CREATING YOUR OWN CUSTOM COFFEE BAGS: A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE FOR SERIOUSLY STRONG BRANDING
Packaging coffee is a huge responsibility that should benefit both your coffee brand and your customers. Your coffee story, from bean-to-cup, should be told well and ought to be highlighted by your custom coffee bags—it’s this big goal most business owners have.
Featuring your love for coffee, your passion, and unique business offerings as best as you possibly can requires research and effort, but successfully creating a coffee bag that captures the essence of your brand secures you the mind and heart share of your target customers.
Not only is this a branding effort where you can have fun and make your unique mark in the coffee industry and in your community—correct labeling practices must conclude in an enriching and educational experience for your customer.
Do you have all the relevant information on your coffee bags? Too much information and terminologies and you might confuse or overwhelm the prospective customer. Too little and you might be leaving out details that are essential to the coffee aficionado.
WHAT INFORMATION SHOULD COFFEE BAGS INCLUDE THEN?
In this guide, we’ll be outlining major and minor information that need (or can be left out, depending on your needs, as you will come to read) to be included on your custom coffee bags. If you already have a coffee bag or coffee label design, or are just starting with label concepts, it’s best to review the notes below so that you can also check if your artwork is correct, and all information accurate.
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WHEN IT COMES TO FDA LABELING REQUIREMENTS
Contrary to most food products (where nutritional labeling is scrutinized), the FDA currently doesn’t have any comprehensive labeling regulations for whole or ground coffee. Unless special nutritional claims are made, coffee beans are exempt from requirements apart from the usual brand name, product name, product weight, and company address.
FDA Reg 21 CFR 101.9 explicitly says:
Foods that contain insignificant amounts of all of the nutrients and food components required to be included in the declaration of nutrition information under paragraph (c) of this section, Provided, that the food bears no nutrition claims or other nutrition information in any context on the label or in labeling or advertising. Claims or other nutrition information subject the food to the provisions of this section. An insignificant amount of a nutrient or food component shall be that amount that allows a declaration of zero in nutrition labeling, except that for total carbohydrate, dietary fiber, and protein, it shall be an amount that allows a declaration of “less than 1 gram.” Examples of foods that are exempt under this paragraph include coffee beans (whole or ground), tea leaves, plain unsweetened instant coffee and tea, condiment-type dehydrated vegetables, flavor extracts, and food colors.
Let’s start with going into detail about what content must be seen on your custom coffee bags. From there, we will move on to minor content for your custom coffee bags. Just a quick note that minor information isn’t to be considered irrelevant; this simply means this type of information will go into further detail when fully breaking down the identity of your product.
Essentially, this guide will best help you focus on the content that you choose to present to your prospective customers, for your own business and branding needs.
MAJOR INFORMATION – MUST HAVES
Brand Name A.K.A. Statement of Identity
This can be either the “common name” or a “fanciful name” of your coffee product, or both!
Most roasters employ a strong branding strategy to make sure customers associate their coffees with their company name, even in the event of product line extensions (e.g. coffee blends, instant coffee mixes, etc.)
If you’re using a fanciful name that doesn’t mention the common name of your product or any related terms for context:
“Wake Me Up”, for example, versus “Wake Me Up Coffee” or “Wake Me Up Roasters”, it’s best that you accompany this by a good image/photo or a descriptive phrase at least 1⁄2 the type size of the brand name so that your customers can identify right away what the product is, even if not in a coffee shop.
When selling “flavored” coffee:
Let customers know that it isn’t a naturally occurring flavor. For example, say “Caramel and Vanilla Coffee”. More importantly, if your flavoring isn’t derived from a natural source, then your copy should say so as well (this becomes “Artificially Flavored Caramel and Vanilla Coffee”).
Country of Origin
Coffee is grown in more than 50 countries in the world, and certain geographical locations point to favorable conditions for growing excellent coffee beans. This makes it an important identifier and marketing detail for your prospective customer, especially if your products are also fair trade.
This information not only helps your customer learn and compare different coffees of different origins but also help improve the purchase and re-purchase cycle.
For more well versed customers, placing this detail will help them get exactly what they want, based on the more common assumptions about how coffee should taste in relation to its origin (e.g. Sumatran coffees most often develop as a full bodied, spicy coffee). And certainly distinguishing between coffee blends and single origin will help satisfy more discerning customers.
Whole Bean / Ground
Describing the product’s format to correctly identify what you are offering is obviously a major detail to include on your custom coffee bags.
This will help segregate customers—people with grinders will get your whole bean coffee while those who do not have any way to grind coffee (beans wouldn’t be convenient) will stick to a ground coffee format. Make it a smooth experience for your customers.
Bag Size (refer to Net Quantity as well)
Your custom coffee bag’s size is, of course, dependent on the amount of coffee that is being packaged.
The net quantity is the declaration of the specific amount of coffee, stated in both US (inches/pounds/fluid ounces) and metric (grams/liters) units. In the US, 16oz/454g was a longstanding standard sizing.
Now it is not uncommon to use 12oz, 10oz, 8oz, or even 4 oz custom coffee bags, for different purposes. Specialty coffees are most often packaged in smaller bag sizes as a precious drink that is to be savored, with larger bag sizes sometimes indirectly relaying that it is meant to be a morning staple.
While some would argue that this should be included on minor information, the roast date is particularly important, more so for customers who are looking to gift your products or don’t consume as much coffee as the regular coffee lover, or just simply want to be reassured that they aren’t buying stale coffee.
A best before date (which can be supplemented by lot coding) will work, too. You can always leave a blank space when printing your bags and go back to each bag when packaging. Make sure this space is clear of any background noise that makes it hard for people to read what you’ve written. A white space works best if your custom coffee bag design has a background image or pattern.
The roast date’s relevance points to the coffee’s freshness—how long it’s been sitting around after it was roasted. In the case you would prefer to add the best by date, the specific roast date is usually either 6 months or 1 year prior to the expiration.
Unless for samples and smaller portions, and while it may be a bit pricier, invest in foil (aluminum) bags to preserve coffee well!
This does the job for about 4 weeks compared to an simple tie sealed stand up paper pouch that will enable your coffee products to get stale quicker. To make sure your customers enjoy fresh coffee, add a one-way degassing valve (this can be added to stand up pouches and not only gusseted bags) so that the carbon dioxide gas that is produced even after roasting is freely allowed to get out of the back while oxygen is kept out.
Use (Drip vs Espresso)
A great way to help your new coffee drinkers enjoy your product is to include its intended purpose. A big factor in bringing out the best flavor and aroma of your coffee products is coffee preparation. Drip, filter, or brewing, your specific varietals and roasts sometimes need to have specifications so that your customers are guided and know what to do.
If you are one of the specialty companies promoting “uni-roast” coffee, still specify that your coffee can be used for either drip or espresso preparation. If you don’t place anything on your custom coffee bags, new customers might feel intimidated and won’t assume how they should (and can) prepare your coffee product.
Including the roast level on your custom coffee bags can help customers define the character of the coffees they are purchasing based on their own preferences in terms of coffee vigor, acidity, or bitterness.
While some coffee aficionados may point out that this element is subject to different interpretations, include this and set your standards.
Customers will know that there will be inconsistencies across brands, as in, a roaster’s medium roast may equal another roaster’s light roast, but this particular detail imparts your brand’s unique offerings and sets a yardstick so that customers can try your other roasts to compare and find their favorite.
This particular information isn’t governed by standard terms. More often this information is seen on single origin coffees because, as you know, each roast from crop to crop can differ greatly and have distinctly different flavors. Do your best to describe the unique flavor and experience that your customers are in for so that expectations are met.
Getting creative with describing flavor notes can yield beautiful and accurate custom coffee bag detail information.
Remember to give emphasis and prioritize language that is easy to understand. Key terms such as “silky”, “fruity”, and “nutty” are far better than “ecto cooler” or “doughy” as they are easier to grasp and aren’t too vague or general.
Now that we’ve gone through the major information that will help build your coffee brand, let’s take a look at a mockup sample that one of our print design experts created.
This is a basic design. Clear, concise, and informative. You can see that this custom coffee bag mockup sells the product by including all relevant information, and by doing this customers are likely to determine what they are getting and what to expect from its contents.
MINOR INFORMATION – GOOD TO HAVE
This tells your customer how the coffee fruit was harvested and what was done to them until it is packaged in your custom coffee bags. As you know, processing methods can vary from farm to farm, but just specify if your coffee beans are “washed”, “honey” (“semi-washed”), and “natural”.
While it’s a good-to-have detail, some coffee aficionados can take cues from this and might purchase based on this chunk of info. For example, washed coffees tend to be brighter and cleaner in flavor, honey coffees are generally less acidic, and natural coffees are either nutty and chocolatey, or fruity and sweet. Regardless, these are context clues that the discerning coffee customer may look at.
This is a big determinant of flavor (acidity, bean hardness) and most coffee fans look for higher altitudes as delivering better in terms of bean quality. Some of our customers use elevation as a tool for coffee selection. Generally, higher altitudes deliver bright, acidic, and complex coffee flavor profiles, while lower altitude gives a mild and more simple flavor.
If you’re just starting and need a rule of thumb:
Above 1500 meters (5000 feet) is considered high elevation, while 1000-1400 meters (3200-4500 feet) is grouped low to moderate elevation for coffee growing.
Awards & Certifications
Adding this gives customers an idea of your brand personality and values. These awards and certifications are placed on coffee bag design artwork as official badges. Customers will know that what they are buying was grown, produced, and purchased in a certain way or under a certain arrangement, such as Fair Trade, Organic, Direct Trade, and Rainforest Alliance certifications. Examples of awards to highlight are Golden Bean, Good Food, and Cup of Excellence, which tell customers of the quality of your product.
Confused about the above?
ethicalcoffee.net explains certifications at length. Try to see what your coffee qualifies under and add these to your bags for good measure.
If you want to be specific and truly brand your coffee, indicating what varietal it is can emphasize how this detail can influence the flavors in each cup.
This matters because customers who have been following certain coffees know that some countries, based on their agricultural practices and environmental conditions, tend to have their own general coffee flavor characteristic. Climates in different regions make a coffee more distinct and sought after.
Specify region in conjunction with the origin country name of your coffee (such as Ethiopia Yirgacheffe), or list them individually after each other. Be sure to be consistent in naming so that your customers aren’t confused.
Farm or Washing Station or Cooperative
Anything that plays a major part in the care and production of coffee crops that deliver your coffee beans is definitely important and you can certainly include this.
Specific farms and co-ops, given their infrastructure and practices, would have yielded similar coffee quality and taste.
Especially for seasonal coffees, this identifier helps your customer hone in on their favorites and will give them a predictable factor to look for when these coffees are available.
Farmer (or Producer)
A big part of the success of your coffee is because of its distinct quality thanks to the farmer or producer of the specific coffee beans you are purchasing for your products. Not only does adding this detail give much needed credit to the people and place where the coffee is from—it also can be an element that sells your coffee if the farmer is especially renowned because of his or her excellent farming techniques.
Farmers are great partners that are also often figureheads in their communities and support a number of their local workers. Showing customers this ‘behind the scenes” detail also makes your brand story more real and powerful, giving people a more holistic view on your offerings.
While not commonly added to coffee bags, this info of course is telling of the freshness of your coffee products. Logically, fresh always tastes better, and some coffee fans do look to this detail to assure themselves of a more vibrant-tasting coffee. Of course some coffees tend to lose their vibrancy and flavor faster or slower than others, and definitely custom coffee bag quality is a crucial factor in ensuring coffee is preserved and protected against temperature, moisture, sunlight, and oxygen. However “baggy” coffee is usually associated with old crops and old coffee.
You can include the harvest date as a date range (such as x month to y month year) because not all trees ripen evenly on every part of a farm, taking a whole month for the entire batch to be picked and processed.
REMEMBER TO CHOOSE THE BEST CUSTOM BAG MATERIAL AND FORMAT TO FIT YOUR UNIQUE DESIGN CONCEPT.
Laminates also dramatically transform the final look of your custom bags. Gloss delivers vibrant colors and commercial-looking prints, while Matte (satin finish) gives a more high-end and elegant look with its subdued colors. Embellishments such as embossing, Spot UV (Spot varnish), and foiling make custom coffee bags an even more remarkable and unforgettable branding ally.
Getting the perfect packaging for your precious coffee products requires planning, a good eye, and a true passion for the craft.
If you’re just starting out, make an outline of all the information that you’d like to include, where they should go in terms of hierarchy, and what theme or design concept will favor your business or brand identity. Hire a designer if this is too much work for you–what’s important is that you do this step-by-step and with careful thought, taking fresh sets of eyes to check your design to see if there’s anything to add or remove.
It’s always tons of fun conceptualizing custom coffee bag designs! We wish you the best of luck with your exciting endeavor, and feel free to share your design concepts and how you’ve applied our guide once everything is brewing!
: EASY-TO-USE CUSTOMIZABLE COFFEE BAG ARTWORK
Need that extra push? Download these press-ready coffee design templates to help you get started on creating your own professional custom coffee bags!