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How do you take your coffee?

How do you take your coffee?

Market Insight: Coffee Packaging

How do you take your coffee?

A look at the packaging challenges in the coffee industry

Contributors (from Bosch Packaging Technology)

Oliver Maier, product manager, Herbert Stotkiewitz, development engineer, Lars Klimbacher, dosing specialist, and Marcus Velezmoro, head of sales

The coffee industry has a rich and dynamic history that dates back several centuries. With more than 500 billion delicious cups consumed globally each year, coffee has long been one of the world’s most popular beverages. From the top coffee-producing nations of Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia and India, beans are exported to manufacturers around the world to be roasted and packaged before heading to a store near you.

One thing that all consumers love is the beans’ unique aroma and flavor acquired from the roasting process. To preserve this bouquet and enable coffee drinkers to enjoy the authentic, rich taste wherever they are in the world, manufacturers need to use a highly advanced packaging technology.

Bosch has helped coffee manufacturers maximize product quality and enhance the consumer experience for over a century. To learn more about the challenges of coffee packaging, Packaging Today spoke with Bosch’s experts (listed under contributors).

1) What primary challenges do coffee manufacturers face today to deliver a high quality product to consumers?

Herbert Stotkiewitz: A special challenge is the protection of coffee from internal factors, such as carbon dioxide (CO2) release, and external influences, such as light and oxygen, which impair the product’s flavor and taste. After the roasting process, coffee develops a large amount of CO2 – one kilogram of coffee releases about six liters of CO2 within five weeks. It is critical for manufacturers to incorporate technologies preventing carbon dioxide from destroying the packaging due to increasing pressure.

To address this challenge, Bosch developed a number of technologies. For instance, the first product protection technology for grinded coffee was introduced by Bosch more than 50 years ago: by evacuating air from the package, vacuum brick bags were created. When coffee is not packaged in vacuum bags, coffee packaging must feature product protection valves to relieve the pressure that can build up. Bosch offers both external and internal valves. The preferred option depends on how prominently valves must be displayed on the packaging for marketing purposes. These valves allow the CO2 gas to escape without allowing oxygen and external odors to enter and affect the aroma.

The latter is very important as roasted coffee is an oxygen-sensitive product, meaning that its scent can quickly degrade if exposed to oxygen, which impacts overall quality – especially when the coffee reaches the mug. In addition, coffee flavor is destroyed if exposed to light. Multi-layer packaging materials protect the product from light after the filling process, whereas oxygen has to be extracted from the coffee packaging before and after the filling process. This is achieved through techniques like air evacuation and gas flushing, which must be used during the production process. All these different technologies help coffee producers extend the coffee’s shelf life, while ensuring that neither the quality nor the aroma of this expensive product is compromised.

2) What kinds of packaging equipment innovations are coffee manufacturers looking for?

Lars Klimbacher: Every coffee is unique and the applied packaging solution should be as well to ensure the correct handling. Whether packaging sensitive coffee beans or ground coffee, food manufacturers need to strike the right balance between high output and gentle handling to minimize breakage. For example, dark roast coffee is very fragile and dosing systems can destroy its capillaries and even turn it into powder, which negatively affects the taste.

Customization of a packaging line makes sure that aspects like coffee type (beans, dry-freeze, coarse, instant or Turkish), its density and desired pack styles are taken into account. That is why Bosch offers custom-made solutions. Testing trials allow packaging suppliers to determine the best option. One way to prevent product damage is to adjust the gap between the cross-feed and dosing augers, and their respective housing. Another option includes the use of filling sensors that can vary in numbers and position to ensure gentle handling of the most sensitive coffee grinds.

Oliver Maier: At Bosch, we also noticed that more and more coffee manufacturers are looking for a single packaging solution that is suitable for a large variety of pack styles to differentiate their products on store shelves. Working with a packaging supplier that brings an in-depth understanding of packaging materials, packaging formats and designs, as well as the ability to test sample bags in advance can help manufacturers achieve this goal.

With this in mind, Bosch developed dedicated packaging machines based on vertical form, fill and seal, as well as thermoforming technology that enables short format changeovers and quick adaptation to new product requirements. By being able to switch from smaller to bigger bags, from one head closure to another, and by choosing from different bag styles while maintaining premium product quality and high output, coffee manufacturers achieve production efficiency and point-of-sale differentiation through pack style versatility.

Lars Klimbacher: Another important element that manufacturers seek for their packaging lines is precise dosing. Accurate amounts of coffee in each pack guarantees consistency, which is important for end consumers, but also reduces product waste. Precise dosing eliminates quality degradation and breakage due to overfilled packs. Not only does this lead to lower food processing costs, but it also conserves resources and the environment.

When tying all of these elements together, it becomes clear that close, early collaboration between manufacturers and packaging suppliers is critical. At Bosch, we have a packaging material laboratory to test packaging and filling solutions. While developing a customized packaging line, it is important to conduct sample and filling tests to determine the optimum choice of material and pack style. Approaching a project as a partnership allows packaging machinery suppliers to gain an in-depth understanding of their customers’ unique needs and find the right solution to ensure customer satisfaction.

3) What is the future of coffee packaging?

Marcus Velezmoro: The global coffee market, including fresh and instant, accounted for $75 billion in 2012 and is expected to grow at a healthy rate. Forecasted declines in raw coffee bean prices combined with a high level of consumption will drive coffee production growth over the next five years. To capitalize on this trend, coffee manufacturers will increase production output. At the same time, the rise in household income increases consumers’ demands in terms of product quality. Working together with coffee manufacturers, packaging suppliers will continue developing solutions to further ensure that coffee’s signature features are protected and preserved. For instance, to allow coffee producers to incorporate valve applicators into existing production lines, Bosch has developed a stand-alone applicator that can be combined with any packaging machine.

It is critical not just to react to customer needs but also to anticipate them. With the growing popularity of "Fair Trade" and other sustainability certificates for coffee brands, packaging suppliers have to keep abreast of trends. For example, one of the Bosch’s current developments is an external valve with a more efficient design – which is particularly relevant for coffee producers looking for sustainable solutions.