Chief Innovation Officer, Club Coffee
Segment Sales Director, AR Packaging
Vice President, Product Development & Innovation, Loblaw Companies
The latest innovation in coffee packaging from Club Coffee is set to roll out at grocers across Canada this fall.
Canadians’ love for coffee runs deep. It’s the number-one consumed beverage in this country, even more than water. And we rank fifth in the world for consumption per capita. Java fans have high standards when it comes to their brew of choice — not just in taste and freshness, but in their desire for environmentally-friendly packaging, too.
Embracing new sustainable packaging options
That’s where Club Coffee comes in. Though you may not recognize the name, it’s a key to the success of many of North America’s best-known coffee brands. As Chief Innovation Officer Claudio Gemmiti explains, “We’re the little guy behind the big guys. We’re proud to have the responsibility and trust of leading coffee brands to take care of their needs, from roasting the beans to packaging the final product. We have the expertise to help them grow their business through innovation. We understand consumer trends and translate them into new opportunities.”
High on that list of trends is the consumer desire for sustainable options that reduce plastic waste. Club Coffee has shown that it’s serious about tackling that challenge. In 2016, it introduced PürPod100™, the world’s first certified compostable coffee pod for the most common North American single-serve brewers. It was a resounding success, recognized with numerous awards for reducing plastic and coffee waste going into landfills.
That innovation was part of an overall Club Coffee circular economy-based approach that includes responsibly sourcing high-quality beans and designing sustainable, functional packaging. “From the CEO and president and all through the company, we’re committed to innovation,” says Gemmiti. “We invest in people and resources, and aim to be pioneers. We’re seen as leaders with a dedicated team of experts who are well-versed in coffee, packaging, and engineering.”
The beginning of a revolutionary new idea
Building on the success of the compostable pod, Club Coffee saw an opportunity in giving coffee lovers a new type of sustainable packaging to eliminate the multi-layered, plastic-lined coffee bags, plastic tubs, composite cans, and tins that had barely evolved in decades. Gemmiti recognized that Sweden-based AR Packaging had developed a packaging system called Boardio® that looked like it could be adapted to meet coffee needs. AR Packaging is recognized as a leader in packaging, with 30 plants in 13 countries and with deep expertise in creating sustainable, innovative solutions for its clients.
Collaboration between the two companies resulted in a packaging system that uses paperboard to deliver a consumer-preferred package that’s recyclable and ready for upcycling into other consumer goods —the epitome of a circular economy. Made from wood fibre from sustainably-managed forests, Boardio® ticks a lot of boxes for consumers (freshness, convenience, and paper-based, recyclable)while reducing the environmental footprint of packaged coffee.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Club Coffee has taken just 14 months to get the new packaging into production. “We’re confident that their launch of a completely new coffee packaging system in North America will inspire other companies to make a game-changing move towards a more circular society,” says Johan Werme, AR Packaging’s Segment Sales Director.
The intensified focus on plastic pollution in recent years creates a demand for new innovative packaging solutions, Werme notes. Club Coffee’s move to the paper-based Boardio® package meets those demands with minimized use of plastics and reduced carbon emissions while ensuring excellent consumer convenience and maintaining the excellent protection of the coffee. “Club Coffee is a textbook example of how to do a market introduction of a new packaging solution,” says Werme. “We enjoy our close collaboration with the Club Coffee team very much. Together, we can drive change.”
A powerful strategic partnership
Consumers will find coffee products in Boardio® packaging at Loblaw-owned grocery stores starting in October and rolling into 2022, according to Kathlyne Ross, Vice President, Product Development and Innovation at Loblaw Companies. Loblaws will be the first to introduce Boardio® to Canadian shoppers, using it for about 35 stock-keeping units (SKUs), including the coffee roster of President’s Choice® and no name®. The strategic partnership between Loblaws and Club Coffee makes groundbreaking developments like Boardio® possible. “It’s really the perfect marriage,” Ross says. “Club Coffee loves to be first in market for packaging innovations and we strive to be first in market for product innovations. It’s at the centre of everything we do.”
This isn’t the first time that Loblaws has teamed up with Club Coffee to shake up the category. It worked closely with Club Coffee on the creation of the PürPod100™ certified compostable coffee pods. That type of project is very important to Loblaws. “We have a long history of corporate social responsibility, trying to make a difference with our products — for the environment and for the consumer,” says Ross. “It started over a decade ago with sustainable seafood and has grown since.”
Consumers have made it clear that they want to use less plastic. “They’re looking for the total package,” Ross explains. “Not just what’s inside or whether they’re enjoying it but knowing that President’s Choice®, for example, is a brand they can trust. They can feel safe knowing that they can throw an empty coffee package in the recycling bin as easily as a milk carton without having to pull it apart. It’s a much clearer message and offers ease of use — something they’re looking for from our products.”
Loblaw stores sell tons of coffee, literally, so this shift to paper-based packaging is expected to have a significant impact because of the sheer volume. The retailer could divert over 500,000 pounds a year from landfills with this initiative. Until Boardio® hits grocery shelves, the excitement is building among the partners involved. “It’s going to be fantastic,” says Ross.