Skip links


A few small changes for a big-hearted coffee company

When Cambio Roasters was getting ready to launch their organic coffee pods to the k-cup market, they needed a sustainable packaging solution to match their mission.

The Problem

Keurig coffee makers are now a kitchen counter staple for many homes throughout the world. Simple and fast, it doesn’t get much easier to make yourself a morning cup. Some coffee pod brands, however, have their drawbacks like coffee quality, worker equity, and pod recyclability. The founders of Cambio noticed these issues and responded by starting their own coffee company committed to “Eco-Friendly, People-Powered, Profit-Sharing Coffee Pods”. The next step was finding a packaging material that would encourage customers to recycle the pods.

The Outcome

The Zenpack design team engineered a molded pulp container and lid, secured with a glue-free paper belly band. Once customers open the packaging and start using the pods at home, it transforms into a convenient countertop recycling bin. It’s a simple reminder to collect Cambio’s new pods that were redesigned for easy recycling. When they’re ready to dispose of the bin, customers can toss the pods and bin into the recycling, or use the paper pulp bin in their at-home composting or curbside composting program.


We all know that changing habits can be an uphill battle, especially when it comes to simple tasks like throwing things away into the right recycling bin. Some cities are single stream while others require separation before pickup. But once the waste arrives at the local facility, there’s a good chance it’s not being recycled as intended. Experts estimate that only 9% of all plastic ever produced has been recycled—the other 91% is incinerated or left in the landfill to leach into the earth.

As coffee drinkers across the world fell in love with their coffee pod machines, landfills welcomed yet another plastic shape. Most coffee pods are very difficult to recycle because they’re made from multiple types of plastic, including a thin lid that’s heat sealed onto the pod, making it difficult to remove and dump out the grounds.

Perfect for coffee pod machines, but terrible for the environment, to the tune of over 30 million pods in the landfill per day. Before Cambio even put their coffee inside a pod, they knew they had to make a better version. They developed and patented a proprietary pod using only two materials, #5 polypropylene plastic and aluminum.

Cambio did their part; now it was our turn. We love a sustainability challenge, so we poured our energy (along with many cups of coffee) into figuring out how to encourage customers to quickly and easily recycle Cambio’s new pod. Our heart was set on molded pulp container, but even the most versatile materials present challenges. The Zenpack engineers would need to focus on rigidity and stack-ability while the branding team would figure out the best way to brand the Cambio family of roasts.


While molded pulp is just water and paper fiber, it requires specific structural engineering to achieve maximum functionality. In this case, we needed more rigidity, so we added vertical ribs to provide more structure. We then put the container through various stacking and fitment tests to determine the optimal wall thickness to keep lids tight during shipping. The resulting container can hold 10 pods, remains strong during shipment, and continues to be useful long after delivery.

The pulp bin is universal, meaning that Cambio can use it for every product. To distinguish the roasts, we designed a glue-free belly band with a tear strip. It’s a visually effective system, but we encountered color-matching challenges under the constraints of the 4-color lithographic printing process.

We worked closely with Cambio’s graphic designer to develop a method for setting up the artwork. This color management process helped to reduce color shifts, resulting in accurate, vibrant colors.

When a Cambio delivery arrives, customers open the cardboard shipper, pull the belly band tear strip, and start brewing. Once the pod has cooled down, they pull the aluminum tab, compost or discard the grounds, and toss the pod and lid into the recycling bin. For many, the paper pulp bin becomes a mini recycling bin. When it’s full, they can toss the entire thing into their larger receptacle. And since paper pulp is an ideal brown ingredient for composting, some customers use it as a temporary compost bin where they can discard the grounds and other kitchen scraps.


We delivered an efficient packaging system for six products using the same container with belly bands printed specifically for each SKU. The result is a cohesive family of coffees that has helped Cambio expand their customer base to all 50 states in only six months. With the rapid growth, they can continue making good on their mission to contribute 20% of profits to Cambio coffee-farming families across the world. In 2024, the iF Design Awards recognized Zenpack and Cambio with honors in the Beverages Packaging category. Zenpack will continue working with Cambio for their next generation packaging as they keep on changing the coffee world, one pod at a time.

Speak with an Expert