Coffee Bags and Packaging: Everything A Coffee Roaster Needs To Know

When shopping for coffee, consumers consider everything from the roast level to the brand’s location. 

But the most influential factor? Coffee bag design and packaging. 70% of consumers report that packaging design has a major influence on their decision to buy a product. Researchers tend to give packaging anywhere from 30 to 90 percent of the credit for a customer’s purchasing decision.

Whether you’re selling your coffee in grocery stores, your shop, or online, your coffee bag design is one of the most meaningful interactions a person has with your brand. 

In our guide, we’ll show you everything you need to know about designing your coffee bags, including:

  • 3 components your coffee packaging needs for quality, freshness, and compliance
  • The 4 important packaging decisions every roaster must make
  • How to create a coffee bag design that sells

By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be fully prepared to start developing your brand’s coffee bags.

3 Components Your Coffee Packaging Must Have

At a bare minimum, we suggest your bags include the following components:

  • One-Way Valve: To maintain peak freshness and allow the coffee to degas, your coffee bag design must include a one-way valve. This valve lets CO2 escape and prevents oxygen from getting in. Today’s coffee customers know to look for this valve and will pass on a coffee if it is not part of the packaging.
  • Resealing Capabilities: Coffee exposed to oxygen for a long time becomes muted in flavors and characteristics. Help customers keep their coffee fresh and flavorful by including a convenient way to reseal the coffee bag. This can include a ziplock zipper, a tin tie, or other creative solution.
  • Local Legal Requirements: Check with your local health department to see if they have specific packaging and/or labeling requirements. For example, in Connecticut, coffee roasters must include the product name/type, product net weight/volume, and address with a zip code on their bag. 

None of these components are negotiable. You must include all three to sell the freshest—and law abiding—coffee around.

4 Packaging Decisions Every Coffee Roaster Must Make

There are so many creative and useful coffee packaging options available to roasters today. From bags with windows to display the beans to beautifully designed five-pound flat bottom bags, the sky’s the limit!

To find the best coffee packaging for your budget, coffee, and brand, you’ll have to make four important decisions:

1. Packaging Type

Your first decision will guide the rest: what type of coffee packaging do you want?

There are four main options:

Gusseted Bags

Gusseted bags were more common in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but can still be seen on shelves today. Older Starbucks bags are a great example of this structure.

While these bags are affordable, the smaller top tends to be a nuisance for roasters when filling with coffee.

Flat Bottom Bags

Flat bottom bags are growing in popularity among coffee roasters. Their sturdy design makes filling them a breeze, offers more design opportunities with five visible sides, and makes storage easier for customers. Some manufacturers also let roasters include a design on the inside of the bags.

However, due to the enhanced customization options available, flat bottom coffee bags tend to be more expensive (nailing that customer experience isn’t cheap!).

Stand Up Pouch

Another classic coffee bag structure, the stand up pouch is a common choice among roasters. Think of stand up pouches as the middle ground between functionality, design, and cost. Methodical Coffee and Passenger Coffee’s bag designs are excellent examples of this bag in action. 

With your choice of materials and customizations, like the convenient tear-away top, stand up pouches are a great option for new roasters looking for an affordable and attractive bag design.

Flat Pouches

Flat pouch bags are your typical two-sided bags, often found in hotel rooms or as single-serve Steeped Coffee products.

These bags are available in smaller sizes. However, if you’re looking to stand out online or in a grocery store, offering single-serve coffee options in a flat pouch can be beneficial.

Alternative Coffee Packaging

Many roasters decide to use creative packaging choices like jars and boxes to help their coffee stand out.

Of course, by taking this route, you may run into challenges like:

  • Difficulty sourcing the right packaging materials consistently
  • Creating a custom design to oddly-shaped packages
  • Sticking to a budget—the more creative, the more costly

Carefully look through your budget and weigh your options to decide if alternative packaging is a viable choice for your company goals.

2. What Packaging Materials/Substrates Should You Choose?

When it comes to designing coffee packaging, there are two common materials (also known as substrates): kraft and matte.

Kraft bags are your classic brown-ish paper bags. They’re low-fi, simple, and tend to have a handmade vibe. Matte bags come in every color imaginable and are often the choice of established roasters who want to go all-out on a full bag design.

Each material has advantages and disadvantages:

Kraft BagsMatte Bags
Pros:
– Most affordable coffee packaging material
– Can buy larger quantities without breaking the bank
– Ideal for those specializing in wholesale and subscriptions
– 100% natural, biodegradable, and compostable.
Pros:
– Endless customization and artwork capabilities including holographic or metallic elements, hot stamping, and varying color palettes.
– Made from multiple layers to ensure coffee freshness and shelf life
– Many manufacturers offer recyclable or green matte packaging options
– Appeal to a wide audience
Cons:
– Will need to purchase additional stamps, stickers, or labels to customize the bag design
– May not appeal to a more “upscale” clientele
Cons:
– More expensive than generic kraft bags
– Order quantities will depend on bag design, size, and structure
– Requires a film of aluminum to protect coffee, which can be a detriment to those valuing sustainability

Sustainability: A Major Materials Consideration

One McKinsey study found that more than half of US consumers are highly concerned about the environmental impact of product packaging. 

Ironically, when asked about their purchase decision factors, environmentally-conscious packaging was rated as the least important consideration. Yet, the report also noted that 60-70% of consumers also stated they were willing to pay higher prices for products packaged in sustainable or recyclable materials.   

In other words, customers don’t find sustainable packaging to be essential, but they find it beneficial enough to pay extra for. If your customers are highly concerned about the environment and value sustainability, opt for materials such as:

  • Kraft paper
  • Rice paper
  • Sustainable inks
  • Low-density polyethylene (100% recyclable materials)

Some manufacturers also offer a “Zero Waste” option, where roasters can return used coffee bags to be properly recycled, but this typically only applies to bags that are used in-house, since most of your customers won’t bring empty bags back to you. 

3. Bag Size

The size of your coffee bag will influence future decisions such as product pricing, design opportunities, and retail space availability. 

Common size options include:

  • 8 oz
  • 10 oz
  • 12 oz
  • 1 lb
  • 2 lb
  • 5 lb

12 ounce and 5 pound bags are the most frequently used bags for coffee in North America, meaning they’ll likely be available at a more affordable price. Keep in mind, custom sizes will require a custom quote. 

We recommend choosing a bag size that fits your business model. For instance, wholesale coffee roasters will need to purchase 5 pound bags as well as typical 12 ounce or 1 pound retail bags to sell to clients.

Or, if you’re running a high-end subscription service specializing in rare coffees, an 8 ounce bag may suit you just fine. 

4. Manufacturer

Once you have a framework of what type and size of coffee packaging you’ll need, the next step is to find a manufacturer who can meet your needs. Among the many manufacturers specializing in coffee bag designs and packaging are:

Aside from offering the type of coffee bags you’d like, keep these factors in mind when vetting a possible manufacturer.

  • Minimum Order Quantities (MOQ) — Each manufacturer has a minimum order quantity for their products. Some offer low quantities such as 100-1,000 bags while others require 10,000+. One way roasters accommodate large MOQs is by using a single bag design for all coffees. Each bag then receives a label, sticker, or tag with information specific to each coffee
  • Turnaround Times — Due to the global pandemic, turnaround times at coffee packaging manufacturers around the globe are staggering or delayed, especially if shipments are being sent overseas. Be prepared to wait several weeks, if not months, for your bags to arrive. If you need your bags ASAP, a rush or expedited fee will apply.
  • Budget — After speaking with the manufacturer about design options and MOQs, take a look at what the price per bag is. Does this price point fit into your budget? Will you need to raise the prices of your coffee to cover the cost of the bags? Is there a lower price available for a higher order quantity?

Pro Tip: Ask what discounts are available. The answer is always “No” until you ask!

Most importantly, always ask for design proofs.

Thoroughly review these proofs for any mistakes or misinformation. Have multiple people do so, too. There is nothing more frustrating than paying for thousands of bags only to notice a design or copy flaw once production is complete.

It’s well worth the small proofs fee to avoid a potential and expensive printing disaster.

After you’ve found the right manufacturer for your coffee bags, it’s time to move on to the fun part: design.

How to Design a Coffee Bag that Sells

When customers shop online or at the grocery store for coffee, they don’t know what your coffee tastes like. They will likely make their decision solely based on the bag design and information available to them.

Your coffee bag needs to stand out by telling your story through clear copy and captivating design concepts.

Clear Brand Messaging & Coffee Information

Today’s coffee bag trends range from plain designs to quirky illustrations like at Little Wolf Coffee. While the design catches the eye of the consumer, the bag copywriting (the written part) will seal the deal.

1 in 4 consumers state they always read the label when shopping. This is the perfect opportunity to sell them on your company and coffee.

Your bag should include authentic messaging that explains:

  • Who you are. Include company information such as your logo, website, and location.
  • What you do. Are you a coffee roaster? Do you own a coffee shop(s)? Do you specialize in a particular type of coffee? Tell potential customers exactly what they need to know about your business.
  • What you stand for. For many companies, their philanthropic, social, or personal beliefs are what drive the brand. If this aligns with your company values, make sure your ethos and mission are clearly stated on the bag so you can stand out in the mind of the customer. Generic beans from generic brands don’t sell well.

Make sure the bag communicates important coffee details too. Admittedly, this is the tricky part. Deciding what coffee information to include will depend on your brand and your consumers.

For instance, does your audience care about the altitude the coffee was grown at or the specific certifications the farm may have? Or, are they more concerned about flavor notes and roast level?

At the bare minimum, be sure to include:

  • Coffee/Origin Name
  • Roast Date
  • Tasting Notes
  • Roast Level

Bag Design that Captures Customer’s Attention

All of your packaging decisions lead you to the final step: the design.

The bag design must accomplish several objectives:

  • Capture the customer’s attention in-store and online 
  • Align with your brand standards and mission
  • Convince the customer to purchase your coffee

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Shorr Packaging Corp discovered that almost half of customers have purchased products they were previously unfamiliar with, solely due to packaging design and copy.

As you design your coffee bags, consider the following:

  • Product Placement — Will your bag be sold in retail or grocery stores? If so, it needs to stand out from the competition. Use colors, illustrations, and shapes that align with your brand, but also catch the eye of passersby. 
  • Color Psychology — As humans, we associate colors with certain principles or meanings. For instance, when we see green product packaging, we think of concepts like all-natural, eco-friendly, recyclable, and even healthy eating. Think about what colors will resonate with your target market and communicate your brand message.
  • Brand Image — No matter if you choose a flashy look or a minimalist design, it must be true to your brand image. Customers will be able to see through the fluff and gimmicks! Don’t force a design that doesn’t make sense for your brand just to be “trendy.”

In the end, slick design will win over customers at first, but it’s not a moat to build a business on. Make sure to infuse your design with mission, narrative, and values to give those first-time customers a compelling reason to choose you a second time.

Inspiring Coffee Packaging Examples

Onyx Coffee Lab

As the 2021 SCA Design in Coffee winner, Onyx Coffee Lab’s new packaging design is an inspiration for roasters everywhere. Intending to communicate coffee quality and expertise, Onyx took an unexpected route and used texture, jewel tones, and embossing to their advantage. The boxes are also an elegant touch, as they reveal a matching—yet simple—bag design inside.

You can’t help but be entranced by Onyx Coffee Lab’s packaging choices!

J.René Coffee Roasters

With a constantly changing lineup of single origin coffees, producing a new bag design for each new offering is not always a sustainable option. J.René Coffee Roasters tackled this challenge by developing a single bag design that leverages a separate tag to communicate relevant coffee information.

An unexpected benefit to this design choice is that customers save the tags so they can remember which coffees they enjoyed and purchase again.

Felix Roasting Co.

Known for their unbelievably beautiful NYC coffee shops, Felix Roasting Co. extends this sophisticated brand image to their coffee packaging. From whimsically designed coffee pouches to bespoke coffee tins, there’s no denying this packaging design catches your attention!

This approach not only encapsulates the brand’s personality and image but also relays the high quality of the coffee inside.

Boomtown Coffee 

Boomtown Coffee takes coffee packaging to the next level. Each beautiful bag design also contains an informational insert and sleeve. As you interact with each component of the design, more artwork or coffee information appears. Plus, there are more fun surprises inside (aside from the expertly roasted coffee) once you open the bag!

It’s Time to Design Your Coffee Bags and Packaging

Yes, it takes time, effort, and a lot of critical decisions to develop the right packaging for your coffee company.

But you know what takes even more time? Learning to roast on a traditional roaster.

Get your coffee roasting business up and running in weeks, not months (or years) with the Bellwether Roaster.

We’ve taken the best components of traditional roasting and combined them with scalable technology to make it easier for everyone to roast specialty coffee. Designing your coffee bags will take you longer than learning how to roast with a Bellwether!

Check out how Bellwether Roasters are transforming the coffee industry and putting the power of roasting in your hands.