How important are the materials you choose for your coffee bags?
For some roasters, they’re little more than a practicality, intended solely for the effective transport and storage of roasted coffee.
So long as the coffee can get from A to B without being damaged or going stale – the thinking goes – then the difference between one material and another is of little consequence.
However, the reality is that materials matter a lot.
Not only do they say a lot about a business from an environmental standpoint, they also have a considerable influence on a coffee bag’s design and the way in which consumers respond to it. More than 65% of Americans agree that the materials used to package a product often influence their purchase decisions.
For example, according to one study, brands were perceived as signiﬁcantly more socially responsible when their packaging was made of ﬁbre-based materials than when it was made of red plastic.
As such, it’s important for roasters to put aside time to consider which materials they will use for their coffee bags. Here’s inspiration from some of the top brands in the sector.
Invented in the 1870s, kraft paper can be found almost everywhere, from arts and crafts to insulation in electrical transformers.
In the coffee sector, it has long been a favourite material for packaging roasted beans. Affordable, lightweight, and easy to recycle, it is also extremely resilient when reinforced with laminates or additional layers. (Roasters typically choose between aluminium foil or PLA laminate to improve its barrier properties.)
However, it’s not just the sustainability factor that makes kraft paper a highly desired material for coffee bags. A large part of its demand stems from the artisanal, “hand-made” aesthetic it creates.
It provides customers with a sense that they’re buying into something carefully crafted for them, rather than mass produced. Indeed, a survey on consumers’ favourite packaging materials found that 74.2% of respondents preferred paper, with one of the major reasons the “natural feel” it gave to products and packages.
Kraft paper can also be easily customised, which means that roasters can print logos and product information on their bags.
Fun fact: The strongest kraft is called “pure kraft”. It is unbleached and made from a minimum of 80% virgin wood pulp.
LDPE (low-density polyethylene)
Soft, flexible, and lightweight, LDPE (low-density polyethylene) is a popular material that’s used to make a range of goods, including trays, milk cartons, and plastic bags.
Although it has a lower tensile strength than high-density polyethylene (HDPE), it is more resilient, making it a useful material for packaging items that require flexibility.
LDPE offers a good balance for specialty roasters looking to move away from traditional plastics without the need to completely rethink their business models. This is because it has similar characteristics to traditional plastics, but it is fully recyclable and easy to reuse.
From a design perspective, LDPE is one of the best materials available. It can support high-quality printed designs in a wide range of colours, presenting a clear and coherent brand identity.
It is also highly resistant to external factors such as water and light, which means it sustains the quality of the design over a long period of time.
Fun fact: LDPE is denoted by plastic resin code number four. This means consumers must check with their local authority before recycling it.
PLA (polylactic acid)
In recent years, bioplastics have become increasingly widespread as concerns grow over the environmental impact of traditional plastics.
Among the most popular is PLA (polylactic acid), a toxin-free bioplastic made from from renewable resources such as maize, cornstarch, and sugarcane.
In controlled composting environments, PLA can take as little as 90 days to decompose. This is in stark contrast to the 1,000 years for traditional plastics, making it an attractive option for eco-conscious businesses.
For coffee, PLA offers good protection from external factors thanks to its high barrier properties and 7,000 psi tensile strength. It can survive long journeys and, according to experts, protects coffee from moisture and oxygen for up to 12 months.
While coffee bags made entirely from PLA are possible, one of its more common uses is to make transparent windows.
The idea with these is to give consumers an opportunity to view the beans before making a purchase decision. It also helps the bag stand out on the shelf, offering a tantalising glimpse at the product inside.
Fun fact: Many roasters choose to combine kraft paper and PLA to create a high barrier coffee bag with a rustic look and feel.
Made from renewable resources, such as quintan tree bark and bamboo, rice paper is a useful material for packaging due to its strength, affordability, and wide accessibility. It is biodegradable and recyclable, offering a sustainable option to specialty roasters.
To maximise protection from external factors, such as light and oxygen, rice paper will often need to be reinforced with additional layers or laminates. However, like kraft paper, this can be with PLA, which complements its biodegradable properties.
For many specialty roasters, rice paper is the go-to choice, not just for how it looks, but for how it feels. When used for coffee bags, it gives the packaging a natural aesthetic that feels slightly grainy and textured. This is in contrast to the shiny, plasticy feel of materials like LDPE.
Rice paper can also support high-quality printed designs, including text, logos, and illustrations.
Fun fact: Rice paper used for packaging is made from a shrub called Tetrapanax papyrifer, or the rice-paper plant, but can also include mulberry, hemp, bamboo, or rice straw pulp.
At MTPak Coffee, we work closely with our clients to find the best materials for their coffee bags, including additional components such as degassing valves and resealable zippers.
Our kraft paper, LDPE, PLA, and rice paper packaging options can all be fully customised with your designs and logos, while we also have a range of minimum order quantities (MOQs).