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Cal Poly: Coffee singles can

This theoretical development from Cal Poly packaging students centers on a welded can containing individual filter packs of instant coffee.

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Packaging students from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA, completed group class projects in March that involved developing packages and containers. This is the third in a series of Packaging Insights newsletter reports that has highlighted the students’ theoretical packages.

The group project was part of the university’s Fundamentals of Packaging course. The students’ own report is summarized in the following paragraphs. For those interested in further information, contact program director Jay Singh, Ph.D., phone 805/756-2129, e-mail Also visit Packaging World’s Web site resource page on packaging universities.

Executive summary

Inspiration: Lack of gourmet-quality coffee in single servings.

Starbucks Coffee Singles Packaging: Individual filter pouches of instant coffee singles in a two-piece welded can with a friction-fit, injection-molded PET lid. Graphics are carried on a litho-printed, semi-gloss label stock. After labeling and filling, the closure is applied along with a safety seal that secures the lid.

Our prototype label was produced on matte-finish photo paper. In a production printing environment, we would use offset-printed semi-gloss cover stock.

Consumer benefits include quicker "brew time," high-quality Starbucks coffee; and space savings; less equipment (such as grinders) required to prepare coffee.

Starbucks Singles Package Design

Our team decided to tackle designs for our package of Starbucks Singles based upon a past design of Starbucks grocery store coffee. Maintaining brand identity within our package design was very important, so recognition of the brand was our first priority. This included using the round Starbucks siren logo as the dominant image. We also decided to go with the same color scheme of past Starbucks grocery store coffee packages to solidify the product association.

The unique part of our new package design is in the container. For this we used a round, tin can to package the product, as opposed to the current paper bags found in stores. The can is 5’’ tall and 2’’ in diameter. The idea to use this type of package is based upon a brand of tea sold in grocery stores that consists of round tea bags in the same tin can, which we used for our prototypes. The container is both durable and easy to open and close, sealing very tightly with a black plastic cap.

Design elements

To market the product as newly packaged, we included the word "Singles" directly below the Starbucks logo on the front of each label, written in white and in a script style font. Directly above the logo is written the word "NEW!" in the same font, but in all caps, and at an angle and off-center to appear as a branding of a temporarily new product. We feel it catches the consumer’s eye, while maintaining harmony with the rest of the design elements and keeping a refined, clean look that has come to be associated with Starbucks and its products.

Much of the package design consists of elements relating to four of the individual flavors chosen for our prototypes. Each flavor has its own unique logo and is available in one of three intensities: mild, smooth, and bold. The intensities each are accompanied by a unique identifying color, which can be seen on the individual flavor labels. To improve identity of the flavors and their respective intensities, we created color bands at the top and bottom of the package that correspond to each intensity. Printed on the upper band is the name of the flavor, and written on the lower band is the strength of the coffee. A large version of the flavor logo is incorporated on the label encasing the tin and located adjacent to the label seam. To the left of the logo is the name of the flavor with a brief description underneath it. To insure clarity of the flavor, a round pressure-sensitive label containing a small version of the flavor logo, intensity and corresponding color is placed on top of the black cap. Overhanging flaps were included on the cap label to ensure the package has not been opened until purchase. The final product would include perforations on the flaps to make initial opening of the package easy. Also included on the caps is a smaller version of the Starbucks logo, located on the underside of the cap.

Other elements placed on the smooth, shiny product label include a product description. This will help consumers to identify the product and discover a reason for purchasing it. This description was placed as a text wrap around the flavor logo, next to the seam. Directly below the description is Starbucks’ Web site URL. We also included directions for use, written in the same white, elegant font as the product description. A bar code is found on the bottom of each can. Because nutrition facts, ingredients, and recycling information are not included on current packages of Starbucks grocery coffee, we did not incorporate any of these elements into our design.

Finally, since we are packaging this product as single servings, each serving of coffee must also have its own package, in our case, a filtering bag like those used for brewing tea. The round bag fits snuggly stacked inside the round tin container. We chose an unbleached bag for a warm, earthy look.

Marketing plan

Starbucks Singles are going to change the way people drink coffee. With its convenient brewing technique, you can bring Starbucks Singles anywhere. This product is targeted towards students all the way from high school to their late 30s. It is for the person on the go. College students could take advantage of this product because they wont have a kitchen in their dorm. Our current competitors are Folgers instant coffee, Maxwell House, Taster’s Choice, and any other instant coffee company.

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