When the French luxury coffee producer Malongo, sustaining a high ethic profile, was looking for a way to replace their plastic coffee pods with sustainable ones, the answer was found in development through co-operation. Walki played a key role in developing a recyclable coffee pod.
The story of Malongo dates back to 1934 when a small roastery was founded in Nice, France. Throughout the years the family-owned company has become a high-profile coffee producer, honouring quality, high ethics and environmental sustainability.
Malongo was the one to introduce Fair Trade coffee in France in 1992, a guiding principle for the company ever since. During the last ten years the company has been working to reduce their packaging material and use mainly recyclable material.
Delicious but sensitive – preserving the fine aromas of coffee all the way to cup was just one of the challenges that Walki met.
Ground coffee and beans are still the main products, but lately pod coffee sales have exploded, constituting 36% of Malongo’s sales today. The disturbing fact is that the pods used to be made of plastic.
“We really wanted single coffee pods that could both be sustainable and preserve the delicate aromas of our coffee. Through our co-operation with board provider Korsnäs (today SwedPaper) we were introduced to Walki," says Olivier Lamouche, Purchasing Manager at Malongo.
Walki’s task was demanding. What they were asked to deliver was a barrier for the pod frame, and a paper-based packaging material for the individual pods, observing the need of recyclability and the sensitivity of coffee. An extensive development project involving Malongo, Walki and Korsnäs.
The task of the sustainable coffee pods and packaging is to provide the sensitive coffee with gas, aroma,
vapour and moisture barrier.
“We were all faced with challenges. Coffee is such a sensitive product and the demands on the aroma barriers are high. Malongo produces absolutely high-quality coffee and it should stay like that all the way to the cup," says Oliver Lucas, Sales Manager for Walki in France.
The first task was to make the coffee pod itself recyclable. The coffee is packed in a filter paper, held by a ring-shaped frame made of board. Thanks to Walki’s extensive experience in developing environmentally sustainable materials, the demand of a recyclable frame was not a problem.
The combination chosen for the board ring was Walki®Pack white, an non-toxic coating on paper board. The pod was then packed in a single packaging that had to be not only recyclable, but above all, provide a gas, aroma, moisture and vapour barrier. On top of this it had to be thermo-formable, heat-sealable, peelable and provide good printability, and be oxo-biodegradable.
“These are all material issues we at Walki have worked with throughout the years; it was just a question of combining them in the right way. By choosing a thermo-formable fibre based material with a barrier coating we created Walki®Form HB a material that meets the Malongo requirements and ensures recyclability of the packaging," Mats Holti, Executive Vice President - Technology & Innovations at Walki, says.
The paper chosen for the product was Korsnäs Wave, offering a new, creped design and the requested elongation. The development of the final products was demanding for all parties involved, since it was the first recyclable pod to be produced. But Jean-Pierre Blanc, CEO of Malongo, is very happy with how the project was carried through.
THE SUCCESSFUL DEVELOPMENT PROJECT
“Walki did a huge development work in order to meet all our specific needs, everything done in line with our values. Everyone involved has invested a lot of resources and time, and the trials were many, but all along the way everyone brought in new ideas that step by step pushed the development forward. On the behalf of all of us participating I am very proud," he says.
Today Malongo is selling coffee and coffee machines in Europe, Asia and USA. All of the company’s pod lines will in the future be replaced with new machinery in order to produce only the recyclable pods and packaging. This is also where most of the global pod makers are striving, but thanks to the successful development project Malongo is probably the first one
to have accomplished it.
For Walki, the project could pave way for new possibilities. “We gained a lot of good experience that could well be used for similar applications in the future," Mats Holti says.