Featured image for Starbucks Refreshes Whole Bean Packaging After A Decade

Starbucks Refreshes Whole Bean Packaging After A Decade

by Rudy Sanchez on 09/01/2022 | 3 Minute Read

In the nineties, at the peak of second-wave coffee, Seattle-based Starbucks was just starting its Genghis Khan-like campaign across the coffee-drinking world. 

A lot has since changed for the ‘Bux, including how it sells whole beans, which were previously hand-scooped in-store, tied up tight by the seldom surly barista, and marked with a colorful and fanciful sticker to identify the contents inside. That small sticker, slightly bigger than a 2x2 grid of USPS stamps, had to communicate what was distinctive about that particular blend or single-origin roast.

Nowadays, the bins full of coffee—and the wonderful smell that comes from them—are gone from Starbucks’ stores, replaced with pre-packaged coffee shipped and placed in-store like another piece of merchandise. On the plus side, it offers an opportunity to use the whole bag to tell the beans’ story. And for the first time in a decade, Starbucks has redesigned them.

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Crafted by the brand’s in-house team, the lineup is a trip across the globe, featuring illustrations set in Latin America, the Italian city of Verona, Pike Place Market, and the Sumatran jungle. Veranda blend depicts a lively scene of hummingbirds drinking nectar. Guatemala Antigua features the native quetzal bird, with a dark, coppery color palette reminiscent of the coffee’s notes of cocoa and spice with plenty of patterns and intricate linework. 

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Editorial photograph

Seattle’s Pike Place Market is on full display with the bag that bears its name. Starbucks’ first store has resided in the market since its 1976 relocation from its original 2000 Western address. “In undertaking this design, we sought to leverage recognizable design elements and our brand’s history at Pike Place. To accomplish this, I utilized motifs from our heritage in a style reminiscent of travel luggage stickers and badges,” said Bridget Shilling, Starbucks designer and illustrator, in a press release. “While the bag celebrates our history, I wanted to ensure the design is still grounded in coffee, so coffee plants are interspersed throughout. We use printing processes to ensure the copper hues will come to life for a warm, metallic effect.”

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Verona Blend’s bag depicts an Italian-like pastiche with fountains, “Italian castle” architecture, and “Verona roses.” It’s meant to transport one to Italy, though to no particular place on The Boot, it seems. Instead, it relies more on capturing a sense of romance as it's the location of Shakespeare's tragedy Romeo and Juliet

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Finally, single origin Sumatra’s bag has a striking and bold design with two purple tigers facing each other amongst lush foliage. “For Sumatra, we used color to emphasize the dark roast while incorporating greens and blues along with foil on the tiger stripes and plants,” said Abby McCartin, another Starbucks designer and illustrator. “I created an interesting effect by adjusting the scale of the tiger in relation to the palm trees and jungle landscape, noting the similarities between the shapes of the tiger and palm leaves. Layering them adds an element of fun and mystery; you definitely see the tiger stripes at first glance, but once you look closer, you find more.”

Starbucks’ new whole bean packaging comes as baristas gird their loins for another PSL season. And if that wasn't enough of a challenge, all of this takes place as super-yacht-owning interim CEO Howard Shultz continues his union-busting efforts, including hiring an ex-CIA officer and former Pinkerton Amanda Stanfill as manager of global intelligence for the coffee chain, firing union organizers, and abruptly closing unionized locations.

Images courtesy of Starbucks.