Breaking down the pros and cons of cold brew pouches

The specialty coffee industry thrives on innovation, ingenuity, and creativity. The thriving cold brew coffee sector embodies all these qualities, which are likely the propelling force behind its popularity. Notably, cold brew coffee has seen a 45% increase in sales since the beginning of 2023 alone. 

Ready-to-drink coffee options, such as cold brew pouches, offer consumers efficiency and convenience. They also allow brands to engage with a larger customer base, potentially strengthening brand identity and product appeal. Flexible cold brew pouches have transformed the storage and consumption of this beverage and its concentrated companions. 

Offering cold brew coffee in pouches can help brands meet escalating demand. That said, they must determine the pros and cons associated with this packaging format, as it may not suit the business model. 

To learn more, I spoke to Christabel Cher, the co-founder of Singapore-based Wake The Crew Coffee

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Why you should invest in flexible cold brew packaging

Flexible packaging has been used for decades for both whole-bean and ground coffee. In addition to being affordable, convenient, lightweight, and hygienic, it offers brands a versatile surface on which to print their designs and attract customers. For cold brew coffee, more traditional, rigid packaging, such as glass bottles, can restrict a brand’s ability to meet escalating demand. 

Cold brew pouches have shown up and dominated the space. Crafted from lightweight and durable materials, they provide ideal solutions for transporting and storage. Beyond this, flexible pouches are often made using recyclable plastics to meet sustainability demands. 

Christabel explains how using flexible cold brew pouches has helped the brand reduce shipping and storage costs, as well as its carbon footprint. “We previously used glass bottles for our cold brew but shifted to flexible packaging mainly to facilitate export,” she says. “Flexible pouches are durable and much lighter, which greatly reduces storage costs, transportation costs and reduces our carbon footprint.

“Furthermore, they protect the cold brew from both air and light, which are the main two factors in maintaining the quality of our cold brew from the factory gate to our end customer,” she adds. 

The lightweight nature of cold brew pouches naturally lowers shipping costs. For instance, the space required for one glass bottle can accommodate ten cold brew pouches. Pouches for cold brew also drastically reduce waste as they collapse after use. Beyond this, they often boast resealable closures, helping to maintain freshness and extend shelf life. 

“Our shift to flexible packaging is also because of the need to sterilise our cold brews before shipping them out, which eliminates the need for cold chain transport hence providing both cost savings and simplified logistics,” Christabel explains. 

Understanding the pros and cons of cold brew pouches

One of the major benefits of flexible pouches for cold brew is that they offer a platform for creative marketing strategies. Research continues to show that the dimensions, materials, design, and typography of product packaging can influence customer perceptions and choices. By using distinct graphics, logos, and messaging, companies can carve out a unique identity for their cold coffee offerings, enhancing their appeal to consumers. 

Brands that invest in cold brew pouches can use the packaging’s unique form to attract attention. At a time when standing out on the shelf is more challenging than ever, shaped pouches for cold brew can be a convenient and versatile way to boost sales. Flexible cold brew pouches can be customised to any shape, size, and colour, which will attract attention and reflect the distinct characteristics of the beverage inside. 

Beyond this, the benefits of cold brew pouches include:

  • A spouted design that facilitates hassle-free pouring and enhances the overall user experience. 
  • A specific design that uses as little material as possible, ensuring a high packaging-to-product ratio.
  • Reduced packaging weight and space requirements that contribute to a more sustainable supply chain and align with growing consumer preferences. 
  • Extended product shelf life
  • Minimal exposure to oxygen, light, and moisture.
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Cold brew pouches: Potential drawbacks

Any major business decision requires analysing any drawbacks. So it’s important to consider whether switching to cold brew pouches is right for your business’s needs. While cold brew pouches offer what seems like endless advantages, they’re not without their drawbacks. 

For example, one limitation of pouches is that they work better with ready-to-drink beverages than concentrates. Unlike juice pouches, which have been designed for direct consumption, cold brew pouches are often used for concentrated solutions. 

This limitation arises from the nature of cold brew coffee, which necessitates dilution with water or milk before consumption. That said, this can also be considered an advantage, as concentrates offer greater flexibility in flavour customisation and prolonged shelf life. 

Christabel weighs in again on the drawbacks she has seen at Wake The Crew when switching to cold brew pouches.“While flexible pouches are durable, there is still a risk of puncture during the transportation process,” she notes. 

“In order to ensure the goods arrive in good condition, we have to pack the pouches in sturdy boxes and cartons that will protect them. During the filling and sterilising process, the pouches may get distorted as well but with careful processing and quality control, there haven’t been any major issues thus far,” she adds. Clearly, to truly benefit from the cost and space-saving benefits of cold brew pouches, careful considerations must be made during filling and transportation. 

Despite any challenges that may arise, cold brew pouches offer many major benefits that cater to both consumer preferences and industry standards. From a health and safety standpoint, pouch packaging ensures the integrity of the product, shielding it from external contaminants, and UV radiation. This preservation extends the shelf life of cold brew coffee and concentrates, reducing the risk of spoilage and ensuring freshness until consumption.

Furthermore, concerns regarding the recyclability and environmental impact of pouch packaging may arise. While many pouches are made from recyclable materials, the complex multilayer structures and spouted designs can pose challenges for recycling facilities. However, advancements in sustainable packaging solutions are addressing these concerns and paving the way for a more environmentally friendly future.

With 78% of consumers admitting that a sustainable lifestyle is important to them, thus, impacting their consumer decisions, there’s never been a more vital time to ensure your packaging is built sustainably. 

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About the author

Holly Szakal is a Melbourne-based copy and content writer and is deeply immersed in her city's vibrant specialty coffee culture. She infuses the rich aromas of the specialty coffee scene by delivering compelling narratives on the industry's current events.