Reducing the cost of your coffee bags when shipping overseas

Esther Gibbs
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July 11, 2024
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As a coffee roaster, shipping overseas indicates that customers want to invest time, energy, and money in your product. Furthermore, it shows that your brand reputation and coffee bag aesthetic are appealing on a global scale. 

That said, buying coffee internationally is more expensive than purchasing locally. Beyond this, it comes with additional, often unnecessary, protective packaging materials, which increases the weight of the overall order. A typical online order for coffee often includes coffee bags, labels, marketing materials, a packing list or receipt, as well as a shipping box, packing tape and a shipping label.

These excess materials have detrimental effects on the environment and can also lead to a negative consumer experience. As a coffee roaster, you must understand the logistics of shipping coffee abroad to meet consumer expectations.

So, how can you reduce the costs of shipping coffee bags overseas?

Read on as Juan Mantero, the CEO of Senja Roasters, and Georgie Thomas, co-owner of Sibling, share their thoughts. 

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Why do you need to reduce the costs of shipping coffee bags? 

Before exporting your product, it’s essential to factor in your avenues of sale. For example, if a customer places an online order for a 250g coffee bag, they’re likely to be charged an international shipping fee. 

Essentially, there is little benefit to you when overseas customers buy a single bag of coffee. The profit is small, and the shipping costs may be high. Furthermore, import fees will have to be paid by the consumer, as your earnings from a single bag are unlikely to cover them. This could range from 0% to 6%, depending on the country.

It’s important to remember that cafes that order from you may believe that their brand will benefit from being associated with yours. They may want to use your reputation to draw people in or offer something exciting and ‘exclusive’ to the customers. 

Sibling is a cafe and wine bar in Cardiff. Co-owner Georgie explains that the cafe regularly orders coffee from local and international roasters. 

“Several roasters are popular with our customers, so I usually have to order from quite a few,” she says. Georgie explains that Sibling adds the same markup on the coffees regardless, which is reflected in the cost of the product. Buying coffee from local roasters often costs between £9 and £13, while international roasters are around £13 and £25 for a 250g bag.

“As I’ve built strong relationships with [these roasters], they often offer different incentives. For instance, when we ordered from DAK Coffee Roasters for the first time, they offered a discount if we ordered again within an allocated period, as the initial order was rather expensive,” she explains. 

Offering discounts on repeat purchases can help build customer loyalty and encourage them to place another order quickly. Good customer service and clear communication throughout the order and delivery process can also encourage repeat orders. 

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Shipping coffee bags through shared containers

Senja Roasters is based in Norway and sells coffee online in reusable containers. The brand both delivers and collects these containers, washing and refilling them between uses. 

“Customers have reacted positively to our initiative to reduce packaging,” explains Juan, the brand’s CEO. “Especially when they see it is part of a wider environmentally conscious way of doing business, which also affects our coffee sourcing, roasting, delivery, promotion, marketing, and every other aspect of the operation.” 

The brand also offers its customers a bi-weekly or monthly coffee subscription service for ground or whole-bean coffee. The subscriptions are available in 200g or 1kg measurements and customers can choose between six coffees. 

Understandably, this type of offering can generate excess packaging. As it is an added cost that negatively affects the environment, customers often frown on excess packaging because it is disproportionate to order sizes. 

Larger businesses often allow customers to place bulk orders. This allows a group of consumers to share a single shipping container to deliver goods to one location – saving on packaging and delivery costs. 

This aligns with statistics that show 30% of respondents believe a brand’s shipping practices are essential to its sustainability practices. More so, research shows almost a fifth of consumers favour products with minimal packaging

Juan explains that no matter which form of packaging or shipping container you choose, “these methods don’t entirely eliminate your economic or environmental packaging costs”. It can also bring with it concerns about customer privacy and whether the collective packages will be protected during bad weather.

Additionally, he notes that reusable containers can be more expensive than single-use packaging. “Plus, if they break, they may become waste that is difficult to recycle. Reusable containers must also be cleaned before each reuse, which takes time and space.” 

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Final considerations

When shipping coffee overseas, you should expect issues such as lost and damaged packages, late delivery, unexpected customs charges, or incorrect details regarding the order or the delivery address. Therefore, partnering with a reliable courier company is critical. 

Beyond this, you should consider negotiating better shipping rates with your courier. Oftentimes, these companies have tariffs that vary based on destination. By renegotiating these rates, you can save money by selecting the right provider.

Additionally, you should research the country you are delivering to. It is worth investigating what the customs charges could be and communicating these to the customer in advance. Be open with the customer about the options available for shipping, including insurance and the expected delivery date. Ineffective communication throughout the order process can lead to difficulties when shipments go wrong. 

Finally, it is essential that the coffee packaging is suitable for overseas shipments. It is important to remember coffee needs to degas and is likely to be transported by aeroplane, making it subject to changes in air pressure. 

At MTPak Coffee, 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. Our kraft paper and PLA packaging are certified by TÜV Austria as OK compost HOME and OK compost INDUSTRIAL, while our degassing valves are also compostable.

For more information on custom coffee bags, contact our team

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Esther Gibbs
Esther Gibbs

Esther has been in the specialty coffee industry for 14 years working as a Q Grader, SCA Trainer and ESTA trainer. She’s also offers her services as a coffee consultant through Hope Espresso. Her passion for writing comes from her love of sharing stories about the industry and ensuring knowledge is accessible to all.

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