coffee.: Onyx Coffee Lab Boxes up a Fresh Redesign

Andrea + John: There were a lot of motivations behind the rebrand. It’s been ten years since our original branding- since our founding as a company.

c.: Wow, you’ve been around for a decade. Congratulations!

We’ve grown a ton since then and have matured as a brand. We represent a much broader representation of people- coffee producers, roasters, baristas- than we did in the beginning. Over the years, we’ve grown to have a much stronger point of view on what we want Onyx to be, to look, to feel, and to represent. Like many in Specialty Coffee, we are constantly fighting to justify well produced, well cultivated coffees. Packaging allows us to be both artistic and represent the feeling and attitude behind our coffees- to create expectation and value in the consumers mind that coffee can indeed be very, very special.

c: I think putting special in specialty can’t be underrated. While we, the greater coffee community and consumer, enjoy specialty coffee, the thought to also present it as such is needed and welcomed.

Andrea + John: We also wanted to pivot in sustainability. We spent eighteen months researching materials. Not just what companies deem “recyclable,” but what is in reality sustainable on the ground level. Many products have plastic films on them that are “recyclable”, but the material has to be separated from what it covers, and that process becomes tedious and not worth it. Our 10oz retail boxes cost 20% more but are able to be run through paper recycling. Lastly, we wanted to reimagine sizing and outputs of our coffee. Through lots of discussion and consideration, we split the retail sizing into groups: a 4oz taster for those looking to explore, a 10oz retail coffee for peak freshness for 1 week, and a new 2lb option allowing those who know what they like to buy our coffee at a value. 

c.: Has the pandemic, a rise in consumer ordering of whole bean coffee for at home preparation influenced your ideas around a deeper tactile experience with packaging?

Andrea + John: No – the rebrand began over a year ago. We moved into production of this packaging last fall. It took more than six months to produce the packaging, although we certainly see the value now. 

With the way social media looks, incredible photographers and manipulation, we are inundated with photos on our phones that look amazing, enticing and attractive.

c.: Inundated is the correct word. This is how I know when something breaks free from the barrage of shares and captures my attention that I should slow down.

What you can’t fake is the way something feels. We focused on tactile and texture first, aesthetics second. There are many filters that can make something appear pleasing, but when you hold one of our boxes in your hands, we hope that you feel some of the intentionality and effort that follows the trail of coffee- from hundreds of microlots cupped in another country- to roasting and packaging.  They are made to be held and used.

c.: I love that this packaging has layers, among which includes a box and a bag, raised type enhancing the physical experience, muted but rich hues of colors versus. In some ways this is a veer to the polarity of what can be seen in coffee packaging – monochrome and minimalism, to an abundant use of color. I’m enjoying this pivot from traditional packaging that is simplistic yet richly designed. 

What is your expectation for the brand and the consumer with this conversation piece that will sit on many shelves in-store and in homes?

 Andrea + John.:  While it is a relatively complex packaging system, we hope it feels minimalistic, focuses on the coffee, but raises expectations. We hope it feels mature, intentional, that people pick it up, touch it, reuse it for other things. We are hopeful that our customers will recreate with it, will repurpose it, that it will become another small but beautiful layer in someone’s landscape. We can’t wait to see what people will do. 

c.: Neither can I.