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Coffee Bags

Kelle Vandenberg

2010 Coffee Packaging Trends

    We recently completed the trade show season for 2010, and we hope to shed some light on packaging trends in this mailer. Pacific Bag exhibited at the Specialty Coffee Association of America in Anaheim, CA (April) and followed with an exciting show at the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe in London (June). It’s important to realize, most trends or innovations start with niche players who stake their identity on leading innovations, or large companies who have the financial power to try new ideas in select stores or regions, effectively minimizing the impact of failure, or expanding on success. It’s also impossible to summarize all the new ideas, conversations and commentary into a short mail piece; nonetheless we think a few packaging trends are worthy of note.

    Three trends we observed at SCAA and SCAE included A) Environmentally friendly packaging; B) Single serve coffee; and C) Green Bean preservation via modified atmosphere packaging (i.e. vacuum) or barrier packaging at origin.

    A.  Environmentally Friendly Packaging

    There is no shortage of companies marketing “bio-friendly” and “earth friendly” products.  The subject of our environment is important, and the specialty coffee market is filled with product claims, some accurate and some absurd, of environmentally friendly packages.  It is generally agreed that cups, lids etc. offer functional solutions, but the flexible packaging industry, the folks like PBi selling barrier bags and rollstock, offer fewer practical solutions for specialty roasters or retailers. Many specialty roasters/retailers know about the biodegradable multi-wall paper bags, which use paper and PLA, and struggle to identify packaging that offers product protection like the traditional foil laminated bags with a one-way degassing valve.

    PBi is working to identify packaging that offers a step in the right direction. We know there are numerous large companies marketing bio-friendly barrier bags to other larger film users, but the small company is likely not able to get their attention or afford the run sizes/commitments . Our goal is to develop custom packaging and “stock” bags which offer our clients, small/medium size roasters, the ability to market coffee in barrier bags that are environmentally friendly packaging – albeit at a price premium over traditional packaging.

    PBi and Biotrè® (January 2011)
    PBi invested time, money and energy over the past three years on environmentally friendly packaging. Our tests included composting tests in our own composter and coffee cupping tests at a group of small roasters.  We had numerous frustrating starts because the package did not degrade in compost, although the material was marketed to PBi as compostable, or the coffee failed cupping trials because of “off taste” from the package into the coffee.  Nonetheless, we persevered and recently identified a barrier laminate that takes a big step in the right direction.

    The Biotrè ® bags currently in development perform like a typical foil coffee bag and are composed of 60% (by weight) biodegradable materials made from renewable resources such as wood pulp.

    Based on previous tests, biodegradation will take on average several months in a backyard composter. The remaining 40% (by weight) of the bag is PE from fossil fuels with an additive that is designed to make it breakdown over several years, thus reducing its impact 
    on the waste stream compared to standard PE. 

    We plan to introduce stock products into our core products, coffee and a few stand-up pouches, early 2011.

    B.  Single Serve Pour-Over

    There is enormous marketing and product development in the area of “single serve”. The products run the gamut from Starbuck’s VIA (single serve instant coffee) and Keurig to single cup systems for specialty shops from companies like Bunn, Melitta and Hario, to name a few.

    Many small and medium size coffee businesses are testing “single cup” pour-over serving as a way to differentiate their business and serve the best cup of coffee possible to their customers.  This trend also includes charging more money per cup for different grades of coffee (i.e. similar to wine where consumers pick wines and pay based on the market price).  Lastly, baristas are not hidden from customers behind a large espresso machine. Instead, baristas get the opportunity to control variables and educate customers on the subtleties of a specific coffee through the transaction/experience.  Proponents claim the single serve experience increases sales of whole bean, and helps customers duplicate the experience at home.

    One system we spent time studying was the Hario single serve pour-over, marketed by Roustabout.  The patented Hario V60, in the words of Edwin Martinez, President of Roustabout “…offers a unique design that allows a perfectly brewed cup of coffee without under or over extracting.”

    If single-serve grows significantly, new packaging will need to be developed. It will be interesting to watch this segment of the market as it evolves.

    C.  Green Beans – Vacuum Packaging / Barrier Packaging (Cup of Excellence)

    PBi is active with the Alliance for Coffee Excellence/Cup of Excellence and several other organizations in the study of this new packaging trend. PBi high barrier bags (i.e. Item 300-928 – 30lbs) were recently selected by the Cup of Excellence for the vacuum packaging of 30lbs of green beans in for Cup of Excellence in Central America and Rwanda. In addition, Onyx Coffee, Guatemala, selected PBi for vacuum packaging PBi item number 300-928N, which holds 30 lbs. of 15lbs of green beans in our barrier stand-up pouches.

    There is a strong movement within the countries of origin who market top premium green beans, namely Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Rwanda and parts of South America to preserve green beans through vacuum bags/barrier bags.  It is generally agreed vacuum packaging/barrier packaging is the best packaging method to ensure high quality coffees maintain a consistent “fresh crop” consistency.  Studies were conducted over the years and PBi is engaged in further studies with Cup of Excellence to determine the specific benefits of controlled atmosphere packaging on green beans. The objective is to fetch the best price for premium beans so farmers and roasters achieve the best price and quality for their product. 

    In addition to the tests at origin, a growing number of domestic roasters are using barrier bags to re-pack green beans after they arrive at their facility. In this way, roasters can roast some of their best coffees and preserve green bean inventory for the next season.  This trend will continue and PBi will participate at all levels where barrier packaging offers advantages.

    We wish all a pleasant summer, hopefully spent with family and friends.

    For more information on Biotre (R), please visit the Sustainability and Packaging section on our website.

    For more information about Cup of Excellence, please visit their website at: http://www.cupofexcellence.org/.