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Innovative Solutions in Packaging

By Serena Norr

The packaging industry is experiencing an influx of design and functional options for the tea and coffee industry. This upsurge is expanding options on the market and making for some interesting new selling tools in the industry.

Selling coffee or tea is determined by a number of factors - the quality of the product itself, the way in which it is marketed and, increasingly, the packaging in which the product is sold. In order to attain a competitive edge in the increasingly crowded market the best way for companies to respond is through creative packaging.

Recent changes in packaging have evolved beyond typical designs often seen in the industry such as valve packs, pillow packs, cans, freeze-dried or bulk bins. There is now a proliferation of options that enable retailers to establish their brand image while competing on non-price factors, such as quality. Though quality is a huge aspect to attract consumers, the initial perception of the product is determined by the connection to the product, followed by shape, color and design that can be highlighted through packaging.

Marketing and Packaging
In the highly competitive world of tea and coffee, the quality of the product being consumed is critical, but no one will purchase your product if the packaging is unappealing. Consumers respond best to attractive packaging which highlights your brand image as well as establishes that the product is of high quality.

The company’s brand image needs to be communicated in the structure of the package as well as in the label. Evoking powerful images of your brand through packaging connects the product to the consumer and facilities product identification and association.

Functionality also needs to be considered, as it establishes any convenience or ergonomic features. Retailers often pay a premium for a package that keeps their products fresh, opens and closes easily, includes attractive graphics and stands apart on the retail shelf. This is the most important marketing tool that companies have to attract consumers.

Coffee Packaging Options
As the coffee market evolves roasters and retailers need to respond with creative packaging that creates differentiation and impact on the retail shelf. There are numerous options in the packaging industry to meet such competitive demands. According to William J. Walters, technical director of Pacific Bag, Inc., located in Woodinville, Washington, “Roasters and retailers should look for several key elements when they chose their packaging, including beautiful packaging that properly represents the quality of the product in the package, functionality that will enhance the end users experience with the products such as ease of opening, pouring/dispensing and re-close ability and packaging that protect products from elements that contribute to loss of fresh flavor.” Adding, “For coffee and tea elements from which products need to be protected are oxygen, moisture, light and external odor contaminants. For fresh roasted coffee a one-way pressure release system is needed to relieve pressure in the package. The pressure is created by gas emitted from the coffee. At the same time the coffee gas needs to get out, the package must prevent oxygen from entering in to spoil the coffee. The best example of a one-way pressure release system is the one-way degassing valve developed specifically for coffee.” According to Robb Leonard, president of Leonhard Packaging Solutions, located in Wisconsin, “A bevy of bag styles can boost shelf impact, differentiate products from the competition and generate packaging efficiencies. Roasters mainly look for shelf appeal. The bags must stand up well on the store shelf and they must have visually appealing graphics, and most importantly, the package needs to keep the gourmet product fresh. This is accomplished first and foremost by carefully choosing a packaging machine that can produce the style of bag that is required.” According to Christian Korte, managing director of Optima filling and packaging machines, located in Germany, “Today’s packaging is sold twice. It begins first when the customer is responsive to the packaging itself and if the customer decides to buy the product. Secondly, during the first utilization at home. If the packaging does not meet the requirements of the customer, normally the consumer does not buy the product anymore. More and more roasters keep this aspect in mind and try to integrate quality and appearance through different packaging tools like valves for freshness or easy opening through laser perforation.

Of course, all those tools have to be calculated under commercial aspects and all investments for the additional value have to be recognized and paid by the customer. A collaborative effort between the roaster, the machine manufacturer and a film provider is needed to ensure the final package will meet or exceed the package specifications.”

Packaging companies for the specialty market are growing, which reflects the need for new and creative packaging concepts. According to Korte, “The most important requirements are: patented design; cost-efficiency regarding the machine concept and price per piece; gentle treatment of the product; a transparent, big marketing area; having a good concept for opening (for instance with a ‘magic routine,’ inline manufacturer, recyclable or biodegradable).” As a result, there are a myriad of packaging options available, however mainly seen through stock bag programs. Stock bags have been on the market for years due to their functional and simple solutions to freshness and appeal to consumers. Stock bags are sold in a variety of colors and styles. Most “stock” programs can be ordered utilizing minimum quantities such as 300 to 1,000 bags per order and offers some new options including stand-up pouches with a zipper, a one-way valve, gusseted bags with easy openings and a zipper re-closure and Natural Kraft bags, to name a few. The popularity of stock bags is increasing - consumers relish in the convenience of the zipper appeal and retailers love the flexibility and options of hanging the bag or standing it up.

Another packaging standard is the valve bag. The valve bag is composed of layers of foil and poly to create a sealable airtight environment, which is noted to be more conducive in the preservation of fresh coffee. What sets this packaging apart from the rest is the one-way valve. It allows the freshly packaged coffee to release carbon dioxide gas that is naturally produced to be slowly released, without letting oxygen into the package. This method is often utilized for the packaging of whole coffee beans to substantially retain the freshness, aroma and flavor.

There has also been a recent surge towards the utilization of gusseted foil bags. Such bags offer the ability to uphold freshness when shipped at a great distance or stand on a shelf for a lengthy period of time. According to AB Packaging located in California, “Gusseted Foil Bags or foil bags are the established package format for fresh coffee. They seal in the fresh-roasted aroma and taste customers love. AB Packaging Gusseted Foil Bags and Coffee Bags provide high barrier protection against freshness robbing moisture and oxygen.”

According to Leonhard, “some additional packaging trends in coffee and tea are the true quad seal/ 4 corner seal style. The quad seal has no back fin seal and it allows full graphics front and back, as do the sealed edges versus the old style of just creasing each vertical edge. The bag stands very crisp and upright on the store shelf.” According to Walters, “Use of quad seals (a.k.a. corner seals) and offset/side back seals on side gusseted packages has been around for a decade or so, but is still relatively new in packaging industry terms. These provide full panels for graphics on the front and back of the package. In addition, quad seals provide added shape for form/fill/seal made bags. Also, movement continues towards a truly sustainable packaging option with materials such as PLA, and while perhaps not the ultimate solution, they seem to be a step in the right direction and are growing in their accessibility to the package buying public.”

Leonard added, “The other style is the tucked bottom style also known in the industry as a ‘doy’ pack. It is commonly used by coffee companies which hand package using pre-made bags. LPS offers both of these popular styles on our Viking intermittent motion machines as well as our Viking continuous motion machines using roll stock film. These styles of bags are popular in a wide variety of markets from cookies to candy, snacks and pet foods; however, it is the coffee and tea industry that continues to lead all markets when it comes to style and innovative packaging solutions.”

Also seen on the market are stand-up pouches. According to AB packaging, “Stand-up pouches are a hot new format on the market that provides protection against moisture and oxygen. The wide face is great for labels and graphics, and the stand up pouch is the ‘attention grabber’ you require on the shelf or hanging display.” According to Pacific Bag Company, “This is today’s hottest packaging format. These pouches stand on their own, provide wide faces to promote your product and sport consumer friendly zippers. Stand-up pouches are great for many food and snack products such as: coffee, crackers, cookies, nuts, pet food, powders, etc. Constructed of high barrier clear and foil laminates, our stand-up pouches protect your product from oxygen and moisture.” According to Leonhard, “The most common requests are for single serve fractional packages and for stand-up quad seal packages with no back seal. The old style of flat bottom bags with creased corners always had fin seals which were placed either down the middle of the back panel or toward the corner of the back panel on the package. The back fin seals on packages consistently got in the way of the graphics. That is why our Viking quad seal bag style does not utilize a back fin seal. We join the film at the corner to form a true quad seal package. This allows the customer full graphics on the front and back of the package.”

Another option is seen from the tin tie bags, paper bags or Natural Kraft bags. According to AB Packaging, “These are great as retail take-away bags for products not requiring a long shelf life. Heavyweight tin tie bags, which will keep your product fresh and attractive, can be made from 50 lb. or greater paper along with a variety of colors and sizes.” Natural Kraft bags have a great niche appeal, but often the cost and performance of such packaging is substantial. They are renowned for their durability as a strong form of paper that can be used as the outer substrate on bags and pouches, but many cannot accept the limited shelf life (freshness) that paper provides. Of course it all depends on the aesthetic appeal that you are looking for as many retailers tout the advantages of natural Kraft - a natural feeling that connects consumers to their product.

There are also numerous options in regards to single serve packaging. According to Korte, “Optima filling and packaging machines distinguish between single serve and multi serve. Today the production of roast and ground coffee filled into single serve products is separated into paper, like Senseo type and capsules. Capsules’ advantage is its gas-tight composition. Paper pods on the other hand must be packed under a modified atmosphere in a secondary package like a pouch to maintain the aroma. Furthermore, there are several variations of beverages, which can be filled into the capsules.

“Searching for new innovations and solutions is very intensive at the moment. In this area Optima developed the SoftCan, which emerged under the Cyclero concept of the company Huhtamaki. The SoftCan, which is filled with 20 paper pods, saves a lot of space on a shelf, and the presentation of the SoftCan at the point of sale is very appealing. The SoftCan itself is gas-tight and is manufactured inline. The foil comes from the reel. This also saves money on transport costs.” Korte added.

The main objective in choosing packaging involves “searching for new and more significant concepts, which are in the same time easier to use and of course more customer oriented,” Korte added.

Tea & Coffee - March, 2008
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