Developing Coffee Subscription Packaging

Nick Sebas
December 31, 2020
coffee bags and beans

As the coffee industry continues to develop digitally in response to Covid-19, coffee subscriptions are becoming an increasingly important part of the market. Coffee shops and roasters in the US alone have seen a rise of more than 100% in subscriptions since the start of the pandemic.

For specialty coffee roasters, this shift to deliveries requires a rethink as to how they package their products. Subscribers often expect a more personalised experience, which may mean wanting to know more information than usual about the coffee and its journey to their door. 

To find out how roasters can develop their packaging for coffee subscriptions, I spoke with MTPak Coffee Brand Ambassador Daniel Horbat

See also: Can You Freeze Roasted Coffee?

subscription coffee packaging

How Can Subscription Packaging Improve Transparency?

A central focus of third wave coffee culture involves closing the gap between producer and consumer. To achieve this, we need greater transparency at every step of the supply chain.

According to a 2016 study by Label Insight, 94% of consumers say they are more likely to be loyal to a brand that offers complete transparency, while 73% say they are willing to pay more for products from transparent companies.

For specialty coffee roasters, subscription packaging offers a good opportunity to deliver transparency in a simple, yet effective way. 

Because subscription coffee is usually delivered in a box, roasters have more space on which to include information on their brand’s “story” and the coffee’s provenance, helping to connect with customers on a deeper level. The long-term consumer relationship of subscription models allows roasters to relay a more detailed and involved story.

Like regular coffee bought in a store, roasters can include information on their coffee’s origin, processing methods, and commitment to sustainability both on the packaging or separately as inserts. If they have any certifications, such as Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance, they should include these too. 

Daniel Horbat is the 2019 World Cup Taster Champion and founder of Sumo Coffee Roasters in Dublin, Ireland. He believes that roasters should be selective about the information they include to keep consumers interested.

“On our coffee packaging, we provide details on a range of aspects, including the origin, the farm, and the processing methods,” he says. “Customers also receive a separate card with information we couldn’t squeeze on the bags.

“However, one thing we avoid all mention of is flavour profiles. This is because we want our consumers to engage and discuss the notes they are getting, rather than being told by us.”

This is particularly pertinent for subscriptions, as with a “coffee of the month”, for example, subscribers will all receive the same coffee which they will have the opportunity to discuss with one another.

Roasters should also include clear instructions on the correct disposal of coffee packaging once it’s empty. Information such as where to take the waste, how to clean it, whether parts such as degassing valves need removing, and whether it can go in the compost is recommended.

subscription coffee packaging

Creating A Personalised Experience

When subscription coffee is delivered to the consumer, the packaging is usually the first interaction they have with the product. For that reason it needs to make a good first impression, which involves creating a personalised experience.

A 2017 report by US marketing firm Epsilon found that 80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase from a brand that provides a personalised experience. While this might have been difficult prior to the arrival of the internet, subscription services present roasters with the tools they need to personalise their coffee for consumers.

Quizzes, questionnaires, competitions, and surveys enable roasters to gather details about who’s buying their coffee, and tweak their packaging to suit individual preferences. Pact and Drink Trade are good examples of companies who use these approaches to effectively personalise their products.

It also means that coffee subscription packaging is different from coffee bought at the shop, making subscribers feel as though they are receiving added value.

Daniel tells me that an effective way of creating a personalised experience is by including (QR) codes.

“I think QR codes are a great tool for building a closer, more personal connection with the consumer,” he says. “When we make our QR codes, I like to implement videos and other designs so that our customers feel as though I have given them their coffee personally. It makes the customer feel special.”

As well as providing added value for subscription coffee customers, QR codes can also be used to offer additional information on the coffee or the roasters. By scanning the codes on their phones, customers can follow connected social media pages or go directly to websites.

Another idea is to include a personalised name tag. This can help create the impression that the box was designed specifically for subscribers who have access to exclusive benefits. The name tag could also include a personalised discount code that can be shared with friends and family as a promotional tool.

christmas themed coffee pouch

Planning Ahead

Planning for coffee subscription packaging differs slightly from the planning involved in coffee sold solely in shops and cafes, as well as in regular online sales. One of the main reasons for this is that consumer expectations for a “coffee of the month” or “coffee of the week” offered by subscription services are generally higher. This means roasters must do everything they can to avoid being held back by a shortage of packaging.

When roasters have a better idea of regular demand thanks to subscriber lists, they can also start looking at more cost-effective ways of ordering packaging.

“To save money in the long-term, it’s a good idea to purchase coffee packaging in bulk,” Daniel says. “For roasters, I would recommend a year’s supply to make it both as cost-effective and convenient as possible.” 

While Sumo Coffee Roasters don’t offer a subscription service, they do offer monthly pre-orders that include special edition coffees. Daniel tells me that, like subscription models, they have to factor in online demand alongside their regular sales.

“We set a limited number of products available for pre-order to make sure we sell out, but also to get an idea of how much packaging we’ll need in total,” he explains. “For example, if we did 20 units per pre-order every month, then we know we need to plan for 240 packages a year just for pre-orders.”

Packaging materials and designs need to be planned well in advance to ensure they’re ready in time to meet certain dates. For instance, if your customers have monthly subscriptions, you may consider designing and ordering your Christmas edition packaging a few months ahead.

black pouch

Coffee subscriptions have become increasingly popular among consumers, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, where buying habits have changed dramatically. To take advantage of the benefits offered by subscriptions, it’s crucial for specialty coffee roasters to develop packaging that reflects the quality of their product. 

At MTPak Coffee, we offer sustainable packaging solutions for subscription coffee, providing roasters with fully customisable options, from materials and features to colour schemes and tasting cards. With our services, you’ll be able to create eco-friendly packaging at scale to meet the demands of your subscribers.

For more information on coffee subscription packaging, contact our team here.

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