A guide to designing Christmas-themed coffee cups

Nuvin Sithanen
September 2, 2022
A guide to designing Christmas-themed coffee cups

The festive season typically signals a peak in business for many roasters and coffee shops. 

Celebrations and parties punctuate the four weeks up to New Year, with consumers spending money on everything from gifts and decorations to festive drinks. 

Notably, in 2021, Americans spent an estimated average of $886 each on Christmas gifts alone. It is well known that during the festive season, roasters and coffee shops can expect an influx of orders, whether for merchandise, monthly subscriptions, or limited edition Christmas-themed offerings

The holiday season also allows brands to share in the festive spirit. An increasing number of coffee shops choose to serve their takeaway orders in Christmas-themed coffee cups. 

That said, there are important points to consider when designing Christmas-themed coffee cups in order to avoid unwanted consumer backlash. 

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An image of a range of Christmas-themed coffee cups in an article on designing Christmas-themed coffee cups

Why offer Christmas-themed takeaway coffee cups?

Many tend to wonder why coffee shops change their takeaway cups over the festive season. 

Especially when you consider that having a new festive design created and custom-printed can be costly. So, is it worth printing Christmas-themed cups for such a limited sales period? 

Surprisingly, coffee shops and roasters choose to do this for the same reason retail outlets put up decorations: to increase morale among shoppers and employees.

Additionally, studies show stores and businesses that feature Christmas decorations often invoke a positive feeling within customers .

The customer experience is paramount. While a shop or roaster can stand out through their offerings or packaging, customers return to brands that make them feel good.

Therefore, it is essential that coffee shops provide an experience that enhances the customer’s festive mood, and offer a reprieve from the frantic shopping season. 

International coffee chains, such as Starbucks and Costa Coffee, are strong proponents of Christmas-themed coffee cups. 

Every year, social media platforms and marketing materials are flooded with images of consumers enjoying a limited edition peppermint, caramel, or white chocolate beverage in custom-printed Christmas-themed cups

Notably, Starbucks is highly effective at creating anticipation around the release of its news holiday cup designs. Much of the time, consumers love the new designs and line up to purchase a takeaway coffee simply to share an image of social media. 

However, a design faux pas may lead to an unprecedented backlash, such as that seen by Starbucks. By trying to be inclusive of all views of the holiday period, the brand was accused of having a “secular design scheme that failed to show proper respect for Christianity.

These events have highlighted how important it is to carefully consider the design of custom-printed Christmas-themed coffee cups. 

An image of a female consumer holding a Christmas-themed coffee cup in an article on designing Christmas-themed coffee cups

Choosing the right material for takeaway coffee cups

Before determining the visual aspects, roasters and coffee shops must ensure their takeaway coffee cups are functional and safe. 

First, the material and the lining of the cup should have no negative effects on human health. 

As a result, bio-based plastics have become a popular choice for coating takeaway coffee cups and packaging materials.

These bioplastics include materials such as polylactic acid (PLA), which is produced by allowing bacteria to ferment natural starches like corn and sugar cane into hydroxy acids.

A PLA coating has no odour or aftertaste as it is resistant to high temperatures, as well as the fatty acids found in drinks that contain milk.

Additionally, the lining must be waterproof to ensure the cups do not leak, as this would lead to an unpleasant customer experience. 

Equally important is temperature retention. Temperature can have a dramatic impact on our perceptions of aroma and flavour. For example, a single cup of coffee can taste completely different as it cools naturally after brewing.

Therefore, roasters and coffee shops should ensure they are serving takeaway offerings at the ideal temperature, in a cup that can preserve the heat. 

As approximately 5 billion single-use cups reach landfill each year in the US alone, it is vital takeaway coffee cups are environmentally friendly. 

Investing in materials that degrade naturally and quickly will reduce the environmental impact of a business, and appeal to a growing number of eco-conscious consumers

On top of its functionality, a cup’s physical features, such as the colour, can significantly affect the drinker’s experience of everything from flavour and acidity to body and sweetness.

For example, research shows white cups may increase the perception of strength and intensity, while blue cups tend to highlight sweet notes. 

Alternatively, yellow cups may dampen the perceived intensity of a coffee. It is advisable for roasters and coffee shops to research how colours can heighten the intensity of the experience they seek to offer.

Image of a barista pouring milk into a milk based coffee beverage being served in a christmas-themed coffee cup in an article on designing Christmas-themed coffee cups

What to consider when designing Christmas-themed coffee cups

When designing Christmas-themed coffee cups, it is crucial for roasters and coffee shops to determine the cultural demographic of their customer base. 

While Christmas has become a commercialised holiday around the world, brands must be sensitive to the fact that everyone may not share the same beliefs.

Inclusivity is important, and leaving customers feeling abandoned and excluded from the celebrations can have a negative impact on a brand. 

At the same time, sensitive topics around the religious significance of Christmas need to be observed and respected in order to avoid offending religious customers.

Christmas-themed coffee cups may only be available for a limited time, but they should still reflect a brand’s identity. Roasters and coffee shops can ensure this by keeping the typography across their packaging consistent

An alternative to redesigning a line of custom-printed cups, coffee brands can choose to create Christmas-themed cup sleeves. This is a quick and effective way to add a festive touch to takeaway cups without disrupting production. 

An image of a Christmas-themed coffee cup in an article on designing Christmas-themed coffee cups

The team at MTPak Coffee can provide roasters and coffee shops with sustainable, custom-printed coffee cups and sleeves to reflect their festive offerings.

Our cups are made of sustainable materials, such as kraft paper, or PET, with a PLA lining. They are strong, waterproof, lightweight, and 100% compostable.  

Additionally, we can custom-print takeaway coffee cups to your specifications using digital printing or sustainable water-based inks that are low in volatile organic compounds (VOC) and highly resistant to abrasion, water, and heat.

Our range of cups is available in three different sizes: 8oz, 12oz, and 16oz, and we offer a range of low minimum order quantity (MOQ) options. This means you can order as few as 500 fully customised units in just five working days.

For more information on sustainable, custom-printed takeaway coffee cups, contact our team.  

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