Saturday, November 18, 2017 | Today's Vending Industry News
Packaging Is The Preface To The Message Your Coffee Conveys

by Brian Martell
Posted On: 7/20/2017

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Old-school coffee roasters have an obsession with their product. This is a good thing; whether it deals with the selection of the green, the blending of the beans or coaxing out the finest flavor development in the roasting process: the final proof has always been the taste in the cup.

The late Stuart Daw, the founder of Heritage Coffee Co. (and other notable coffee companies) as well as mentor to many in the industry, was perhaps the most eminent sage to fit this description. His skills, through the continuum of green to cup, have been unparalleled -- with the exception of Kevin Daw, his son, who carries on the tradition of fanatical attention to consistent quality.

In the genesis and evolution of coffee through both foodservice and OCS, the focus was always thus; and while cup quality is still the ultimate goal, it requires and deserves supporting actors on its way to the awards.

Without intentional hyperbole, coffee is a sensual luxury. It appeals to all our senses on a fundamental level: the sound of coffee grinding, the aroma that fills the air of freshly ground or freshly brewed coffee, the heat of the cup as it warms your hands and your lips; and, of course, the wonderful flavor that fills your mouth at the first and last sip.

But what of sight? In a world that has a proliferation of both cameras and screens, the sense of sight has become our predominant focus. To the coffee purist, the purpose of packaging was and remains another tool for attaining the primary goal: cup excellence. Its practical function has been to preserve the freshness of the product until just before brewing -- full stop. So little attention was paid to the visual component.

Coffee, to this day, is often packed in neutral gold or silver film webbing, especially when packed for the foodservice trade. Many of us remember learning in primary school that there are five senses. The truth is slightly different; that there are others that we all experience. And beyond the ones like a sense of balance and sense of inertia is perhaps the most human of them all: a sense of imagination. It is our imagination that is the catalyst for all progress as it allows us to dream beyond what we perceive of the physical world, limited by the original five.

We do this because, as a species, we are drawn to narratives. A good story resonates with the listener not just on an intellectual basis but also on an emotional one. Evangelists, revolutionaries and Dale Carnegie will all tell you that impelling someone to action requires more than an appeal to reason, it demands an emotional connection -- the creation of desire.

Using the "canvas" that is our packaging medium gives us the opportunity to connect with our customers on this level. We can create theater, even if only a one-act play, which honestly tells a story about the coffee, the company, or perhaps the most intimate aspect, the people behind the product.

Connecting with your customer base on what you stand for and believe: the story of why the coffee is so good, and/or how you fit into the larger scheme of the world, are all legitimate touch points. The science of emotion, and what triggers different responses in our psyche, transcends the aesthetic. Beautiful packaging is but a part of the equation. To convey the full meaning of the message requires a carefully crafted blend of image, color and copy.

I have heard it said (and perhaps am guilty of saying) that there is a legitimate reason for proper care to be taken when designing OCS packaging, but not so for foodservice.

There may be a kernel of truth to this but, consider the following: in any foodservice coffee interaction, there is typically an employee who deals with the actual consumer. In this instance, the subtle, non-verbal cues given during this interaction flow from provider to patron. Employees are also coffee drinkers and, if they have connected positively with the product on more levels than the paying customer can, this will translate favorably when the coffee is served.

The look and feel of your packaging is a calling card to your clients. The message we choose to convey should be carefully constructed to achieve what you would tell them if you were there in person to express it yourself.

Do you have comments, questions or feedback, or want to start a dialogue? Please email me at

BRIAN MARTELL is vice-president of sales for Heritage Coffee Co.'s Montreal-based Canadian division. Martell won the Canadian Automatic Merchandising Association's Customer Service Award for 2012, honoring his personal approach to customers. Martell is a recipient of the Don Storey Award (2008) and the Stuart Daw Gold Service Award (2010) and so is the first CAMA member to earn all three accolades.