How sustainable is bag-in-box for cold brew?

The demand for cold brew has exploded in coffee shops around the world. By 2025, the value of the global cold brew market is set to increase by over $1 billion. This represents a staggering compound annual growth rate of 26.44%. 

One reason that cold brew is so popular is because it’s relatively straightforward to prepare. But, despite its simplicity, choosing the right packaging for your cold brew is essential. Brands have several options when it comes to packaging cold brew, including bag-in-box options, flexible spout pouches, cans, and bottles. 

Ultimately, the goal should be to invest in cold brew packaging that is safe, advantageous to the company, convenient for customers, and eco-friendly. One of the more creative forms of packaging to enter the cold brew market are bag-in-box options, or BiB. 

The unique shape of these boxes can be a highly effective way to engage customers and encourage sales while creating intrigue around the product or brand. But how sustainable are they? 

To learn more about the growing popularity of bag-in-box packaging for cold brew, I spoke to Ross Hindle, the group COO at PDG Global

Bag-in-box solutions: Offering cold brew on tap 

Introduced by William R. Scholle in 1955, bag-in-box packaging solutions were created to protect chemical products, such as battery acid, from fill through to end-use. Today, it’s also used to preserve, protect, and transport liquid food and beverages such as cold brew coffee. 

Essentially, BiB for cold brew combines an effective barrier bag with a strong, protective, paper-based exterior, which is usually a box. The bag sits inside the box, and features a convenient tap to dispense the beverage while preventing oxygen from entering the bag. Notably, the box will often have a perforated cut out where the tap comes out, or the tap and bag will be sealed directly to the box. 

This packaging solution can be an effective way for a brand to stand out by offering cold brew “on tap” in bespoke, multi-serve packaging. Beyond this, spout boxes provide extended freshness and longer shelf life thanks to aseptic packaging technology, which helps to maintain the products optimal nutrients, flavours, and textures. 

Brands can benefit from bag-in-box packaging in a variety of ways, including:

  • Flatpacked, lightweight materials reduce transportation and storage costs
  • Easier stacking and a cleaner shelf presence
  • Fully customisable with maximum space for branding opportunities
  • User-friendly dispensing
  • Better for the environment. 

Is it the best option for your business?

As the COO at PDG Global, Ross oversees the sales and operations for Perfect Daily Grind, the only trilingual publication in the coffee industry. “I would say that bag-in-box is a prominent packaging type for cold brew in the UK. It’s especially popular with larger coffee roasters.”

“We’ve already seen it in the food and beverage sector,” he adds. “If you look at wine, bag-in-box has had quite a significant impact in an industry which has traditionally used rigid packaging.” He adds that it’s also an incredibly versatile packaging product, as it “allows for both RTD cold brew, which has already been brewed to the desired ratio, or concentrates–both of which are becoming increasingly prominent.”

It’s important to consider your distribution channel before deciding if it’s the best solution for your business. For instance, supermarkets and convenience stores are likely to stock cans and bottles, to cater to the consumer demand for convenience.

When looking at coffee shops, bars, and restaurants, however, Ross believes BiB and flexible coffee pouches would be more valuable. “Bag-in-box is great when you need to dispense a large volume of cold brew ad hoc,” he says. In a bar, for instance, he explains the convenience of dispensing a shot of cold brew concentrate to create cocktails. 

Customisation is another essential point to consider, as well as “the received growth of coffee as an ingredient rather than necessarily being a star of the show,” Ross points out. “People increasingly want cold brew mixed with a wide variety of plant-based milks and flavour syrups. For instance, they’re likely to want a salted caramel oat draught latte in a can rather than an anaerobic fermented Panama geisha.”

RTD is a representation of the younger market’s desire for instant gratification, and he firmly believes cold brew overlaps that. 

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How sustainable is bag-in-box for cold brew?

Between the 1970s and the 1990s, plastic waste generation more than tripled, reflecting a similar rise in plastic production. Today, society produces about 400 million tonnes of plastic waste every year.

BiB packaging solutions appeal to eco-conscious business owners and consumers for several reasons: 

  • Aseptic filling processes prevent contamination, helping to prevent waste and maintain the highest product quality.
  • Studies found BiB packaging has a lower carbon footprint than 750ml glass bottles and shows the best results in terms of global warming potential.
  • The multi-material barrier helps to keep products fresh longer, reducing food waste. 
  • The materials can be separated, composted, or recycled. 

Interestingly, research shows that BiB packaging is not among the plastic products frequently found on beaches or littered in the environment, such as PET bottles. Notably, it’s usually consumed at home and disposed of in a dustbin after use. It is not individual packaging consumed on-the-go, therefore the risk of polluting a forest or a beach is limited.

More so, compared to other packaging types, the water and energy consumption for BiB production is relatively low. In a 2010 study, BioIntelligence found that bag-in-box showed the best results in terms of water and energy consumption.

At Cold Brew Pak, we offer fully customisable BiB cold brew packaging solutions. With our ergonomic on-tap dispensing system, our innovative bag-in-box packaging will dispense almost every drop of your product to ensure customer satisfaction. 

The interior bag has a highly resilient film structure, while the corrugated kraft paper box provides unparalleled drop protection, and ease-of-use. Plus, our BiB packaging options are fully customisable, ensuring they can be tailored exactly to your brands specifications. 

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About the author

Victoria is a highly experienced content creator, writer, and editor based out of South Africa. With the experience gained by working in newsrooms and writing for lifestyle magazines, she is now focussed on creating insightful and relatable content for the specialty coffee community.