In the specialty coffee market, product packaging plays a major role in influencing brand impression, encouraging consumer trial, and communicating differentiation. However, its most important job is to also provide protection for the coffee itself. This includes maintaining the coffee’s freshness and flavor profile throughout the supply chain and preventing damage during shipping.
In order to achieve this, coffee bags must be designed with strong barrier properties and be routinely tested to prove their effectiveness. In this article, we share three quality control tests for coffee packaging that you or your packaging supplier should be performing regularly to ensure your coffee is reaching the customer at peak freshness.
For coffee, it is especially vital that the beans stay fresh. Flexible packaging, like our CORNERSEAL®, BLOCKBAG™, back fin seal, and stand-up pouch, provide an airtight seal that protects coffee from oxygen and other elements like light, temperature, moisture, and aroma transfer. This helps increase the shelf life of the coffee and minimize product spoilage.
However, as with any barrier that protects against oxygen or other external influences, coffee bags and pouches must be routinely quality tested to ensure it is performing these essential functions. A poor seal or an inferior valve can quickly cause coffee degradation, resulting in a bad smell, taste, and overall customer experience.
Depending on where you are in your journey as a roaster, who performs the quality control testing for packaging can vary:
During a quality control test, the following components should be evaluated to ensure that they are functioning properly:
From packaging leaks to faulty valves, there are many factors that can impact the condition of your coffee bag and the product inside. The following tests can help you identify and solve quality issues before they become a larger challenge:
A roaster can check packaging for leakage in a variety of ways. No matter which method is used, all involve testing the seal integrity and ensuring that it is strong and will stay intact even during transit.
For roasters, the packaging process is not just the final step, but an extremely important one. Certain gases, like naturally emitted carbon dioxide, can actually enhance the flavor of the coffee, while oxygen can quickly cause it to degrade. For these reasons, it is important to quality control test the headspace area of the bags in order to understand exactly which gases are produced.
During this test, the headspace of the packaging is punctured with a needle and a headspace analyzer instrument is used to provide a thorough analysis of the quantitative gas concentrations. For coffee, less than 2% residual oxygen is ideal, with some levels of carbon dioxide and nitrogen, to ensure your coffee tastes fresh and has a long shelf life.
According to Packaging Digest, as much as 11% of unit loads arriving at a distribution center have some level of case damage. But while it is common, damaged packaging is a costly challenge both financially and logistically that is better prevented. In order to optimize shipping operations and to ensure your packaging is durable, a ship test can be performed.
In its simplest form, this test involves shipping cartons of coffee bags from Point A to Point B and then evaluating them for leaks and punctures, as well as other common issues. This simulation can help you determine which possible material changes to make to ensure your product is delivered to the warehouse or directly to the customer in pristine condition.
Quality control testing, while sometimes overlooked, is one of the most crucial elements of the greater packaging process.
As a flexible packaging innovator, we understand the importance of quality control testing and offer advanced testing methodologies to help you pinpoint issues and find solutions. The tests discussed here are standard for in-plant QA testing, but our Fres-co team can also provide more detailed analytical testing in our state-of-the-art lab. We also offer our customers ongoing education and training sessions to help you ensure your packaging machinery is producing packaging of the highest quality.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to quality control test your coffee bags, or would like to learn more about our products, machines, and services, we’re here to help. Contact us to learn more.
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