How to leverage your coffee packaging to break into the US market

Kahwei Yoong
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June 24, 2021
us coffee consumers

According to recent statistics, around 400 million cups of coffee are consumed per day in the US (equal to 140 billion cups per year). For specialty roasters, this represents a massive opportunity, particularly when an estimated 30 million Americans drink premium quality coffee everyday.

However, such a large market inevitably attracts a significant level of competition, which can make it difficult to transform your roastery into a success. This is especially true for those who are looking to tap into the US market from abroad and may not have as firm an understanding as domestic roasters.

One way to improve your chances of standing out in the US coffee market is through packaging. Known as the “secret salesman”, packaging is among the most simple yet effective marketing tools at your disposal, offering a space on which to reflect brand identity and compel consumers to try your coffee.

But what do US consumers look for in their coffee? And how can you use your packaging to appeal to them? First, it’s crucial to understand the current trends among US consumers.

Read next: Understanding the different waves of coffee

us coffee consumer trends

Gourmet coffee & the rise of at-come consumption

The latest National Coffee Data Trends (NCDT) published by the National Coffee Association (NCA) indicates that coffee consumption in the US has reached an all-time high, with more than 60% of Americans reportedly drinking a cup of coffee everyday.

The study also shows that the majority of people are now leaning towards premium beans: today, over half of the coffee served in the US is considered “gourmet”. In this context, gourmet refers to premium, non-instant arabica or arabica blend coffee products.

Driving these trends are younger generations, known as millennials and Generation Z. Not only have the number of coffee drinkers in these groups increased by 25% and 40% since 2015 respectively, they’re also more than twice as likely to consume gourmet coffee as those aged 60 and above.

Over the last year, Covid-19 has prompted its own series of trends, including the rise of at-home coffee consumption. The long-term closure of coffee shops and offices in particular have forced many consumers to look at recreating the “barista experience” at home.

As a result, purchases of grinders, coffee subscriptions, espresso machines, and pour over equipment have soared in the last 18 months. Between March and April 2020, coffee subscription sales in the US were up 109% compared to the previous month, while Blue Bottle Coffee reported it was adding 300 to 400 new subscribers per week during the same period.

Although many parts of the country have started to open up again, experts predict that these habits are unlikely to change in the near future.

sustainable coffee packaging

Sustainability and the “story” behind coffee

Understanding the current coffee trends for a particular group is only halfway to winning them over as customers – you also have to appeal to their emotional needs.

The NCDT report found more than 50% of US coffee consumers want to buy coffee that’s certified environmentally friendly, and directly supports the coffee producers and their communities.

They care less about the cost of coffee and more about finding brands that show a tangible commitment to reducing the impact of their operations. This applies to all aspects of the business, from how they source their green beans to the materials they use to package their coffee.

As well as sustainability, the third wave in coffee culture has put greater focus on traceability and transparency. Consumers now want to know every detail about their coffee, from who grew it to how it was processed.

Brands that are seen to be hiding this information may be viewed as untrustworthy, which could have an impact on brand loyalty. 

What’s more, greater traceability is often associated with higher quality. Naturally, the more a roaster knows about the coffee they buy (and subsequently pass onto customers), the better the roast will be.

flat bottom coffee bags

Coffee packaging for the US market: What to consider

Known as the “silent salesman”, packaging plays a fundamental role in the marketing of coffee. Every aspect, from design and colour, to shape and texture, can affect a consumer’s perception of a brand and, ultimately, influence their buying decision.

To promote quality and foster a greater appreciation for the work that goes into producing coffee, specialty roasters need to carefully consider the information they include on their packaging. 

Try to think about what interests your target audience: do they want to know about your brand’s story or would they prefer to know about the farmer? Are brewing instructions as important as roast date, profile, and flavour notes?

Despite the desire to know more about coffee than ever before, overwhelming US consumers with information can be an immediate turn-off. 

One increasingly popular option is to include a QR code, a scannable barcode that takes consumers to a landing page on their smartphone. The landing page could be a website, social media account, or even an app.

Not only does this free up space on the packaging by putting all the information elsewhere, it also gives consumers the option to find out more information at a time that suits them. 

1850 Coffee’s collaboration with Thank My Farmer is an example of how specialty roasters can easily provide an option for consumers who want to trace the journey of their coffee.

With sustainability top of the agenda, it’s also crucial to show a tangible commitment to the environment. However, this doesn’t just mean using recyclable packaging materials, such as kraft paper.

Consumers want to know that every component of their packaging is environmentally friendly, from the inks to the degassing valves. An effective way of doing this is by including sustainability certifications, such as OK compost, Seedling, and Forest Stewardship Commission (FSC).

At MTPak Coffee, we offer a range of sustainable-certified packaging options for specialty coffee roasters. You can choose from a wide selection of recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable coffee pouches that protect your coffee and reduce your carbon footprint. 

At the same time, we can also work closely with you to create packaging design that speaks to both your brand and customers.

For more information on our sustainable coffee packaging, contact our team.

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How to leverage your coffee packaging to break into the US market

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