The impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic has been felt across all industries worldwide, and specialty coffee roasters are no exception.
Many businesses have had to make drastic changes or risk facing permanent closure.
In the UK alone, government-imposed lockdowns and the shutdown of all non-essential services led to the temporary closure of over 80% of cafés.
The effects of the pandemic have compelled businesses to change the way they traditionally operate. Namely, there is now a specific highlight on the importance of e-commerce, health and safety measures, as well as subscription and delivery services.
As a result, consumers’ perspectives towards the role of packaging has also evolved. To fit into a post-pandemic narrative, many consumers now expect packaging to extend beyond its protective purpose.
Read on to find out the implication Covid-19 has had on specialty coffee roasters, and how coffee packaging can be adapted to meet new consumer expectations.
The impact of Covid-19 on specialty coffee roasters
A survey conducted in July 2020 by Green coffee trader Caravela Coffee consisted of 143 specialty coffee roasters from around the world.
It found that 84% of roasters experienced a medium to significant impact to their business as a result of the pandemic.
The survey also revealed that 40% of roasters placed major focus on direct-to-consumer sales and the development of new offerings, while a third of respondents strengthened their online sales.
With consumers being confined at home, online shopping flourished. This created new consumption behaviour among consumers, as many were preparing and drinking more coffee at home.
At-home coffee consumption increased to 81%, up by almost 10% before the pandemic. As consumers tried to re-create the specialty coffee experience at home, online sales for espresso machines, French presses, and coffee accessories grew by double digits by the end of May 2021.
After closing its cafés, Blue Bottle Coffee reportedly saw a 150% increase in year-over-year online sales. In addition, the California-based coffee chain had an increase of 300-400 new subscribers per week.
This shows consumers are searching for a convenient way to stock up their coffee supply, and are happy to turn to subscription services.
Digital payment provider Square collaborated with the Specialty Coffee Association to perform a study on how independent coffee shops in the US were adapting to the pandemic.
In the US alone, coffee subscription services grew by 109%. The same study showed a staggering increase in the combined sales in curbside and/or pick-up orders.
Delivery sales also climbed, further highlighting the importance of takeaway orders to café owners and coffee roasters.
How consumer expectations have evolved
With the rise of e-commerce, consumers are expressing a desire to continue making purchases online post-Covid.
A seamless online shopping experience and fulfilling consumer expectations are the keys to success in e-commerce. Speedy delivery and free-shipping can be critical in keeping shoppers happy and returning to your online store
The convenience of contactless services including self check-out, delivery, and buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) could mean they are here to stay.
In fact, a recent study by McKinsey & Company found a large number of US consumers would prefer to maintain contactless practices post-Covid.
Along with the rise of contactless services, consumers have a heightened awareness toward health and safety measures.
They expect retailers and cafés to follow strict hygiene practices such as social distancing, the usage of face coverings, and the sanitising of hands, surfaces, and products.
With the increased use of takeaways and single-use materials, consumers are more concerned about sustainability than ever before.
A survey conducted by BCG Global Management Consulting revealed 90% of consumers believe businesses should show a greater commitment to addressing environment and sustainability issues.
Namely, the survey revealed that, in the wake of the pandemic, consumers are more committed to changing their own behavior to advance sustainability.
Specifically, many consumers are consistently working to reduce household energy consumption, increase recycling and composting, and buy locally produced goods.
How can roasters cater their coffee packaging to the “new normal”?
As the world settles into a post-pandemic future, specialty coffee roasters must reevaluate how their products are presented to consumers.
It is now imperative that coffee packaging is designed to address consumer hygiene concerns, and have a strong sustainability narrative.
The rise of the grab-and-go culture means many consumers will not linger in-store. Therefore, roasters must ensure their coffee packaging has an eye-catching design that will capture consumer attention at a glance.
Conversely, packaging must also appeal to the e-commerce market with ship-ready designs and direct-to-consumer models. To keep up with demand for deliveries, ship-ready packaging solutions are crucial for roasters.
For example, a coffee bag with a wide opening will make it easier and quicker to fill. This helps to improve a roaster’s workflow. Sturdy packaging materials will provide high barrier protection for the coffee during shipping or delivery.
With less fact-to-face interaction, coffee packaging now plays an even bigger role in the consumer experience.
From the moment the package is received, right through to the unboxing and preparation of the coffee, roasters must consider ways in which their packaging can add value to each step of the consumer journey.
Roasters should consider how packaging can enhance the consumer experience by guiding them through the brewing process, and connecting them with the coffee’s origin.
The use of eco-friendly packaging materials, such as kraft paper coffee bags, will appeal to the consumers desire to lessen their environmental impact.
Roasters could introduce coffee packaging return schemes, also referred to as a loop system, to encourage consumers to return their used packaging for proper recycling. This may also coax consumers back into the roastery or café.
To meet consumers’ high hygiene standards, coffee packaging can display tamper-proof features like tear notches.
Alternatively, resealable stand-up pouches with tear away lids are incredibly popular. They are reusable, and are one of the most environmentally-friendly materials currently available, as they take up less space in landfills.
Roasters cannot ignore the clear signs of change amongst consumer expectations and behaviour. It is essential for those in the coffee industry to adapt quickly in order to maintain the success of their businesses and retain customer loyalty.
MTPak Coffee offers a range of sustainable coffee bag options made from eco-friendly materials including recyclable and compostable kraft paper bags, rice paper packaging, as well as sustainable water-based inks.