3 Trends in Coffee Packaging and Labeling

Coffee - Fair Trade

What is Fair Trade?

Fair Trade helps poverty-stricken coffee farmers receive a minimum, fair price for their coffee. This eliminates their vulnerability to the middleman offering cash at a fraction of the coffee’s value. The fair trade movement has been around for more than a decade, but recently has gained traction with coffee consumers. Martin Smith states in his article, “The rise of the Fair Trade Coffee Movement”, that coffee is 40% of the total fair trade industry, which also includes products like chocolate, clothing, home goods, and more. Fair Trade could also mean long-term and more meaningful trading relationships. FairTrade America believes fair-trade is unique in offering four important benefits: stable prices, a fair-trade premium, partnership, and empowerment of farmers and workers. With Fair Trade, consumers, traders, companies, and the environment all win.

Compostable Coffee Bags

Two companies in North America are supporting their eco-friendly commitments with compostable coffee bags. Both McCullagh Coffee and Pistol & Burns use coffee bags that contain cellulose-based NatureFlex™ film from Innovia.

Pistol & Burns, a leading Canadian coffee roasting company, has packed its Fair Trade organic coffee in a paper bag laminated with transparent NatureFlex™ film. Innovia Films states that according to Roy M. Hardy, President, Pistol & Burnes, “Most roasted coffee sold in the world is packaged in either foil bags (coated in plastic) or paper bags (with a plastic liner). These usually end up going straight to landfill as they can prove difficult to recycle. However our enviro–friendly coffee bag can be organically recycled, which means it breaks down in a home compost bin.” The bags were developed by Genpak.

According to an article in PackWorld, McCullagh Coffee’s eco-friendly bag has a much simpler construction. The pillow pack is constructed using transparent, heat-sealable NatureFlex NE. “In applications such as this, where fast product turnover requires a much shorter shelf life, a single mono web structure is one option,” explains Innovia account director Christopher Tom.

Disposable K-Cup

K-Cup disposable/recyclable debate

In 2009 Nespresso launched a program called EcolaborationTM to work toward becoming a more sustainable business. Their focus today is “coffee, capsules and carbon footprint.” Each initiative is designed to achieve a goal of sustainability through sourcing their coffee responsibly, improving recycling of the pods, and also to reduce their carbon footprint.

However, the recyclability of K-Cups remains an issue. Consumers enjoy the ease of Keurig-like machines, but their biggest complaint is the amount of waste it creates. While brewing a pot of coffee results in compostable coffee grounds, an office that uses k-cups on a daily basis has a trash bag full of disposable pods by the end of the day. This was a topic of discussion on LinkedIn recently, where the question was posed: “How willing would U.S. consumers be to bringing coffee capsules to a collection center for recycling?” Response showed that some felt consumers would be willing to participate in a recyclable plan, where as others were not as positive considering the current poor statistics on recycling. It’s great to see some companies taking an initiative to solve a consumer pain point, and it will be interesting to see how the market evolves and what other solutions are found.