Let’s be honest: looks matter. While a coffee bag’s visual elements have no effect on the roasted beans inside, design can certainly influence consumers when they make a purchase. Bags have a big job; they’re responsible for conveying information about a coffee’s origin and producer, how the coffee was processed, as well as information about the roaster, roast date, tasting notes, company values . . . the list goes on. Pack too much information on a bag and you’ll overwhelm people. Leave out important details and you might lose a purchase—or even a customer.
Thanksgiving Coffee, based in Fort Bragg, California, recently redesigned its bags, cognizant of the impact branding has on customer perception. “The first big thing that I took on was changing the perception of our name,” says Marchelo Bresciani, the company’s in-house brand manager. He says Thanksgiving has always fought confusion from customers who associate the brand with the holiday rather than the act of giving thanks, so communicating “thanksgiving” as a verb was top priority in the redesign. Bresciani opted to break up the name on the bags, putting “Thanks” and “Giving” on separate lines to help make the distinction. “People are getting it; they see that it’s about giving thanks with coffee” he says.
Thanksgiving Coffee worked with Pack Plus (out of Chino, California) to produce their new block-bottom bags. The bags are custom printed for the company’s two most popular coffees: Noyo Harbor French (fair trade and organic) and French Roast. Bresciani designed labels for Thanksgiving’s other coffee selections, which are attached to one of the pre-printed bags.
While roasters like Thanksgiving have been around for decades and have the budget to launch a custom bag, many roasters are limited in their design choices. Putting together a custom-printed, fully compostable, zipper-seal bag isn’t cheap, and is often unrealistic for new roasters—especially with a standard minimum of 10,000 bags. Josh Bonner, owner of Foxy Coffee in Portland, Oregon, says an order that large was out of the question with its $5,000 price tag. “My budget was fifty dollars,” he says.
While Foxy graduated from brown kraft bags, their stand-up pouches still feature a paper finish with printed sticker labels. Bonner says this makes it difficult to partner with some multi-roasters, who will only supply coffee from roasters that use fully printed bags—purely for the aesthetics.
How do you go about designing packaging that says enough, but not too much? How do you convey your values in a succinct, attractive way? We talked with bag manufacturers and roasters—many who have recently launched a new design—to get insight into the process of making the perfect bag.
Let’s unroll that tin tie.