If you step into a craft beer shop, one of the first things you’ll notice is shelves upon shelves of bottles and cans adorned with colourful illustrations.
It’s become a hallmark of the industry, with each brand striving for the boldest, most memorable design possible. This approach has helped the popularity of craft beer grow, reaching a market value of more than $40 billion in the US alone.
It should come as little surprise, then, that illustrated packaging has started to catch on in other industries. The labels of wine bottles, for example, have increasingly become canvasses for vibrant scenes of vineyards.
In the specialty coffee sector, an illustration can be used to say as much about a brand as it can about the coffee, depicting everything from flavour notes to the farmers who grew it.
Not only can it help lure customers in a heavily saturated market, it can also help businesses convey a brand identity where words may not be enough.
But what type of illustration should you choose for your coffee bags? Here’s some inspiration from a handful of roasters who have already taken the leap.
Origin & coffee farmers
In few industries does provenance sit as front and centre as it does in coffee. Consumers are eager to know as much as possible about the “story” of their brew, from who grew it to how it was processed.
But while providing this information can be useful, too much text on a coffee bag can also serve to overwhelm and confuse.
Not everyone will be inclined to read about the soaring altitudes at which coffee is grown in Cauca, for example, nor will they pay much attention to the methods of anaerobic fermentation popular in Brazil.
An illustration, on the other hand, can skillfully encapsulate an origin without taking away from the overall aesthetic of the coffee bag. It can help bring a “human” element to the product, while conveying different aspects of the region beyond just the coffee.
Kansas City micro roasters Khomanta (pictured left) do this exceedingly well. Their vibrant bags, designed by Peruvian illustrator Alejandro Gavancho, incorporate different elements of Peruvian culture, including hummingbirds, mountains, and shawls. They help draw in the customer, while inviting them to join them on their journey.
Apus Agency, the team behind Biji Coffee Company’s bags (pictured right) has achieved an equal effect with a slightly different approach. For each coffee, their bags carry an illustrated image of a farmer, emphasising, more than anything, the people behind the coffee. The result is a striking bag that’s sure to capture attention on the shelf.
If you ask someone about their favourite type of coffee, it’s likely they will list a series of flavours: chocolate, nutty, fruity, floral, vanilla.
Flavour notes are a simple way of conveying preferences without getting bogged down in varietals, growing conditions, and fermentation techniques.
In fact, they’ve become so important to the industry as a whole that the SCA released an official flavour wheel to help develop a common language around them.
Both coffee professionals and consumers can use the flavour wheel to pinpoint certain characteristics and work their way out from the centre, becoming increasingly specific as they go.
The widespread use of flavour notes in coffee has made them a popular subject matter for illustrated packaging. Images of pears, raisins, caramel, and stone fruit adorn the bags of Margate-based roastery Curve (pictured left), helping guide customers towards their favourite coffee types.
Detour Coffee (pictured right) goes a step further by mixing colour theory and shapes with flavour notes to produce their eye-catching label designs. If the coffee has hints of dried fruit and spices with a bright acidity, for example, the label will mix red and blue with a series of triangles.
The image of a roasted coffee bean is an ubiquitous emblem in the coffee industry. It’s used by roasteries and cafés the world over – so much so that it’s become something of a cliché.
A slightly more original and interesting subject matter is the coffee plant, with its long, arching leaves and plump red cherries. Not only does it promote the natural side of coffee, it also showcases where life begins for the world’s favourite drink.
Entre Cerros (pictured right) and Umo Coffee (pictured left) both use hand-drawn depictions of coffee plants on their coffee bags.
Entre Cerros sets a golden branch bearing ripe cherries against a black background to create a sense of exclusivity and luxury; Umo Coffee puts theirs on a white background, creating an impression that the illustration has been drawn directly onto the bag.
A coffee plant illustration can also help foster a sense of transparency by bringing the coffee’s origin closer to the consumer. Rather than focusing on the brand or the roasting, it’s unveiling the very earliest stages of the supply chain and inviting the customer to connect with it.
Illustrated packaging is becoming an increasingly common sight in the specialty coffee sector. It can help capture a brand’s identity and make it stand out on the shelf, while also creating a bag worth keeping for customers.
The experienced team at MTPak Coffee can help you create a coffee bag that shows off your illustrated designs in their best light.
With high-quality printing methods and vibrant water-based inks, we can make your illustrations jump off the shelf and grab the attention they deserve.
We also have a range of sustainable materials to choose from, including kraft paper, rice paper, low-density polyethylene (LDPE), and polylactic acid (PLA). Each can be applied to different pouch structures, from side gusset bags to stand up pouches.
You can also add a number of components to improve the convenience and usability of the bag without compromising its eco-friendly credentials. Our BPA-free degassing valves and resealable zippers are fully recyclable, meaning they can be disposed along with recyclable packaging materials.