How the Small Coffee Roaster Can Enter the Single-Cup Market

July 15, 2014 | By Chris Burger

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How much do Americans love their coffee? Let me count the ways.

We often cap off a fine restaurant meal with a cup of joe, we frequently visit coffee shops, and we brew at home in French presses and drip makers. However, the fastest growing source of coffee is single-serve brewing systems. While this method was barely a blip on the coffee radar as recently as five years ago, 20 percent of adults now drink from a single-cup coffee brewer each day according to a poll by the National Coffee Association. That’s up from seven percent in 2010… less than four short years ago. Industry research also shows that in three or four years, the coffee pod market will grow 50 percent from its current size.

If you are a coffee roaster looking to expand your offerings, single-cups may be the way to go. However, there are several considerations before you proceed.

  • Co-pack or Self-manufacture: That is the Question — The most fundamental question is deciding whether to manufacture your cups yourself or to engage a third-party company to co-pack them for you. The notion of self-manufacturing is an exciting one, especially knowing that you may have total control over your product. However, this requires purchasing your own machine, which is a big financial and technical commitment. Co-packing companies are becoming more prevalent, serving even small roasters. However, this option can also come at a hefty price, so many roasters are choosing to start with co-packers until they build a volume large enough to justify the purchase of their own equipment.
  • Format of Your Product: There are several single cup formats from which to choose. They range from close mimics of existing products to capsules with no bottom cups. The most common format closely mimics the Keurig® format that includes a full cup with a paper filter.
  • Barrier Protection: As the single cup segment grows, so does the wide array of cup offerings. It remains very important for roasters to product their coffee from oxygen permeation with cups just as they do with bags. It’s particularly important to request an EVOH (ethylene vinyl alcohol) barrier to extend the life of the product. We are seeing a lot of non- cups that have no protection and thus no oxygen barrier. In addition, we see bulk packaging of unprotected capsules that once opened will stale fairly rapidly.
  • Speed of Your Machine: How many single-serve cups can your business support? There is a wide range of speeds available in cup-making machines, from 25 cups per minute to 1,000 cups per minute. Naturally you want to buy as much speed as you need and can afford. You may also want to consider a faster speed that will meet your future needs.

The single-serve market is a growing one that coffee roasters cannot ignore. Anyone should be able to take part affordably if you weigh all your options and pick the one that fits your budget.

Chris Burger of Fres-co System USA, Inc. is an experienced business leader in the coffee market. Roasters and other professionals are invited to contact Chris at

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