Honing your craft? Co-packers can help

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Contract packagers offer expanded services to niche tea and coffee brands growing market share. By Sean Riley

Last fall, PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, shared the basics on co-packing with Tea & Coffee Trade Journal readers (see “Choosing the Right Co-Packer” November 2018), touching upon how co-packers, or contract packagers, can benefit tea and coffee manufacturers. The column also highlighted the top considerations for choosing the right co-packer based on factors like company compatibility, size of production and special product needs.As co-packing capabilities continue to advance, the scope of brand expectations also evolves. For smaller artisan or craft brands making their first foray into the market or driving growth, co-packers can provide surprising benefits along the way.

Redefining the Traditional Co-Packer

The term “co-packer” refers to a manufacturing partner that helps a brand to package its product. In today’s industry, however, co-packers have outgrown the name. Instead of simply providing packaging, co-packers now often offer filling, bottling, boxing, labelling, and the like.

Services spanning from processing equipment to supply chain management equip co-packers with the proper tools to walk small- to medium-sized beverage brands through the manufacturing process. Many co-packers are able to provide these services due to their experience in working with a wide variety of brands across diverse markets. This broader perspective and the longer list of services on offer present immense value to craft tea and coffee brands that are in the growing stages and can benefit from seasoned expertise at every step of the way.

In the coffee realm, co-packers operate equipment for roasting, mixing and grinding in house. In the tea sector, partners can often handle loose tea and tea bags in the same facility and call out expertise for newer techniques like the cold pressing of tea leaves.

Across the board, the industry is experiencing a higher volume of co-packers willing to shepherd smaller beverage brands through processes including research and development, laboratory testing and quality control. When it comes to marketing and shelf appeal, many co-packers feature in-house package and graphic design teams that can guide the finished product.

Appealing to Artisan Labels

For smaller tea and coffee brands, it’s all about the blend. Special roasting and steeping techniques and exotic flavour profiles combine to create unique beverages that feel homegrown, yet expertly crafted. For brands gaining recognition for these distinct tastes and user experiences, the idea of passing private formulas to a third party may not be a welcome one. However, expanding co-packer capabilities may change their minds.

Many co-packers now tout customization as a key offering, highlighting their abilities to match brands’ uncommon flavour profiles and replicate signature experiences. For coffee brands, some co-packers can roast to detailed specifications, and for tea brands, measured fermentation and infusion of flavours and herbs can recreate small-batch beverages on a larger scale.

Co-packers also nurture the growth of smaller brands by offering lower minimums for production orders, helping to eliminate barriers for entrance to market. In the same vein, faster turnaround times and greater fulfillment priority for craft brands help even out the playing field in what is typically viewed as a larger brand’s market.

For tea and coffee companies in need of the vast resources co-packers now provide, the importance of weighing individual production requirements prior to entering a contract remains. Still, the increase in available services pushes the limits of traditional co-packing partnerships and provides a promising outlook for beverage brands looking to enhance their industry presence and production levels.

With the co-packing industry continuously advancing to meet the needs of consumer demands and market shifts, it’s critical for smaller tea and coffee companies to stay at the forefront of new developments.


Sean Riley is the senior director, media and industry communications for PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, based in Reston, Virginia, which represents more than 850 North American manufacturers and suppliers of equipment, components and materials as well as providers of related equipment and services to the packaging and procession industry. For more information, visit pmmi.org.

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