Until recently, it has been difficult for coffee roasters to claim that their one-way/degassing valve pouch packaging has been sustainable for ecologically-conscious consumers who want to buy less single use plastic and recycle or compost more of their packaging. But new advances in pouch materials now mean that both coffee pouches and the one-way valves that go with them can now be composted. Read on to find out more.
By using food pouches, manufacturers of food snacks, drinks such as tea and coffee, pet foods, supplements and vitamins and a whole range of other goods have access to a fantastic and versatile form of flexible packaging. The pouches are easily customised to display brand logos and colours in many shapes and sizes.
These pouches are, in general, loved by consumers because they are easy to carry, ideal for consumption on the go and can – where appropriate – be opened and resealed to keep the contents fresh for an extended period.
They are equally popular with retailers. As an example, coffee pouches sit well and attractively on supermarket shelves to entice shoppers. They are light and cost-effective to transport and store in bulk quantities.
Pouch production has also evolved to become ultra-efficient with digital printing, so that even small quantity print runs can be accommodated cost-effectively, while multiple SKUs can be produced easily on a single print run.
Yet versatility, cost-effectiveness and convenience are not the only benefits of our coffee pouches.
The ongoing development of new and innovative materials (see our page on pouch materials here) means that – while not all substrate materials are yet fully sustainable – many types of pouches can be recycled along with other household recycling or in specialist recycling facilities, or, as is increasingly the case, disposed of by composting.
Why coffee packaging needs to be sustainable
Most consumers and manufacturers know that single-use plastic is a major problem for the whole world. We simply throw too much plastic away, yet surveys show there is significant desire to move to more sustainable forms of packaging.
Producers of coffee and tea are no exception in this, not least because they are among the highest volume producers of product that retails in small quantity packaging, much of which has, until recently, been disposable.
For coffee roasters in particular, the move to sustainable and ecologically sound production has evolved from “Fair Trade” sourcing, to organic growing, to a more recent drive for sustainable packaging.
With the necessary requirement for large bulk transportation of coffee beans from the countries where the raw coffee is harvested, coffee producers need to find other ways in which to make their coffee more sustainable.
Why do compostable pouches work for coffee roasters?
Before going further, it’s worth covering the key requirements for coffee pouches:
- Quality maintenance: the number 1 requirement for coffee roasters is to maintain quality and to preserve freshness, as well as consistency and aroma of the packaged product. Coffee packaging must keep out any kind of moisture, oxygen, light and heat. If there is a breach, the coffee’s quality would be impacted and it would lose its taste and freshness.
- Ensuring product longevity: coffee pouches must keep the contents fresh, of course, but they must also do it for extended periods so that from roasting source to supermarket or other retailer and then on to kitchen cupboard, the coffee product’s enduring shelf life is assured.
- Aroma testing: coffee is one of the few packaged products where the product’s aroma can be used to attract and engage consumers, allowing them to make a purchase selection based on its aromatic appeal. This is where the one-way valve again comes into its own, yet in such a way as not to compromise either the coffee’s quality or longevity.
The importance of the one-way valve
As well as protecting coffee from the effects of oxygen, light and moisture, pouch packaging must also allow the escape of carbon dioxide which is released by coffee after roasting.
A natural bi-product of the coffee post-roasting, carbon dioxide is released gradually by the beans. Without a release, the gas could build up in the package, causing it to bloat and either tip over or even worse split, thereby ruining the contents.
Considering the lifecycle of the coffee from roasting to the point of purchase and use, which could be weeks or indeed months, it is vital that the pouch must feature a one-way degassing valve to allow the gas to escape, thereby ensuring the coffee’s, quality and longevity.
The degassing valve was introduced by an Italian manufacturer called Goglio in the 1960s, when neither recycling nor sustainability were the core issues that they are today. At the time, it revolutionised packaging in the coffee industry.
Why? Because it allowed coffee roasters to use flexible packaging without having to worry that their product would burst or oxidise.
Today, most one-way/degassing valves are manufactured from flexible, low-cost plastic and applied to the pouch in an unobtrusive position so as not to disrupt branding. That said, the fact that they are made from plastic means that even if the rest of the coffee pouch is compostable or recyclable, the valve has until now presented a problem for recycling and composting.
Recent advances in pouch materials and packaging technology now mean that both the pouch and the one-way valves used on them can be composted.
How can Readability help?
To incorporate digitally printed and compostable one-way valve coffee pouches into your coffee roasting packaging activities, speak to us – the packaging experts at Readability.
We can talk you through all the options available and help you to address all the issues you may be facing with digitally printed pouch design and manufacturing. Whatever your problem, or whatever your desired volume, we are happy to help.
For great ideas and to discuss using digitally printed pouches compostable pouches as part of your coffee roasting business, talk to Readability and we’ll be delighted to help. Contact us today.