New Packaging Part III

Just Us! would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to reach out and share their feedback about our new coffee packaging. And while we delight in all the positive feedback the new look has received, we also recognize that there are challenges. We welcome your constructive feedback so we may do our best to learn, educate, and make improvements where possible. We’ll try to address some of the common concerns we’ve heard in this third edition blog about the new bag.  Please visit our website to check out The Big Announcement, and New Packaging Part II for earlier editions.

Why do things have to change at all?

Just Us! celebrates 20 years this year. And we’re pretty proud we’ve made it this far.

Not only did we want to celebrate that with a new look, but after 10 years of the same packaging, it was looking outdated. Some retail customers even stopped carrying Just Us! because of the dated packaging, and the merchandising and storage difficulties created by our bag shape. In an increasingly competitive coffee marketplace, where Just Us! strives to grow the market for fair trade, organic coffee for our producer partners, we need to keep up with market trends.

Zipper

We recognize that some of our customers are very disappointed that we have moved away from the zipper closure bags. While it may seem like an odd choice, we assure you we did not make this move without careful consideration, and it was not something done in haste or to cut costs. Zippered bags are certainly convenient as a quick way to close up your coffee, but they are not without their challenges. We’d like to give a bit of insight into why we moved away from this kind of packaging.

  1. Zippers don’t always work, especially when ground coffee gets stuck in them, which was a common complaint with our former packaging.
  2. Once you initially break the seal on your bag of coffee, oxygen enters and staling begins, regardless of how it is sealed. Folks purchasing at grocery or retail stores will experience better freshness when they buy whole bean and grind at home, or buy ground and not open until first use, rather than grinding whole bean in-store.
  3. Zippered bags either have a flat, wide top, making coffee difficult to display for retailers and inefficient to ship, or, they have a very small opening that makes it challenging to get a scoop or hand in the bag, and difficult to get coffee back in the bag if you pour too much. The bag manufacturer does not recommend a zipper for our size and shape of bag.
  4. The new rectangular shape of our package allows them to pack tightly and use much less cardboard in shipping.
  5. The new shape of the bags allows us to better provide information, on four sides instead of two. Giving French and English language each their own side makes room for tasting notes and indicators for roast, body, and acidity, and we’ve added visual brewing instructions on the gusset side. The shape also gives the space for Just Us! to better communicate our values and partnerships          
  • Solidarity with Small Producers & the SPP Symbol
  • Commitment to organic agriculture
  • Commitment to renewable energy through Bullfrog Power.

You may now be asking, “Well, why not tin ties then?”

This is a question we’ve wrestled with, but ultimately, it comes down to economies of scale, equipment limitations, and our commitment to providing local employment. Basically, we’re not small enough to have someone hand-roll each bag down, but we’re not large enough to be able to make the significant investment in automated equipment to do it all.  Plus, if we automated our packaging line to that degree, it would mean taking away people’s jobs.

Names

We understand that the name changes have created some confusion, or made it difficult for folks to find their favorites. Below is some background on why we made the changes, what they mean, and a list that links them to their former names so you can find them more easily:

At Just Us!, we try to reflect or acknowledge in our product names, the spirit and political challenges of the grassroots fair trade movement that we’ve been a part of for two decades, as well as environmental factors that affect our producer partners and their products specifically, and society globally.

One such example, which was a driver in some of the recent name changes, is that climate change and extreme weather have increased the prevalence of La Roya, or coffee rust, in many countries in Latin America, creating challenges in sourcing sufficient quantities of coffee from our long-term partners. This means to maintain the flavour profile and price point our customers have come to love in their favorite coffees, some products that were single origins (i.e. coffees coming from one country) have become blends (Mexican Morning, Guatemalan).

Also, because coffee is often harvested once per year, our overall coffee strategy has been to move away from single origins that remain on the shelf all year long so that we can have the freshest coffees available at any given time of the year in our blends. The only single origins that we retained are from countries that are lucky enough to have more than one harvest in a year or prolonged harvest periods which allows us to buy coffee two times each year hence retaining the freshness that we desire.

Lastly, a bland or boring name doesn’t do justice to the delicious and unique coffee inside that we take such great care in sourcing & roasting. So when it came time to re-brand, we decided a few of the names needed a refresh as well.

Harmony (formerly Espresso Blend): mellow and harmonious flavours, but also don’t we want more harmony in the world? Don’t we want to be accepting of diversity and consider it essential to the harmonious workings of the Earth and the communities inhabiting it? In addition, espresso can be made with any blend or origin of coffee beans, depending on the desired flavour profile, and this particular blend, while great for espresso, is great as a brewed coffee as well.

Rebel (formerly Guatemalan): This coffee breaks the norm for medium roasted coffees. It is fruit-forward and bright…very important energy when we rebel against the political, cultural, and business norms that surround us.

Tierra Madre (formerly Mexican Morning): Anna Watson, who won our re-naming contest for Mexican Morning, aptly describes the crucial role of women in agriculture, and specifically in coffee production. An excerpt from her entry is below. Just Us! is committed to supporting and bringing awareness to this crucial role of women in agriculture, and the challenges being faced by rural communities.

Renaming the coffee Tierra Madre (or Earth Mother in English) recognizes how central women are in all aspects of coffee production, and how this vital role, from seed to cup, helps ensures the success of Fair Trade coffee. In many rural villages, coffee now defines a great deal of their identities, and sustains their families. As this production is affected by climate change, women in many regions are meeting these challenges head on by joining together to form a collective that is a real catalyst for change.”

Pacifismo (formerly Medium Decaf): Refers to the Pacifist movement. This is the non-violent revolution led by Ghandi and which ultimately led to the departure of the British Colonialists from India. Also, there’s no caffeine in there so you should remain a little calmer or more passive as a result.

Magnanimo (formerly French Decaf): In some of the indigenous cultures of Oaxaca, Mexico this term refers to people with big smiles and big hearts. A big-hearted and generous approach to this decaffeinated coffee leaves your heart pumping with a regular beat and a huge smile on your face. If we all had big-hearted smiles on our face all the time the world would be a much better place.

Changes in Information Presentation

Some customers have expressed that they now have difficulty determining the roast of the coffee, or locating decaf. While the presentation of this information has changed, it is still available on the bags:

Roast level: Indicated by a bar graph, as well as with the colour of the coffee name text on the caffeinated varieties:

  • Yellow: Light Roast
  • Orange: Medium Roast
  • Rose: Full City Roast (medium dark)
  • Purple: Dark Roast

Decaf can be located by choosing a variety with blue text (it also says decaf on the label), and then consulting the bar graph for your roast level of choice.

Tasting Notes

The labels now include tasting notes, describing flavours or nuances that make the coffee unique. Just Us! does not add anything to our coffee, but there are inherent characteristics of the bean that vary by region & harvest, which are brought out by the roasting process or with blending. Much like wine, these descriptors are provided to help customers choose a coffee that appeals to their tastes.

Bar Graphs

Additionally, the label has bar graph indicators for level of acidity and body, to help customers choose a coffee with characteristics that they prefer.

Future Fixes

There are some additional concerns we’ve heard that we’ve been able to address. While these fixes won’t take effect until we run through our current supply of packaging, they will start to roll out in a few months’ time:

Cut Line: Maintaining a consistent height where the bag is sealed on each bag is very difficult due to the varying coffee bean sizes for each product. As a result, the cut line is often inaccurate. We’ll be removing this entirely, as the seal itself is visible on the bag, and will guide consumers to where the cut should be made.

Lot Coding: To comply with food safety regulations that are coming into effect, and also be able to ensure the best possible quality for customers, we’ve added a lot code to our bags that can be traced back to the batch, roast date, and roaster. Initially, the lot code was not printing in the spot we’d designed for it, so we’ve made that printable space larger for more consistently readable lot codes.

2lb Bag Height: the relative depth of the 2lb size means it is slightly shorter when sealed, and less packaging material is left to roll the bag down once opened. The next batch of packaging will have slightly taller 2lb bags.

Works in Progress

We know there are still issues that customers aren’t happy with. While there are various factors we must consider, including limitations to the changes we are able to make, we welcome your feedback, and are evaluating all suggestions as possible fixes. In particular, we’d love it if you’d share with us your favorite way of opening the bag, and then sealing up your coffee! Perhaps you’ve come up with funny, innovative, or creative solution to sealing the zipper-less bag. Send your ideas and suggestions to info@justuscoffee.com. You can also check out some suggestions here:

The new look!

Just want to let you know that we love the new bag. We have been buying your coffee for many years and we love it.
We are from Durham Bridge, NB and first purchased your coffee at Aura Whole Foods in Fredericton NB.
Thanks for such a great product and the way you conduct business. Supporting local is wonderful!

Nancy & Rick McNeill