Everywhere, it seems, people are drinking coffee — at home, in the office, in their cars and at restaurants. Consumers are estimated to drink approximately 1.4 billion cups per day. Consequently, it’s not surprising that coffee reportedly is the most widely used product in the world after oil.
The rise in coffee consumption continues to grow, according to Felipe Sixto, sales director at Sixto Packaging. And with the growth in consumption, the market for coffee packaging also is flourishing. A recent study by Marketresearch.biz forecasts that the global coffee packaging market is expected to grow at a compounded annual rate of 6.8 percent through 2026. Sixto points to dramatic growth for packaging in the retail and food service channels, with growing demand from restaurants, hotels and office cafeterias. Many retailers also are developing their own private brands.
Coffee comes in all types of packaging, from glass bottles and cans for ready-to-drink (RTD) brews to pods for use in single-serve coffee makers. However, flexible packaging remains one of the most popular forms of coffee packaging, including stand-up pouches, side-gusseted bags, flat-bottom bags, vacuum pouches, pillow pouches and even sachets.
The global market for coffee packaging is highly fragmented with a large number of producers worldwide. While large producers like Starbucks, Folgers, Maxwell House, Dunkin Donuts dominate the U.S. market, there is a growing number of specialty producers. These specialty producers rely heavily on novelties in their packaging techniques to differentiate their products in this highly competitive market.
Coffee packaging is designed to keep coffee fresh and it has a direct impact on the taste of the beans. The packaging must provide protection against direct contact with oxygen, which can create harmful microorganisms that can affect flavor.
According to various market reports, prominent North American producers of flexible packaging for coffee include Sonoco Products, Sixto Packaging, Amcor Limited, ProAmpac, WestRock, Co Pack, Inc., Crown Holdings, Mondi, Pacific Bag, Amcor Flexibles, Novolex, DS Smith PLC, and PBFY Flexible Packaging.
Most specialty coffee is roasted and sold in 12 oz. flexible foil, side-gusseted bags or stand-up pouches with one-way degassing valves. Sixto says another emerging style is the flat-bottom pouch, first launched in 2011. While many pouches have traditionally used tin ties for reclosure, he says many specialty roasters are beginning to use pocket zippers to preserve freshness after the packaging has been opened.
The favored design is no longer shiny foil, but muted matte surfaces or even paper exteriors on a bag that uses foil for its barrier properties. Studies indicate that green coffee beans preserved in barrier bags such as foil or EVOH for shipment retain better grading than those exposed to the atmosphere throughout the supply chain. It is now common for high-quality coffee to be bagged in a plastic barrier bag inside the burlap sacks that are shipped from growers to roasters.
For a product that is often claimed to have natural benefits, sustainable and eco-friendly packaging is important to many brand owners. Some barrier bags are made from renewable materials that will break down in composting or use #2 polyethylene or EVOH films that are potentially recyclable where accepted by local recycling companies. However, Sixto says, this can be an expensive option.
He says that many companies are incorporating design elements into their coffee packaging, such as bold graphics and windows to see the product. The flexible packaging usually provides more surface for marketing messages to help sell the product and provide required information.
While most pouches for coffee are printed on flexo presses, Sixto says some smaller coffee companies requiring short runs are using digital printing. Digital printing can be economically feasible for small runs and allows specialty brands to include personalization, augmented reality or detailed information on the sourcing of the beans. While many brands are utilizing minimalistic designs to create a clean label, he says, others are employing several colors in intricate graphics.
As Transparency Market Research states in their recent study: “Leading companies in the market are emphasizing innovations, which is likely to generate substantial growth opportunities in the next few years… Furthermore, the packaging industry has been going through several technological developments, which are likely to work in favor with the coffee packaging market… Key players in the market are making ardent efforts to launch airtight, innovative and attractive packaging for coffee, which is anticipated to accelerate the development of the market in the near future.”