In last month’s blog, “The Artisan Pod” we shared the advantage of on-site packaging, namely capturing coffee at its’ peak flavor to the point of rivaling the classic pour-over. This month we outline a strategy for taking the next step…
A – Why do K-cups?
One answer is profit. Given that a pound of coffee will yield around 40 pods, it is not hard to see that the return will approach 3X on that pound. While coffee shops are fun places, what is that customer drinking when in the office. Perhaps a customer that enjoys your coffee asked that you package it in pods so they can enjoy the coffee at home
Single serve pods are very convenient and show no sign of going away.
B – Environmental Impact
The are several choices of pods that refer to themselves as eco-friendly. Some require disassembly. The only one recognized by the FDA are pods that are certified compostable using commercial facilities (or equivalent) and pass tests specified ASTM.
Typically, these pods are made from polylactic acid (PLA), a material derived from corn starch. While compostable, the material is somewhat difficult to work with, and the basic ingredients are expensive. The net is the pods cost more and tend to slightly deform after usage.
Given the emphasis on plastic clogging our landfills and polluting our oceans, it is just a matter of time before plastics are universally banned. For now, the use of 100% compostable pods is a sales advantage worth exploiting.
C – On-site packaging vs co-packing
To produce that WOW cup of coffee, a tight relationship must exist between roasting and packaging, which mandates the operation be on-site. Added to the cost of the packaging materials (in the ballpark of $ 0.15 ) one has to consider a machine purchase.
In contrast, co-packing involves a purchasing a custom lid at perhaps $3K and paying around 40 cents per pod (sans coffee). Add the coffee and the custom lid, we are talking of 50 cents per pod. The gorilla in the room, however, is the 2X transport cost. That will erode the profit and practically speaking will restrict co-packing to local roasters. However, for those local roasters, co-packing is an attractive alternative.
D – Packing system selection
Systems range from simple sealing machines costing several thousand to around $100K and beyond for fully automatic machines that requiring pneumatic controls, commercial power, and space. To a great extent, “you get what you pay for”.
Things to consider…
production rate- Low utilization of a high production rate machine would probably be as costly as a high utilization of a low production machine. The answer is somewhere in between. In either case, the machines should not be left unattended. Balancing machine cost, labor, and production need will provide the answer.
Flexibility- Sometimes one wants to package just a pound or so,. Other times, production is the goal. Can the machine accommodate both modes with minimal hassle?
Ease of Operation- How easy is the machine to operate. Consider the ease of cleaning and sterilizing coffee bearing containers. How intuitive is the operation? To what extent is the machine protected from operator “goofs”?
Safety- The forces and temperatures involved in a production machine can cause serious burns. A misplaced finger can be crushed or severed. Safeguards must be employed to avert those accidents. Could an errant computer cause a fire
Diagnostic Aids- Most sophisticated systems are computer driven. The use of that computer to aid problem diagnosis reduces service time.
Reliability & Serviceability- Given production stress, all machines will ultimately fail. Easy access to failed parts is important. The time to get replacement parts is time that a machine is not producing a profit.
E – Summary
Designers of machines do so with an objective in mind: to match the needs of a particular user. Thus, the machine is designed to be optimum for that user. For those that don’t value a particular quality feature, the machine is apt to be seen as too expensive. For those that are are looking for higher production rates and fully automatic operation, we fall short. For those in the middle, hopefully, we are “just right”.
The GORBY 1000 is designed with the Specialty Coffee Roaster in mind and attempts to package a quality pod at an affordable price and in an earth-friendly manner.