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The fast changing face of coffee packaging

coffee packaging

Cama Group discusses the fast changing packaging market, and why innovation and flexibility are key to differentiating in a competitive landscape.

Last year presented huge challenges for the global coffee market, but what it also revealed is new opportunities for growth as a result of consumer drinking habits that have the potential to be long-lasting.

To address some of these prospects and challenges, packaging and turnkey systems specialist Cama Group held a roundtable discussion in January on the topic, ‘What’s brewing in the coffee industry?’, inviting some of its global customers to share their learnings from the past year and how they plan to evolve to meet consumer demand.

Marco Ciaramelli, Chief Executive Officer of Beyers Koffie, a leading private label specialist for the European market, says the key word for his business is going to be “premiumisation”.

“There’s a need for our customers to differentiate from each other to distinguish themselves, and COVID has accelerated this process. The evolution in terms of spending is changing, and the ability to enjoy a premium coffee at home is becoming affordable,” he says. “The challenge for us is the speed of change, innovation and flexibility that is required. We really need to follow the market which is evolving quickly.”

Andy Fawkes, Managing Director of Masteroast Coffee in United Kingdom also shares the pressure of premiumisation. He says the industry is in a “very interesting place” with consumers steering away from soluble products to single serve options.

“[Single serve coffee was] once considered an ancillary product for particularly high-end hotels and has now become a major income driver in the retail and ecommerce space, with consumers on a journey of discovery for freshly roasted ground coffee that is accelerating fast in the marketplace,” Fawkes says.

“Coffee bags have really become a UK phenomenon. We were behind that development three to four years ago, which we initially drove in the food sector, but it’s also become a discovery platform for desirable home consumers as they move away from soluble coffee to freshly ground coffee. 

“The level of interest in single [serve] continues to astound us, and we’ve had to invest heavily to keep up with demand. Single serve and coffee bags are an easy, low cost platform, which made up 10 to 15 per cent of our overall volumes last year, and which we anticipate will account for 30 to 40 per cent of our volume this year. People are looking for quality products in all sectors of the market.”

Such demand has also meant working with customers and their ecommerce platforms to necessitate new levels of bulk packs, letterbox-friendly cartons, and cost-effective weight formats that take advantage of travel and transport changes. Cama Group is already putting Jamaica Blue, Kopi Luwak, and Geishas in capsule format.

As such, Masteroast Coffee works with Cama to apply flexible, short-run technology to its packaging lines with the ability to produce high quality products in multi formats to allow its customers to differentiate in a growing mass market. 

“A lot of the move towards premiumisation has demanded hand-packed products, designed to look like an artisan product that is professional and high quality but automated to volume and economy settings. We’re excited about this trend. There is also demand for smaller specialty runs rather chasing the economies of automation. Environmentally, it makes sense to be more productive, using less energy, but consumers are moving in the other direction and that will be the challenge.” 

Mark Modenbach, VP of Manufacturing at Pod Pack International, a United States-based company for the private label sector, has experienced a loss of opportunity in the hotel and office sector. However, he says extreme growth of single serve over the last several years in addition to retail products has been a welcome shift thanks to the global pandemic forcing more people at home. Modenback says Pod Pack International has had to shift how it responds internally to the demands of different formats and adjust equipment accordingly. 

“The consumer is willing to pay for convenience. As their taste changes, they also start looking to be eco-friendly in the products  hey use. Therefore, we need equipment that can handle our capacity with good quality, high production, and still keep up with demand with what’s new and emerging to give the consumer what they want, yet in a sustainable way,” Modenbach says.

As such, companies like Pod Pack International and Beyers Koffie are looking into the use of new packaging materials. 

“I think the key words in the future are ‘green and sustainable’. In fact, they are already the key words and it’s becoming crucial for our customers and for us, to offer these solutions,” Ciaramelli says. 

“I think what’s also going to change is the concept of how information will go out to the consumer. We are currently working on client blockchain technology to trace coffee, a path to give added value to the concept of green and sustainability which can trace [a cup of coffee] back to the origin country. [The consumer] will get input on what’s happening in the chain and the possibility to influence what’s happening. I think the evolution is really going in that direction, and that’s why a company like ours needs to evolve.”

Alessandro Rocca, Sales Engineering Director of Cama Group says it’s no secret that many customers are moving away from plastic to carton packaging options. To reflect this demand, Cama Group has a packaging department dedicated to creating different products and is ready to deliver on sustainable packaging options. 

These options are also on the agenda for Masteroast Coffee over the next two years. Fawkes says his company’s sustainable solution will be focused on offering lower food miles with slightly larger, greener pack formats for the B2C market. The company is also creating a high tech delivery fulfilment centre that can hold stock and complete fulfilment needs for customers in the B2B and B2C market through Application Programming Interface technology.

“Our branded customers will have access to a link, for example, which will connect direct to our warehouse, straight to a handheld data reader, pick the desired product and ship it the same day. The warehouse will take 2500 pallets purely to cope with demand,” Fawkes says. “The key is to deliver products to customers promptly, swiftly, and to take out the customer need for gathering inventory. This is really exciting for us.”

Another crucial element to the Masteroast Coffee plant and its level of flexibility on production efficiency is the support of suppliers for the installation of new lines and technology.

For this reason, Cama Group’s Rocca recommends Cama’s top loading and side loading technology. Top loading is great for flexibility to suit medium-to-high-speed lines with the option of several different packaging styles, in addition to the nested approach which is so commonly used. One example, Rocca says, is the ability to arrange capsules in a flower-type format, with four capsules face downwards and two face up. “It’s complex to realise but we have the technology that allowed us to achieve it,” he says.

Side loading is for faster capability but offers less flexibility in carton size and shapes. In one of Cama Group’s latest applications, it can package 1500 capsules per minute across two lanes.

“The major trends we’re seeing in terms of technology demand is customers wanting different format figurations to increase their output, followed by speed and flexibility,” Rocca says.

Of all the industries Cama Group serves, Rocca says coffee is the most dynamic in terms of product types, delivery and vending formats, and packaging styles, of which it supplies secondary and tertiary packaging equipment.

“We are excited by our industry 4.0 package, which customers will have the possibility to install on their Cama systems, with devices to measure energy consumption, and apply augmented reality and virtual reality by means of a tablet on front of the machine, in addition to more focus on maintenance and training,” Rocca says.

“Packaging in coffee is always on the go. We have a few challenges at this time, but we always work with our engineering department to discover new ways to address our customer needs, and we’re ready to do that.”

For more information, visit www.camagroup.com

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