What Is Kraft Paper & Why Is It Popular With Coffee Roasters?

Jane Merchant
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December 1, 2020

Paper, plastic, aluminium, PLA, LDPE – there are plenty of materials that roasters have to consider when choosing their coffee packaging. And for each material, there are a number of variables to consider, from cost and sustainability to quality and durability.

However, for years, kraft paper has been used by third wave and specialty coffee roasters to package both single origin and blended coffee. It is affordable, widely accessible, and altogether versatile. A strong and reliable staple that has been used to package consumer goods for decades, kraft paper is one of the oldest forms of packaging that is still in use today.

To learn more about the origins and benefits of kraft paper, we spoke to one of our Senior Account Managers at MTPak Coffee, Corina Ye. Read on to find out what she said.

See also: How Sustainable Is Your Coffee Packaging?

What Is Kraft Paper & How Is It Made?

Kraft paper can be found almost everywhere. It’s sold in rolls for use in arts and crafts, used to package all manner of consumer goods, and has even been used as insulation in electrical transformers. 

Kraft paper takes its name from the kraft process which is used in its manufacture. This process involves boiling wood chips in sodium sulfide and sodium hydroxide to chemically convert them into wood pulp. 

This process removes a polymer called lignin from the pulp, as lignin binds cellulose fibres together at a microscopic level. As a result, the pulp is high in cellulose, which is the main component of paper and is naturally structurally resistant.

Once the pulp is formed, it is then screened to remove larger pieces, before being washed to remove any residual fluids. The resulting pulp can then be made into a variety of paper products, including kraft paper.

Kraft paper was invented in 1879 by Carl F. Dahl, making it one of the oldest forms of packaging that is still in use today. As time has passed, however, the kraft process has become more environmentally friendly. Today, most of the water and chemical byproducts generated by the process are recycled, and the finished product itself can, in theory, be recycled an infinite number of times.

In its simplest form, kraft paper is thin and unbleached, but it also comes in a variety of textures, thicknesses, and colours. Sack kraft paper, for instance, is a variety of kraft paper that is made to be highly elastic and tear-resistant, which is often designed for products which need additional strength and elasticity.

What Are Its Advantages?

Kraft paper is often used to package products in a number of different industries, because it is affordable, lightweight and readily available. Our Senior Account Manager at MTPak Coffee, Corina Ye, works with third wave and specialty coffee roasters across Europe. She explains that kraft paper is surprisingly strong and flexible. 

“Kraft paper has a high burst resistance, and it can withstand great tension and pressure without breaking,” she explains. “It has high tensile strength, whether in single gloss, double gloss, striped, or no grain form.”

A common concern about paper-based packaging is its low water resistance. While this is true for a number of paper-based packaging options, kraft paper can be coated to improve its barrier properties and strength in humid conditions. It can also be laminated to make it heat-sealable and improve its resistance to odours and moisture.

kraft paper coffee

Kraft Paper & Coffee

Despite being one of the world’s oldest packaging materials, kraft paper remains popular to this day. This is especially true for coffee roasters. 

Some major brands have even used kraft paper as part of a rustic or artisan brand identity, drawing on the visual appeal of kraft paper and leveraging it when selling roasted coffee. Major Portland-based roaster Stumptown, for instance, used kraft paper packaging for almost 20 years, before retiring it in 2017.

According to Corina, one of these reasons is its versatility. “Kraft paper has high plasticity levels, which means that it’s easy to mould and shape,” she says. “It can take on any colour and adapt to most designs. 

“At the same time, it also looks great left untreated, with just a simple design.”

The low-impact production process and recyclability of kraft paper also make it more popular among roasters who are selling direct to retail customers. Coffee consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impact of their habit, and are looking to be more sustainable when buying or drinking coffee wherever they can. 

“Kraft paper’s natural qualities promote environmental protection and energy-saving qualities that are hugely valued by today’s market,” Corina says. Estimates that the global kraft paper market will grow to US $18.7 billion over the next five years suggest that she is right.

However, some coffee roasters have concerns about using kraft paper, as it is not always the best option for keeping coffee fresh. Specialty coffee loses its aroma and volatile flavour compounds when exposed to air, and it is often quite difficult to ensure that kraft paper packaging is sealed in such a way that stops oxygen from getting in.

Green packaging might have been an optional extra in packaging a few years ago – but times have changed. Sustainability is no longer just a plus, it’s a must. Modern coffee drinkers have shown that they are more aware than ever of the impact that coffee consumption has on the planet.

At MTPak Coffee, our unbleached kraft paper packaging for roasted coffee is 100% natural, biodegradable and compostable. Its strength and flexibility help protect coffee beans without affecting their quality, ensuring that every bag of coffee arrives with customers exactly as it should.

For more information on kraft paper packaging for roasters, you can contact our team here.

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Photo credits: Joe Ross, Kars Alfrink, Jeffrey Beall

What Is Kraft Paper & Why Is It Popular With Coffee Roasters?
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