and moisture.

Compared to other printing techniques, hot foil stamping is relatively inexpensive and can be a cost-effective way to enhance the look and feel of coffee packaging. Hot stamping works particularly well with kraft paper coffee bags and sleeves, flexible packaging options including polylactic acid (PLA), and cardboard coffee boxes.

Ashley Bodine, the chief financial officer and co-founder of Vigilante Coffee Company, admits compostability was at the top of their agenda when choosing packaging for the brand. “We decided to go with compostable packages because they will break up, whether they end up in a home compost or as trash.” She adds that “they break down faster than plastic or something that you would normally recycle.”

To ensure its coffee bags are disposed of properly, Ashley explains the brand has a page on its website that explains the correct disposal and composting methods. “Additionally, we don’t use plastic lids,” notes Ashley. “The lids for our takeaway coffee cups are made of paper because it is fully compostable.” 

By choosing to offer compostable coffee bags, coffee brands position themselves as leaders and ‘do-gooders’. Beyond this, they enhance market appeal in an increasingly competitive consumer landscape.

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 personalise every detail of your packaging, and our design team is always ready to help when needed. 

For more information on compostable coffee bags, contact our team

Images courtesy of Vigilante Coffee Company and Batch Coffee Club

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