The Coffee Ethic in Springfield, Missouri rolled out a design refresh with an emphasis on sustainability. Coffee offerings are now delivered in a beautiful box, enclosed in a compostable inner bag. “It’s been so cool to surprise folks with how beautiful sustainable packaging can be,” says CEO Michelle Billionis, “you know that feeling, when you pour an amazing cappuccino for a customer and their face lights up when you serve it? That’s how it feels every time we see someone experience our packaging.”

Billionis and the team at The Coffee Ethic spent months redesigning their whole-bean packaging and delivered something that’s sustainable, beautiful, and, for the small roaster, affordable. We spoke with Michelle Billionis digitally to learn more about the process, the design details, and their experience with the compostable Biotré 3.0 bags.

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Coffee Design is a feature series on Sprudge presented by TricorBraun Flex.

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Interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Tell us about the changes you made to your coffee packaging!

Our new packaging consists of an outer box made from fully recyclable paper that telescopes to reveal the inner bag.

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Our previous packaging was a simple semi-compostable bag with adhesive sticker labels. A pretty standard format that’s been the go-to within the industry for a long time. There’s disturbingly few sustainable bag options out there for roasters to choose from and even less that are affordable with lower quantity minimums. We hope that more bag manufacturers will start to see the value and demand for making sustainable packaging more accessible for small shops and roasters.

the coffee ethic coffee design sprudge story photo credit sterling grinnell0
Photo by Sterling Grinnell

How long did the redesign process take from start to finish?

We started the redesign process in March of 2022 and received our first shipment in August of 2022. With the help of our manufacturers, we were able to design the packaging from scratch in-house. Our team is fortunate to have some background in product design and art direction. It was surreal to go from making models out of deconstructed drink-carriers to the finished product in a few short months!

You have different packaging for blends versus single-origin offerings—can you tell us about the differences between the two?

Yes! We have core blends that we offer year-round, which means we can print large quantities at a time without any waste! These boxes are light and colorful. We wanted the design to feel simple and clean. Our single-origin coffees provide a little challenge which we are sure every roaster is familiar with. Since we rotate through a selection of amazing coffees from friends and producers all over the world, these high-quality coffees are usually available in smaller limited quantities. So, we need our single-origin packaging to 1) reflect how special these coffees are and 2) be modular, so we can offer smaller quantities without any packaging waste. So, our solution is a lux, matte black vibe with a foil-debossed logo and a vibrant color pop inside. This allows us to create and apply a sticker in-house that includes all the important information. We can make only as many units as we need and use the same packaging for the next amazing single-origin coffee we receive!

the coffee ethic coffee design sprudge story photo credit sterling grinnell1
Photo by Sterling Grinnell

What are some coffees you are excited about right now?

Oh boy, there’s an amazing single-origin Natural Process El Puente by Aromas del Sur Farms in Huila, Colombia (Rodrigo and Claudia Sanchez) that we’ve been pulling on espresso here at our shop. Wow, we are not kidding when we say it makes a cortado literally taste like chocolate milk. It’s amazing and we’re super honored to be serving that coffee right now.

We’re also super jazzed about our Cane Sugar Processed Decaf from the Planadas region, Colombia. This is one of our core offerings, and we are so amazed at how delicious this cane sugar process is. We recently started offering decaf cold brew that folks are thrilled about. It feels awesome to have such a complex and high-quality decaf that brews up incredible cold brew, espresso, and pour-over alike! Love it!

the coffee ethic coffee design sprudge story photo credit sterling grinnell2
Photo by Sterling Grinnell

Where is your coffee available?

Our coffee is available in our Downtown Shop in Springfield, MO, USA, and online at www.TheCoffeeEthic.com. We offer super flexible coffee subscriptions and wholesale pricing for anyone who’d like to serve larger amounts of our coffee as well!

How would you recommend we spend the perfect day in downtown Springfield?

We would start with a relaxing walk to one of our favorite breakfast spots, Rise or Druff’s, before heading to the square to snag a book from the downtown public library or bookstore BookMarx. Next, find a good window spot at The Coffee Ethic to sip a coffee and read for hours. Local savory Prairie Pie or Therefore, pizza for dinner before catching a movie at our local indie cinema The Moxie. Top off the night with a drink at the Vantage Rooftop Bar or Golden Girl Rum Club. Yeah… that’d be an awesome day!

Photos courtesy The Coffee Ethic.

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Coffee Design is a feature series on Sprudge presented by TricorBraun Flex.

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