Sugar and Trees

One seldom gives much thought to the humble sugar packet seen in coffee shops (unless one is a sucrologist, at any rate) but there’s an interesting observation related to its design.

A few years ago the age-old form factor of these packets – a rectangle some 7 by 5 cm in size – was supplemented by a new format, a long paper tube about the size of a finger:

Sugar Packets

So – which of these is a better form? At first glance, it hardly matters. But actually the new tubular packaging is superior to the old.

Here’s why:

Sugar Packets - disassembled

Taken apart and flattened out, you can see that while both packets carry the same 5 grams of sugar, the new form uses about 40% less paper!


This is clearly visible at the right where the two exploded packets overlay each other. Admittedly it’s only a tiny scrap of paper, but multiplied by the volume of packets used around the globe this can save quite a few trees for sure.

Oh, and the tubular packet has a bonus advantage: it can be used, in a pinch, to stir the coffee!

4 Responses to “Sugar and Trees”

  1. 1 Boaz Rahat

    The tubular packet is easier to control for a partial serving. You want half a serving? pinch it in the middle and pour. The flatter tube is more difficult to pinch, you have to make sure of pinching in a line all across the width, with no voids.

  2. 2 Nathan Zeldes

    Well said, Boaz! That’s another advantage.

  3. 3 Anton

    Delayed comment. But anyway..

    This long sugar packets (AKA sugar sticks) was designed by Benjamin Eisenstadt. Long paper tube packet was designed to quickly bend&broke it in its middle by simple move (even by single hand):
    Unfortunately many people open it old way. Also some manufacturers produce flat and soft sugar sticks which is bendable but not breakable.

    I think that if some design later reveals its extra unexpected advantages (here found by you and Boaz Rahat) then we have deal with design masterpiece.

  4. 4 Nathan Zeldes

    Thanks, Anton! Didn’t realize that… will give it a try next Espresso time!

Leave a Reply