Carbon-cutting coffee bags trim costs

Linda Casey

January 30, 2014

4 Min Read
Carbon-cutting coffee bags trim costs

Founded by Phyllis Jordan in 1978, PJ's Coffee of New Orleans prides itself on the precision roasting of its coffee beans. “One of the key things when it comes to roasting coffees is not going so dark with the roast,” PJ's Coffee lead roaster Felton Jones explains. “There's a fine line that if crossed, then you've gone too far. There's another fine line that if it's not crossed, then you haven't gone far enough. Roasting in small batches allows us to be able to better control that.”

After roasting, PJ's Coffee protects the flavor of its beans with short-turnaround packaging. “There's no better way to capture freshness than with a two-week shelf life,” he emphasizes. While these micro-roasting and short-turnaround packaging processes might produce excellent cups of Joe, they also can add up to more than a few dollars.

Pressed by costs, eco-concerns

Like many other industries, coffee retailers are under pressure to implement sustainable business practices. PJ's Coffee already had started using greenware cups in its retail stores, when the franchisor was approached by Sonoco ( with new form/fill/seal bags that touted lowered carbon footprints. The bag's three-layer structure is composed of polyester, foil and a polyethylene sealant. This allows Sonoco to use 10 percent less material, 15 percent less energy and produce 10 percent less carbon emissions when manufacturing the bags when compared to a traditional four-ply structure.

The new bags also hold twice as much coffee as PJ's previous packaging, which held a half pound of beans. This has reduced the amount of packaging tape, stretch film and corrugated boxes PJ's Coffee uses to ship coffee to its chain stores. “We shipped roughly 4,500 to 5,000 cases/month to our chain stores,” Jones explains, “and we've had a cost-savings of somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 cents per case.”

Because of the cost-savings, PJ's Coffee has been able to buck the trend of restaurants and food-and-beverage retailers raising prices to cope with increasing costs. “Because of the decrease in materials costs, we were able to pass along some of the cost savings to our customers,” Jones says. “We had a slight decrease in our retail pricing.”

Celebrating Crescent City culture 


Hurricane Katrina took approximately 30 percent of PJ's Coffee stores in the New Orleans area when it ravaged the city in 2005, but the storm also brought a renewed city pride for the coffee retailer. PJ's Coffee became active in the movement to return New Orleans to its former splendor: It launched Kids Drop, a donation program where people were encouraged to donate toys, clothes, nonperishable food and books to children affected by the hurricane; and Preservation Blend, a limited-edition coffee that was used to raise funds for relief efforts. The company also expanded its moniker to include “of New Orleans” and hired a local advertising agency to redesign its coffee bean packaging. “We wanted our bags to be a direct reminder of the city's history and culture,” Jones explains. “We really want to put the taste of home on our bags.”

To create the award-winning packaging, Innovative Advertising ( used illustrations of the Canal Street Trolley, Jackson Square Chapel, Bourbon Street Jazz Band and a Garden District antebellum manor. Sonoco printed the images using a laser-engraved, rotogravure printing process with matte finishing.

Pound packing effects on productitvity 

The  bags are filled with beans that have been processed on an Opus roaster from Cia. Lilla de Máquinas Ind. e Com ( A series 1500 f/f/s machine from Universal Packaging ( fills the packages at speeds up to 40 bags/min. Packed bags are placed into a carton by hand, and operators seal the cartons using a 3M ( 3Matic 200A adjustable tape sealer.

Since moving to the new bags, PJ's Coffee has experienced fewer problems during packaging “It wasn't that we had problems in the past,” says Jones. “It was just that the ease at which the bag moves across our machine is unbelievable. So we have a lot more problem-free manufacturing.”

As a result, the retailer not only has been able to increase productivity and control costs, it also has expanded its product line. When PJ's Coffee launched the new packaging, it used the bags for seven products. Today, the franchisor offers 26 varieties of coffee in the 1-lb bags.

More information is available:

Sonoco, 843/383-7794.

3M, 800/362-3550.

Cia. Lilla de Máquinas Ind. e Com., 55-11-6-422-7366.

Innovative Advertising, LLC, 985/809-1975.

Universal Packaging, Inc., 800/324-2610.

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