On the supermarket shelves, on the counter of a café or in the coffeeshop; from farm to consumer, packaging is a multi-faceted and involved procedure. In this article, we look at this from coffee conveying to the finished product, including food packaging. We will look at the best way to store coffee as well as branding solutions that can convey your message to the consumer.
When roasters expand their operations, they should consider technologies that meet their growing demands. There are two types of conveyors within the coffee roasting industry: Pneumatics, where air is used to convey the coffee, and mechanical, where a device is used to convey the coffee. A roaster chooses a particular conveyor depending on factors including the type of coffee used, personal experience or the physical constraints of the facility. Conveyors require a good amount of energy and labor. The best conveyor requires the least amount of both.
“Cablevey cable and disk technology moves coffee without the use of air,” says Cablevey’s Marketing Manager, Karl Seidel. “This method of conveying ensures consistent particle blends and optimal aroma quality.” Seidel says that getting efficiency means constantly examining and improving processes. “Having a conveyor is a business decision based on efficiency and safety.”
Gentle conveying is important to protect the bean as it goes through the conveying process. Appearance is important, so a conveying system that is efficient but does not damage the coffee is essential. “Customers have told us that gentle conveying and low breakage rates make happy customers,” says Seidel.
According to Jeff Dudas, CEO of Spiroflow, “some of the main benefits of automating conveying are the decrease of labor costs; improvement of sanitary conditions; dust control; improved efficiency; and reduced energy consumption.” In addition, “Conveyor’s will avoid repetitive stress injuries employees may suffer during the operating process.”
Fresh, aromatic coffee is essential for roasters, which is what a customer looks for in quality coffee. Alma Likic of PLITEK says “in order to provide the freshest coffee possible and preserve the quality of their coffee, coffee roasters should pack and seal their coffee immediately after roasting in a package that has a one-way degassing valve.”
As freshly roasted coffee cools, it releases carbon dioxide gas. The degassing process can last up to a week depending on the roast and other factors. Without the proper mechanism in place to release the carbon dioxide, degassing coffee inside of a sealed package will cause the package to swell and potentially burst. Freshly roasted coffee can be bulk degassed, however the problem with this approach, in addition to tying up inventory and space, is that oxygen and airborne contaminants causes coffee to rapidly lose its freshness.
The solution is using one-way degassing valves that are placed on the coffee packaging. The purpose of one-way degassing valve is to allow carbon dioxide gas from freshly roasted coffee to escape from the packaging while keeping oxygen and contaminants from coming in. These valves are now standard features on coffee bags as well as on lid containers, so the problem now is less with including the valve than with making sure that the valve functions properly. According to Chris Burger of Fres-co, “It is critical to understand the performance of the valve selected. Many times a bag can be a leaker directly through the valve.” Ensuring the right valve type for the package size as well as the package material is essential in the success of coffee preservation.
Through a process called Modified Atmospheric Packaging, or Gas Flushing, a roaster can package their coffee into an hermetically sealed coffee bag immediately after roasting. The coffee bag needs to be of a high barrier lamination. In addition, explains Burger, “the coffee needs to be blanketed with an inert gas, typically nitrogen. If all these steps are done correctly, coffee shelf life can be extended from 3–12 months.
Likic says, “The application of the one-way degassing valve is a critically important component of coffee packaging process. PLITEK provides a complete system solution that includes both one-way degassing valves and valve applicators engineered to integrate with the roaster’s new or existing packaging machinery.”
Nick Greco of Avery Dennison says that their Flexis technology has several advantages over conventional hard valve technology. “Flexis valves allow for up to 30 per cent increase in application throughput and a 30–50 per cent product purchase advantage over hard valves.”
Pacific Bag, Inc. recommends using high barrier foil with a one-way degassing valve for longer freshness and paper tin ties for retail take away coffee. Pacific Bag, Inc. provides steps when choosing the right bag:
1. Is the bag correct size?
2. Most bags will need to be sealed to protect against oxygen and make it tamper evident.
3. Stock bags are usually used in conjunction with pressure sensitive labels.
The bag’s seal also needs to be considered. A faulty seal allows oxygen in and negatively affects the quality of coffee. Pacific Bag’s Kelle Vandenburg recommends a consistently proper seal, to “check the melt temperature of the sealant layer on your bags. Your bag supplier should be able to answer questions for you.” Roasters should also make sure that their sealing machine has a consistent pressure across the jaw of the sealer. By following these simple steps roasters can make a big difference in the consistency and quality of their beg seals.
Most common materials used in coffee bags are polyester aluminum foil and polyethylene. Many roasters use a type that allows the end consumer to easily open the bag without having to cut open the bag.
Pack Plus Converting makes metalized stand-up pouches. Commonly referred to as a “mylar” bag for its metallized look and light-weight qualities, they make a great alternative to foil and clear poly materials. Their moderate barrier qualities make these pouches ideal for packing dry products (i.e. trail mix, snacks, treats) or powdered mix. Packaging in a metallized pouch is a great way to lower your costs without compromising quality.
Coffee’s increasing popularity around the world has made it one of the world’s most valued commodities. Tightpac’s Justin Marquis says “this phenomena has made proper coffee storage an important factor, indispensable for maintaining its freshness and flavor.” Tightpac’s line of coffee and tea storage containers has a unique patented vacuum system that acts as a one-way degassing valve.
Coffee needs sunlight, water and heat to grow. But ironically, these elements can also be the enemy of the bean, as they contribute to shortening the lifespan of the coffee. Coffee beans need to be protected from light, heat, and moisture to stay fresh.
BeanSafe offers a one pound air-tight coffee storage container with a one-way degassing valve. Since coffee is generally sold to consumers in one pound bags, it is an ideal accessory for any coffee connoisseur. Alan Alberani of BeanSafe says “coffee will naturally degrade after about two weeks. Storing the coffee in a better container, especially one that has a valve, will prolong the life.”
Coffee packaging should communicate their brand message, while also providing a practical packaging product. Roasters must consider functionality and branding when choosing the packaging for their coffee. According to Mike Mead of Roastar, “Choices in how you package your coffee serve to reflect your brand’s values, and can be your biggest asset when it comes to communicating the brand message on an initial purchase. Roasters must compete for crowded retail space. The quality of the packaging is key to getting noticed and ensuring repeat customers. The look is critical. We like to say the look attracts the consumer and after that, it’s up to the product. Fres-co primarily uses rotogravure printing. This process allows for the highest level of graphics on the coffee package. Although the feel is not as important, the consumer does need to feel the bag is sturdy enough to protect the coffee and not break open.”
Christian Wipf, Chairman of the Board and fourth generation leader at WIPF AG, says “Wipf has been the quality leader in the one-way degassing valve market for more than 35 years. Our global business continues to expand and we are dedicated creating a robust market for WICOVALVE’s in North America.” The WICOVALVE is remarkable for it’s 3 year shelf and a maximum 0.01% reject rate and provides a 32% source reduction compared other valves. Christian Wipf goes on to say “The U.S. Market is looking for a higher quality, better performing and better value for one-way degassing valves . We believe Wipf is well positioned to meet those expectations.”
Todd Addison adds, “UltraFlex’s wealth of knowledge with barrier, sealants, resins and additives technology, plus their unique mixture of equipment, coating/laminating process and human resources are an ideal model for advanced solutions. Ultra Flex commands a strong presence in the multilayer, high barrier rollstock and pouch markets.”
For point of sale snack items such as nuts, pretzels and health bars, display and convenience for customers to access them is a must. Ultra Flex, for instance, provides their clients with high barrier structures that will protect products and extend shelf life. For them, sustainability is based on the idea that the quality of people’s lives and the state of our communities are affected by economic, social, and environmental factors. One of the many ways they keep a sustainable practice is by using 200 HP natural gas compressors to reduced electricity in their plant by 40%.
Mike Mead of Roastar emphasizes that “Coffee packaging needs to strike a balance between communication of the brand message, while preserving and facilitating the use of the product.” Getting a grasp of what those efficiencies are for your unique brand is what building a business is all about.
Bag hardware is important, as it plays a crucial role for customers to identify your product. If you are marketing your coffee as environmentally friendly, better branding might be achieved by using recycled paper bags or compostable bags over standard plastic or foil.
With the continual developments in the packaging market, coffee roasters and retailers would be wise to educate themselves on the packaging options available to them. For the roaster, packaging equiment is going to vary immensely depending on the siye of the roaster. Small roasters often fill bags by hand whereas huge roasters typically have completely automated packaging systems.
When choosing the packaging for your coffee there are two considerations: functionality and branding. Functionality will have less of an impact on sales than branding; it may be less complicated, but every retailer must meet it with finesse. Nonfunctioning packaging can stump your ability to deliver a quality product.
Fres-co provides Corner Seal, allowing the four corners of the bag to be stiffened allowing the bag to better keep its shape throughout distribution and on the store shelf. It almost gives the bag a 3D affect.
Avery Dennisons functional pressure-sensitive adhesive label and packaging materials enhance shelf-appeal of food, beverages, health, and beauty products while providing consumers with important information.
For the past 25 years, PBI has provided custom printed premade packages and rollstock to thousands of satisfied customers. From the earliest phases of the design stage, up and through formal production, PBI’s knowledge and expertise of the process help keep things simple.
“It’s very important that coffee products present well on a retail shelf and offers the consumer the best opportunity to experience a quality product in their home setting,” adds Patrick McCarthy of Taipak. “Our Flexi Box packaging delivers a flat bottom coffee bag that sits well on any shelf and our E Zip openings delivery an air tight solution to ensure that coffee stays as fresh as possible after the initial opening. An air tight re-sealable zipper is significantly better than a traditional tin tie or re-sealable tap in helping to retain as much of the bean freshness as possible and enhancing the consumers overall experience of your coffee products.”
Retailers and manufactures should be aware that custom packaging offers them the ability to reduce costs significantly in their production process. In many cases the reason for not adopting a custom packaging strategy is based on the misconception that it is too expensive. In reality this is not the case and for approximately $5000 you can implement a custom packaging solution today. Not only will this reduce your production costs, but it will also elevate your brand and market footprint.
With all of these options for packaging coffee, one thing is certain: packaging is complicated. Fortunately, packaging manufacturers and suppliers can help guide you through the process and work with you to select the packaging that makes the most sense for you.