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Cold brew packaging: Which structures are popular & why?

The specialty coffee sector thrives on innovation, ingenuity, and creativity. One beverage that encapsulates all this is cold brew coffee. Brands around the world are constantly experimenting with coffee varieties and brew styles, and this diversity is a crucial driver behind the sector’s success. By offering ready-to-drink (RTD) cold brew, brands can profit from this growing industry while tapping into a wider audience. 

That said, they will have to consider which form of cold brew packaging is best for the local market. Additionally, brands must keep sustainability in mind, given the rise in environmental issues tied to packaging waste. 

So, which cold brew packaging structure is the most popular, and why? I spoke to Adam Holliefield, the cold brew manager at Coffee Support Co., and Stephanie Thornton, Senior Innovation Manager at Finlays, to find out.

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Navigating the most common forms of cold brew packaging

Cold brew coffee has risen from a small corner of the market to become one of the most popular trends across the specialty coffee sector. Notably, the US cold brew coffee market alone is predicted to reach a value of $944 billion by 2025. 

Stephanie, who has been with Finlays for three years, explains that Generation Z and Millennials still dominate the cold brew market. “They are very much our target consumers. However, we’re seeing cold brew coffee now entering mass quick service restaurant (QSR) chains, which tells me this is a mature category.” 

She adds the demographic at many of these QSRs is predominantly female. “And not just young women, but also moms,” she says, adding they’re also seeing more consumers from Generation X. “I attribute that to cold brew coffee having now contributed to the market so much that it’s almost becoming routine. So, by proximity [older generations] are seeing so many others buying this cold coffee that they’re starting to get on the bandwagon.” 

In the competitive realm of cold brew coffee, packaging choices can play a crucial role in brand identity and perception. Beyond this, the demand for sustainable packaging appears to escalate in tandem with the cold brew trend each year. Research shows that 63% of consumers are still inclined to pay extra for brands that show exemplary sustainability practices and use environmentally friendly packaging.

In recent years, coffee brands have been willing to adapt by investing in sustainable packaging alternatives to minimise the environmental impact of their products. 

Adam also acts as the director of cold brew operations and SQF Practitioner at Coffee Support. He explains that “the most common packaging type for cold brew depends on the market segment. For concentrates, bag-in-box (BiB) packaging is extremely common as it provides a good solution similar to the soda industry, where it can be diluted with water to make RTD cold brew.

Concentrates are also commonly packaged in resealable bottles so that users can pour a bit out at a time and keep the rest closed in their fridge,” he adds. “Concentrates can optimise the use of a packaging material. However, this often comes at the cost of a higher price per unit.” 

For RTD cold brew, however, Adam says, “Kegs are the most popular packaging type for supplying cafes and wholesale accounts with cold brew. For direct-to-consumer RTD, cans and bottles are currently the most popular packing type as they’re easy to fill and have a lower price per unit.” 

Trends that may influence cold brew packaging 

A trend that continues to grow is sustainable packaging and reducing a business’s environmental impact. “The carbon footprint from shipping is a pretty big challenge,” Stephanie says. She adds that, from a B2B standpoint, Finlays has renewed its focus on finding lightweight packaging options that take up less space. 

“This helps increase the affordability of our products. Consumers are choosing to purchase options that are considered conventional because it’s cheaper for them. This is why sustainability [in packaging] is so important.”  

“If we make sustainable packaging that cuts shipping costs, then they don’t have to make that decision,” she adds. “From the consumer standpoint, we want to find something that’s easy to recycle.” While there are several recyclable options available, several have to be manipulated in order to be processed correctly, which can be inconvenient to consumers. 

As with any emerging beverage market, there are still concerns around cold brew. These predominantly revolve around safety and, as Stephanie points out, the shelf life of sustainable packaging materials. “Some sustainable materials cannot contain the product well, and that diminishes shelf life,” she says. “The standard is between 6 and 12 months.” She adds that a lot of this is “uncharted territory,” and many of the materials Finlay has explored are currently unavailable in the US. “But this issue is going to be top of mind. I don’t think retailers will want a shorter shelf life, even if the material is more sustainable and lightweight,” she adds. 

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Which cold brew packaging is best for your business?

“To understand what packaging is best for a business, it is important to look at the scenario holistically,” Adam says. “One must start at the production level but then dive into every factor like storage capabilities, distribution efficiency, cost of materials, use of the material, labour costs, waste, and ease-of-use, to name a few.”

He adds that many cold brew coffee packaging solutions exist, so “a company should make an educated decision for the specific material that fits their scenario best.”

At Cold Brew Pak, we understand the importance of offering attractive, convenient, safe cold brew coffee packaging. We’re dedicated to transforming your business for the better. Guided by sustainability and safety, we’re empowered by pioneering technology to deliver high-quality, fully customisable cold brew coffee packaging solutions for your brand. 

Our cold brew packaging solutions include bag-in-box options, flexible spouted pouches, fully recyclable cans, and BPA-free bottles. Plus, we offer a range of customisation techniques to ensure your cold brew packaging perfectly represents your brand. 

Reach out to create your bespoke cold brew packaging today. 

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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.