How your coffee packaging influences consumer buying habits

Tori Taylor
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May 8, 2024
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In addition to its primary role in containing food, packaging serves the crucial function of shaping consumer expectations for a brand or product through its visual appeal. Notably, several studies show that packaging design plays a pivotal role in influencing customer purchase behaviour.

A recent poll found that 72% of consumers say packaging design influences their purchasing decisions. In the context of coffee packaging, this is highly relevant given the evolving market dynamics and an increased emphasis on specialty coffee’s positioning and differentiation. 

Custom coffee packaging can strengthen a brand’s bond with existing customers. Additionally, it can initiate a compelling narrative that resonates with new and targeted audiences. So, what do consumers prioritise when looking at coffee bags? 

To gain a deeper understanding of how coffee packaging design influences consumer behaviour, I spoke to Hugo James, owner of specialty coffee shop Profile Coffee, and Gefen Skolnick, the founder of Couplet Coffee.

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The shape and colour of your coffee packaging matters

Packaging for fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), such as coffee, demands constant attention to stand out in a competitive market. Studies into packaging design and marketing reveal that 85% of consumers say colour is a primary driving force behind their decision to purchase. 

Certain colours can produce powerful emotional reactions, from excitement to melancholy. For specialty coffee roasters, incorporating the right colours into coffee packaging can help set products apart and communicate brand identity to consumers. Some businesses may even use it to reflect certain characteristics of the coffee, such as origin, flavour notes, or processing methods. 

Additionally, the shape of coffee packaging can play a significant role in capturing consumer attention. A recent study on the impact of packaging shape and material on consumer expectations found that packaging with a “higher degree of shape complexity was associated with a higher taste intensity”. 

Gefen Skolnick is the founder and CEO at Couplet Coffee, and weighs in on this 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”. 

“We’re big on being bright, colourful, and funkier than people are used to,” she adds when describing the brand’s holographic coffee bags. “That instinct in the early days ended up being very true, as more people seem to pick it up on shelves across the US,” she adds.

When it comes to creating packaging that stands out, Gefen encourages specialty coffee roasters to play with the form of the bags. “I love it when other coffee roasters incorporate different, unique styles of packaging, such as coffee in cans,” she says. “Notably, I’ve seen a recent trend of VHS tape-style packaging in coffee,” she says. “Additionally, I would argue that leaving the matte realm behind and playing around with more unique textural packaging finishes is ideal.”

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Overcrowded coffee packaging could scare off consumers 

As the owner of Profile Coffee, Hugo chooses to feature a ‘guest’ coffee roaster each week. A guest coffee is a certain bean brought in by cafe owners or head baristas which will only be served for a relatively short period. This consistent turnover means Hugo has seen custom coffee bags of all shapes, colours, and sizes come through.

“Elegance and simplicity are the name of the game at the moment,” he explains. “We have found that the simpler, more elegant packaging has resonated with our customers the most. Something about less is more seems to attract customers.”

Minimalist packaging designs tend to let the product speak for itself, giving very little away. However, Hugo has noted that coffee roasters are now using additional forms of packaging to convey product information. “Roasters are now including information about the coffee on their bags as well as boxes,” he says.

“We have seen consumers enjoy a bag that’s boxed. And, some of the best roasters in the world at the moment have their bags housed in very simple boxes that look beautiful on the shelf,” he adds. “Boxes tend to signify more care for transportation. They are also more elegant in terms of how they look on the shelf, and can help custom stickers or labels look more attractive.”

“At Profile, we feature a new coffee roaster every few weeks, and we’ve seen customers respond really well and buy more coffee off the shelf when it’s aesthetically pleasing,” he adds. 

A brand that offers loyal customers novel experiences can help maintain its attraction, provided it straddles the middle ground between “too familiar” and “too novel”. That said, excess novelty can be off-putting for customers, often inducing stress and avoidant behaviour. 

Research suggests this is because the greater the novelty perceived in the stimulus, the greater the derived utility up to a point. After that, a further increase in perceived novelty diminishes utility because anxiety sets in. Once this happens, the brand may be seen as inconsistent, unreliable, and untrustworthy.

Therefore, coffee roasters want to ensure that their marketing messages and packaging remain somewhat familiar, allowing loyal customers to easily identify and purchase it. If packaging is inconsistent, customers may not recognise the brand. Alternatively, they may mistake it as a counterfeit, which can build negative consumer perceptions of the product.

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Create coffee packaging that appeals to consumer preferences 

Product packaging should prioritise creating market value, serving individual and societal needs, and minimising environmental impact. Packaging has been a major contributor to pollution and global warming for many years. By extension, a company’s packaging choices can either reduce or expand its product’s carbon footprint.

Predictions show the coffee packaging industry will exceed $991.6 million by 2027. Notably, the paper and paperboard packaging segment is expected to dominate the market during that forecast period. Primary drivers behind this growth are the coffee industry’s consumption-driven expansion, increased consumer demand for sustainable packaging, and an uptick in the adoption of recyclables, especially paper.

Results of a 2023 customer survey shows that consumers have a preference for paper packaging. Notably, respondents favoured paper/cardboard for environmental factors such as home compostable (76%), better for the environment (55%) and easier to recycle (49%). 

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 custom coffee bags, contact our team

Header image courtesy of Couplet Coffee.

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