We sat down with Mark Zhou, the founder and CEO of MTPak Coffee, PRF 2021 Gold Sponsor.
MTPak Coffee is a company that specializes in coffee packaging for the specialty coffee sector. They support roasters and retailers worldwide with customized solutions while encouraging equity and best practices throughout the supply chain.
WHAT ARE MTPAK COFFEE’S MAIN OBJECTIVES FOR 2021?
We’re focusing on improving sustainability in the coffee supply chain. As a coffee packaging company, we firmly believe we must join the discussion and actively support coffee professionals. Food and beverage packaging has a huge impact on the environment. Although flexible packaging can have a lower impact if well-produced and managed, it still is a contaminant. We are gradually heading towards greener alternatives, but developing 100% eco-friendly, yet effective bags and pouches for roasted coffee beans everywhere around the world remains a challenge.
Working closely with coffee roasters has allowed us to better understand the needs and demands of our clients. This is another important goal, that is, establishing strong relationships in the specialty coffee sector.
HOW DOES MTPAK COFFEE SUPPORT COFFEE ROASTERS AND CONNECT WITH OTHER STAKEHOLDERS ACROSS THE COFFEE SUPPLY CHAIN?
Meeting coffee roasters at events or visiting our clients was an important part of our strategy to strengthen relationships. However, 2020 forced us to explore other ways, such as social media and virtual events. These platforms have helped us greatly. Not only did we open conversations with roasters worldwide, but we also had the opportunity to engage with producers who are also roasting their coffees and importers/exporters interested in customizing the packaging of their samples.
We’ve been supporting all these stakeholders across the coffee industry with the design, printing, and production of customizable flexible packaging. Packaging is key when promoting your brand and protecting coffee beans. However, it also helps customers connect with the product and all the people behind it, particularly during lockdowns, when many consumers cannot discuss a coffee’s origin or profile with baristas or roasters. We’ve been offering tips on how to compensate for this lack of contact, from what type of information can be included on the bags to smart packaging systems (like QR Codes).
HOW IMPORTANT IS SUSTAINABILITY IN THE COFFEE INDUSTRY? HOW DOES MTPAK COFFEE WORK TOWARDS IMPROVING THIS ACROSS THE SUPPLY CHAIN?
As packaging designers and manufacturers, we focus on lowering the impact of coffee packaging on the environment, while also offering quality, accessible, and tailor-made products. We think a commitment to sustainability shouldn’t focus only on how coffee is produced and sourced, but also on how it’s packed, roasted, and distributed. Lightweight flexible packaging can be a great solution in this sense. Additionally, our team of researchers is constantly looking for and testing new, eco-friendly materials. Our green bags are made of kraft paper, rice paper, LDPE, and PLA. They’re recyclable and/or biodegradable.
HOW CAN ROASTERS ADD VALUE TO THEIR SPECIALTY COFFEE THROUGH A FOCUS ON THE PACKAGING?
There are several ways coffee roasters can differentiate their products through customized packaging solutions. Since last year, we’ve noticed a need to develop bags that are visually appealing both on shelves and online shops, as well as effective and attractive when home-delivered. This means paying close attention to the bag’s design, structure, and purpose. It’s always necessary to discuss these points with the packaging manufacturer, as we might be able to share ideas or give suggestions, such as how to make bags more lightweight for coffee shippings.
YOU’VE RECENTLY LAUNCHED THE MTPAK EDUCATION CENTRE. WHY DO YOU THINK IT’S SO IMPORTANT TO SHARE KNOWLEDGE IN THE COFFEE SECTOR? WHAT IS THE VALUE OF COFFEE EDUCATION?
Our Coffee Education Centre is not only focused on topics about packaging, but it also gives tips and insights for coffee roasters and other professionals. We think it’s important to gather information and share it with the community if we want the coffee sector to grow and improve. As long as there are transparency and honesty, we can see a domino effect in the coffee supply chain: when cafés and roasters thrive, we thrive, importers and exporters thrive, producers thrive.
Photo credits: MTPak Coffee