How to cut packaging waste with kraft coffee boxes

Tori Taylor
May 29, 2024
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Research shows that in an industry-wide effort to adopt more sustainable practices, major retailers across the US are increasingly transitioning to cardboard shipping boxes, including options for recycled and flat shipping boxes. Within specialty coffee, more brands are investing in kraft coffee boxes for subscription services and online orders as part of a broader strategy to reduce the environmental impact of their packaging. 

The shift comes amid growing consumer demand for environmentally friendly products and corporate responsibility. Several retailers are phasing out older packaging methods, which often rely on plastic and non-recyclable materials, in favour of cardboard options that offer both recyclability and a reduced carbon footprint.

Kraft coffee boxes are an ideal packaging solution for subscriptions, blind-tasting boxes, and online orders. These boxes are strong enough to handle delivery and transit while offering an affordable and customisable shipping solution. Furthermore, they can be tailor-made to fit your coffee bags, reducing the need for excess packaging–which reportedly results in 86,000 tonnes of potentially avoidable CO2 emissions each year. 

To learn more about how kraft boxes can help reduce packaging waste, I spoke to Pedro Echavarria, the manager at Pergamino Café in Colombia, and Rohan Cooke from Australia’s Golden Brown Coffee.

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How can kraft coffee boxes help you reduce packaging waste?

Essentially, excess packaging refers to an unnecessary or disproportionate amount of packaging materials. It involves using additional materials for product protection, preservation, or presentation. While this practice often results in increased costs for businesses, it also leads to large amounts of waste and inefficient use of resources. 

New research suggests that 43% of consumers are frustrated by excessive packaging. However, four-fifths of businesses admit to using packaging that does not fit with the size of the product. Most kraft coffee boxes are designed to fit two standard-sized bags of coffee snugly, without the need for additional packaging such as packaging peanuts, shrink wrap, or air pillows. 

Pedro has been part of Pergamino Café for over a decade. He has a nuanced perspective on excessive packaging. 

“There’s obviously a fine line between good packaging and excess. Within specialty coffee, it boils down to what makes a difference in terms of marketing and creating an experience for the consumer when they receive the product. I think it can be challenging to know where excess packaging begins,” he says. “That said, I think I would prefer less bundling over an excess amount of product packaging,” he adds. 

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Why kraft coffee boxes?

Corrugated cardboard, sometimes referred to as “corrugated”, is a sturdy packaging material made of three layers of kraft paper. Kraft paper is a widely manufactured, extremely strong type of paper. It’s commonly used in packaging materials due to its strength, sustainability, and affordability.

What gives kraft paper its sought-after properties is the so-called “virgin fibres” from which it is made. The paper is made from softwood trees. The trees’ wood chips are pulped and then made into thick paper rolls. As a result, kraft paper is immensely strong and can resist tearing, bursting, and splitting. These qualities make it ideally suited to packaging. 

A corrugated cardboard box is traditionally made using corrugated fibreboard cartons. The boxes feature two main components: the medium, or crimped paper and the liner board or flat cardboard that is glued onto both the inner and outer surfaces of the medium. To achieve maximum strength, both of these elements can be made using kraft paper. 

Manufacturing kraft paper is largely sustainable, as it uses entirely organic and natural materials. Furthermore, kraft paper can be recycled multiple times in order to be re-made into kraft paper. To ensure the paper is made in as environmentally friendly a process as possible, it is advisable for roasters to choose a reputable supplier that uses packaging that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Essentially, kraft coffee boxes are: 

  • Affordable: kraft paper is significantly cheaper than bleached, pristine white cardboard.
  • Recyclable: the material has a high degree of sustainability.
  • Easily customised: coffee roasters can easily print their logo or other information onto kraft cardboard. Although some light or bright colours can be lost due to the natural brown colour, black ink and other block colours can be cleanly printed on the material. 
  • Sustainable: Kraft paper’s natural texture and brown colour give the packaging an organic and natural effect, allowing coffee roasters to offer a more luxurious-looking product.
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Understanding the appeal to consumers

“Every year, consumers become more conscious of their waste, and they want to see that the brands they buy from are also conscious,” Rohan explains. “I don’t think they expect brands to be perfect, but they want to see that they aren’t being purposefully wasteful with excess packaging, marketing materials, and oversized boxes. On the other hand, consumers don’t like it if the sustainable packaging leads to damaged bags or stale coffee, so roasters need to find a balance.”

At Golden Brown Coffee, Rohan explains, they have set coffee bag sizes, “so it’s easy to design boxes that fit them perfectly for different subscriptions. We’ve also designed our bags to have matching width and length so that they were interchangeable across box sizes.”

Rohan says this method not only uses less packaging, but also allows for a more satisfying unboxing experience, as the bags fit perfectly within the box. “This also leads to less damage as the bags don’t bounce around inside the box during transit. We like to use a fully recyclable cardboard box, as it’s easy for consumers to dispose of correctly, but it also protects the bags from being crushed and damaged.”

At MTPak Coffee, we offer custom coffee subscription boxes in various sizes that are crafted from 100% recycled cardboard for strength, durability, and weather resistance. Additionally, we provide recyclable coffee packaging options with customisation features such as debossing, embossing, holographic effects, and UV spot finishes. 

Additionally, our low MOQ options will help keep costs down, allowing you to remain agile in an increasingly competitive market. More so, thanks to our eco-friendly and innovative digital printing technology, we are able to offer our clients quick turnaround and shipping times.  

Images courtesy of Golden Brown Coffee.

Reach out and begin creating your bespoke kraft coffee boxes today!

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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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