Coffee cup carrier trays: An essential accessory for cafés?

Aidan Gant
September 15, 2023
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Providing consumers with takeaway accessories, such as wooden stirrers, sleeves, and coffee cup carrier trays, can be an effective way to improve customer service. Additionally, some of these items provide brands with an opportunity to stand out in an increasingly competitive market. 

For instance, accessories such as cup sleeves and takeaway trays can be customised to feature company logos and social media channels to help maximise exposure for the business. Depending on the location of the café, the size of the target market, and the amount of daily foot traffic, custom cup carrier trays may help to increase profits and customer loyalty.

That said, many argue these accessories are largely unnecessary, and may only contribute to packaging waste. With sustainability being such a key driver of purchase decisions for consumers in today’s market, are they still a suitable option in the current climate? 

To learn whether coffee cup carrier trays are an essential form of packaging for cafés, I spoke to Graham Cox, the director of operations at Bean Shot Artisan Coffee about its innovative solution.

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Are coffee cup carrier trays a necessity?

The popularity of takeaway coffee soared during the Covid-19 pandemic and has yet to slow down. Currently, the global takeaway market is estimated to reach over $60 billion by 2033

Many consumers find takeaway coffee significantly easier to fit into their fast-paced lifestyles than finding time for a routine break at a café. This explosion in the popularity of takeaway coffee has also given rise to a host of new challenges and opportunities for coffee businesses. 

With the spike in takeaway order volumes, coffee cup carrier trays can be one way to usher in some peripheral benefits whilst making customers’ lives a little easier. An obvious benefit to cup carriers lies in their ability to allow customers to carry more products comfortably. 

This drives up the average transaction value per customer. Beyond this, it could easily be the difference between a drink bought for a colleague in the office, and a single purchase hurriedly consumed before getting into work.

Notably, some consumers will prefer to forego coffee cup carrier trays to limit the amount of packaging waste. That said, they are undoubtedly more convenient for multiple-drink orders. More so, a range of more planet-friendly solutions are available.

Graham and the team at Bean Shot Artisan Coffee have come up with an innovative solution to the sustainability image problem posed by disposable cup carrier trays. The brand has chosen to upcycle used packaging, creating low-effort and planet-friendly takeaway cup carrier trays from used plant milk cartons. 

The system reuses waste packaging, which can still be recycled effectively afterwards while cutting the need for virgin materials to be spent on cup carriers.

“We are continually looking to become less wasteful and try to reuse or recycle items where we can,” Graham says. “This is a significant driver for coming up with unique solutions and finding out ways to solve relatively simple problems.”

He explains the idea was driven by a desire to operate as sustainably as possible, and came about by observing gardeners. “I think I once saw a gardener use [empty milk cartons] as a way to germinate seeds.” 

The cartons had multiple crosses cut into the front, allowing seedlings to grow from the slits. “I looked at it and thought we could do that for cups,” Graham says. 

As a further gift to the circular economy, Graham says the uptake by customers has been so enthusiastic that they often want to do their bit and return the carriers for further re-use. “It always makes me smile when we see them come back”, he adds.

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Is it worth customising cup carrier trays? 

As the brand upcycles used milk cartons, Bean Shot doesn’t customise its coffee cup trays. Instead, the brand has found an innovative solution that makes its trays stand out in the crowd.

Beyond this, due to the brand’s unique idea, customisation is kind of in-built. For Graham, customisation “would be an extra, wasteful step. We’re the only shop in our town that does this [upcycled carton cup trays]. However, our cups are branded, so this makes do.”

However, customisation can be an effective way to bring a new brand to the front of the pack. In an increasingly competitive industry, every inch of space available for free marketing should be capitalised upon.

Society is in the digital age, with almost 5 billion users of social media globally and uploads of photos of coffee rising by 4500% since 2015. Therefore, encouraging customers to take photographs of a product has never been more important. 

One key way to ensure consumers want to share their experience with their friends is to create a product that stands out in a simple image. Additionally, it helps if the images tell the brand story at a glance. 

Customised cup trays can be a great way to allow takeaway coffee to shine. There are a couple of key considerations, though, particularly concerning sustainability. 

For instance, café owners should ensure any inks used in the printing process do not impact the potential recyclability of the packaging. Furthermore, they must confirm that all the materials used are designed with a responsible end-of-use solution in place.

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What to consider when investing in coffee cup carrier trays

When it comes to the design itself, one of the most important things to consider is what it will look like on the packaging. Therefore, café owners and roasters may want to produce a short-run prototype or even consider trying some 3D modelling software to test out ideas. 

Cup carrier trays can present challenges due to the shape of the canvas available to work with. Smaller designs are likely to work better, and it is only logical not to overload the custom design with information. 

A simple logo and a QR code linking to the business website may be most effective. This will help to solidify brand recognition as customers circulate in town with the branded cup carriers

As human brains process images faster than text and absorb whole pieces of visual information immediately, a strong logo will firmly cement a brand in the subconscious minds of potential customers.

Also, think carefully about whether the business would be best served by offering two or four cup carriers. Café owners should consider the average order size and try to avoid wasted space and materials.

At MTPak Coffee, we understand that catering to high foot traffic should not come at the price of sustainability. This is why we offer takeaway coffee cup carriers and trays made from recyclable cardboard paper. 

Our cup carrier trays are available in stock and custom-print and are suitable for double wall, single wall, and ripple wall takeaway cups from 6oz to 22oz. Furthermore, we offer takeaway carriers that can accommodate two cups or four cups.

Images by Bean Shot Artisan Coffee

For more information on coffee cup carrier trays and sustainable takeaway cups, contact our team.

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