What is the future of coffee pods?

The portioned coffee segment is very dynamic and fastest developing segment of the worldwide coffee market. According to Nielsen data from June 2013, the portioned coffee category continues to grow both in terms of volume and value (5.6 percent volume, 16.5 percent value across 26 markets.). The famous K-cup changed the way we consume coffee as well as our perception of packaging. K-cup is at the same time a single serving container and a cartridge, built to sustain high temperatures and to provide an appropriate air and moisture protection.  The question is, what type of effect will these single-servings have on the food industry in the future? As single-serving pod technology continues to post remarkable sales, it seems that this new food craze is here to stay. Green Mountain/Keurig has done a great job of introducing coffee consumers with the convenience of the single-cup brewing concept. Keurig convinced office consumers of the benefits, convenience, and variety of the Keurig brewing system at work and now these same consumers have begun to demand the same benefits at home.

Green Mountain has even tried to use an “anticompetitive lockout technology” with their Keurig 2.0 brewer. Reason? Rise in demand for coffee pods and an increasing number of cheaper, unlicensed K-cups from various manufacturers. This attempt backfired, only causing the rage of consumers who eventually found a way to “hack” the lockout system. In the end, even Keurig admitted that it was wrong trying to force the consumers to buy only licensed K-cups.

Attention in the single-serve market has tended to focus on the industry leaders such as Keurig and Nestlé Nespresso, but a host of companies in the supply chain for single serve coffee are also doing very well out of it. According to packaging companies, demand for K-cup packaging keeps rising.

Consumers’ tastes also evolve. More and more consumers are looking for high-quality coffee experiences and they want to find out more about the coffee they drink. Consumers come from being coffee drinkers to coffee connoisseurs.

For these coffee enthusiasts, quality is the biggest concern. Second is the cost of a cup of coffee, although consumers haven’t hesitated about paying US$0. 65 per cup, which equates to over US$30 per pound for a single cup. Some of them probably justify it by comparing the cup price to ordering coffee at Starbucks and other coffee houses. The third issue is throwing plastic in the landfill.

The actual challenge for the single-serve market is to find capsule materials that can be recycled, ensuring high efficiency during the brewing process and consistently high-quality coffee and a sustainable approach. Recently, some interesting packaging industry initiatives have been launched, aimed at the development of compostable single serve cup cartridges. Balancing environmental concerns with a need to package coffee and other beverages into hermetically sealed protective containers is a big challenge, but we can expect that in the future single-serve cartridges will be fully sustainable.

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After all, the consumers will have the last say.  If they become more concerned about the environment and are willing to put more effort into being green, then the capsules might end up in trouble.

Promoters of single-serving pod technology and machinery do have some arguments on their side. Pod machine users can save electricity by making single-serving hot drinks instead of using constant electricity to keep a pot warm for extended periods of time. Also, using single-serving pods means coffee grounds are being used more efficiently to extract more coffee from each bean. Promoters state that this is crucial because coffee beans need a lot of water to be harvested, and every time a cup of coffee does not extract as much coffee from the bean as possible, the water needed for that harvest has been wasted.

Single-serving pods have had a massive impact on the food and beverage industries already and have attracted many big-name companies that aim to capitalize on this surging movement. The next question for these companies, particularly single-serving pod creators, will be how they can cut costs to consumers and the environment in the future to keep the single-serving trend alive.

One of the ways to keep the trend alive is to invest in the best industrial lines required for primary and secondary packaging of K-cups. Unfortunately, we cannot make K-cups eco-friendly overnight, but by utilizing right packaging machines we can make the secondary packaging process more economic in terms of time and power saving, which will result in lesser environmental impact. If you are a K-cup manufacturer or a coffee brewer, read more about our TT – 50 K-cup packaging system.

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