Tchibo Develops Recyclable Film
Enjoyment with a clear conscience: Sustainable concepts are shaping trends in the breakfast market. Hamburg-based coffee roaster Tchibo is using a new packaging material, but also lets its customers buy their beans unpackaged.
Coffee remains the Germans' favorite hot beverage. The German Coffee Association has calculated that the average coffee drinker drinks 3.7 cups a day. In an international comparison, Germany's neighboring countries Luxembourg and the Netherlands lead the field in per capita coffee sales. The thirst for coffee as a pick-me-up and enjoyable beverage is increasingly being accompanied by the desire for sustainable consumption. The traditional Hamburg-based roastery Tchibo has also recognized this. The company has recently started offering a new recyclable packaging material for three of its coffee ranges.
The composites PET, aluminum, and PE commonly used for packaging coffee are complex to manufacture and difficult to separate into their individual components after use. So-called multilayer packaging was previously not recyclable, explains Anna Schütt, packaging expert and sustainability manager at Tchibo.
To make recyclable film possible, the plastics have been adapted so that they are recognized in the sorting process after disposal via the yellow garbage can. In this way, they are assigned to the correct recycling stream and remain in the material cycle. Successful test productions have been gradually introduced to the market since mid-2022 -– with very positive customer feedback, so that the project is now being implemented. For example, she says, the new film's machinability has been tested without any problems.
“Coffee is the supreme discipline”
“We are very proud, as one of the largest roasteries, to have now found this new recyclable and more environmentally friendly solution for millions of coffee packages each year – after intensive development work. This significantly reduces the coffee packaging's carbon footprint compared to the previous packaging – between 31 and 45 percent, depending on the range,” explains Dr. Ingo Lantz, Director of Research and Development, Quality and Technology at Tchibo. The new packaging continues to meet the high requirements for quality and aroma protection. And these are particularly demanding for roasted coffee because it reacts very sensitively to light, moisture, and oxygen, says Schütt. A highly functional barrier layer in the packaging is urgently needed, she adds. “Among packaging developers, coffee is the supreme discipline.” Developing a more sustainable solution that guarantees quality, freshness, and shelf life is correspondingly challenging, she says.
The new, more sustainable packaging will initially be used for three coffee ranges: Barista Espresso and Caffé Crema coffees, pods, and the Espresso and Caffé Crema range from mild to strong. Other ranges are to follow, the company says. With the new, reduced materials, Tchibo says it is saving a significant amount of CO2e compared to the previous packaging: according to the life cycle assessment by Nova Institut GmbH, the savings over the entire life cycle amount to 31 percent in the Barista range, 39 percent in the Caffé Crema and Espresso range, and as much as 45 percent for the pods.
However, the company also offers unpackaged goods in its stores. Those who buy coffee beans in bulk can transport them home with their own tin or packaging. Those who don't bring an aroma can can also get paper packaging on request, Schütt explains. However, she stresses that this barrier-free packaging is not suitable for longer storage, because in it the quality of the product is not guaranteed.
Tchibo has been working to optimize its packaging solutions for years: Through reduced material use, less packaging, reusable solutions, certified raw materials, and the constant improvement of the recyclability of the materials used. The goal, the company says, is to develop a closed loop for all packaging and to ensure that recycling is already considered during product development.