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The Role of Packaging in Single-Serve

Kelle Vandenberg

By Anne-Marie Hardie

External packaging assists with the preservation of the product, but its role is to also help sell items. With single serve, internal packaging is critically important as it is also a delivery method, whether pod, capsule or K-cup. Sustainability remains a challenge to single-serve packaging, but in-roads are being made.

The purpose of packaging is to preserve what’s going into that bag but beyond that, it is to promote and sell your product,” said Kelle Vandenberg, vice president of marketing, Pacific Bag Inc, Woodinville, Wash.

Traditionally, there were three forms of single-serve vessels: pods, capsules and K-cups. Roasters would typically determine the type of vessel based on two criteria: the quality of the brew and the machines that were in demand in the current market. Keurig Green Mountain, with its K-cups, has been the leader in the North American single-serve industry for nearly a decade. “Keurig Green Mountain single-serve offerings were designed with three packaging elements in mind—the cup itself, a layer of filter paper and an aluminum foil top,” said Sandy Yusen, director of community relations and corporate communications at Keurig Green Mountain, Inc., Waterbury, Vt. Yusen said that the packaging itself serves a multitude of functions including keeping the coffee fresh while preventing oxygen, light and moisture from degrading the coffee.

The majority of the K-cup packs, said Yusen, are made with layers of various materials, qualifying as #7 plastic, while the Vue Packs are made from recyclable polypropylene #5. For areas, where polypropylene #5 is not recyclable Keurig Green Mountain offers a mail box option in partnership with Preserve, a company that takes the plastic and reconfigures it into new products.

K-cups were not the first product to enter the single-serve market. Flexible pods have been an integral part of both Office Coffee Systems and espresso single serve for decades. In 1974, Dr. Ernesto Illy, former CEO of illycaffè SpA, Trieste, Italy, created an espresso pod to meet the need for a consistent, high quality brew.

In North America, Pod Pack, Baton Rouge, La, offers coffee and tea in the pod format. “Our focus is making our single-cup pods functional while ensuring that they make a good cup of coffee. We grind and immediately make a pod, putting it into a protective package within three minutes,” said Tom Martin, executive vice president/COO, Pod Pack. Its LA Pod is a soft paper pod system that Martin emphasized can make the highest quality brewed cup, and has achieved the SCAA Golden Cup Standard. To expand its single-serve offerings, Pod Pack will begin co-packing K-cups to provide an alternative for customers who are seeking this popular format.

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