Customising compostable coffee cups: What to consider

Tori Taylor
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November 10, 2023
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Takeaway coffee cups are one of the most effective, yet often overlooked, branding spaces. A branded takeaway cup is essentially a free, walking advertisement for a brand that can bring in new customers and sell more coffee. 

That said, a recent study by NielsenIQ found that 78% of US consumers say a sustainable lifestyle is important to them. Furthermore, a 2020 survey revealed over half of respondents would pay more for sustainable packaging. 

Investing in eco-friendly alternatives, such as compostable coffee cups, may help ensure brands appeal to these eco-conscious consumers. However, how can coffee brands ensure they’re branding these eco-friendly products sustainably?

I spoke with several specialty coffee roasters to learn more about what to consider when customising compostable coffee cups. 

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Is it essential to customise takeaway cups? 

A survey conducted with 1500 people across the US found that 3 in 4 Americans drink coffee every day. Furthermore, 32% of people purchase coffee from a cafe 1 to 3 days a week. 

More so, the majority of consumers spend at least 10 minutes drinking a cup of coffee. Many other customers may choose to get their coffee to-go. From a marketing perspective, this can mean two things for your coffee business. 

First, you have ten minutes to ingrain your brand into the customer’s imagination, up-sell other products, or direct them to your website. Interacting with existing customers through consistent branding and packaging can help keep them engaged and build rapport. 

Second, your existing customers are now carrying mobile adverts for your business. Branding on takeaway cups must be eye-catching and make a bold statement for maximum impact.

Personalisation on takeaway cups or coffee bags is an extremely important value-driven advertising method that increases brand awareness. Carlos Santana, the senior graphic designer for Perfect Daily Grind explains: “Logos and colour palettes, in addition to being able to include relevant information about the company through QR codes, for instance, can help a business reach more people.” 

Branding disposable coffee cups and even in-store mugs is a highly effective way to propagate a brand, Carlos explains. In doing so, businesses can create an identity for themselves, which can become easily recognisable for consumers and within the larger consumer market.

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Benefits of investing in compostable coffee cups

The term “compostable” is used to describe organic materials that harmlessly degrade into the soil over time. A combination of the soil’s heat, moisture, light, and microorganisms helps break the material down in a process that can take days, weeks, or years. 

Beyond this, these materials are non-toxic as they’re derived from materials that disintegrate in specific environmental conditions. These conditions range from a typical home compost heap to carefully controlled industrial environments. The latter is often used as the materials are less likely to degrade prematurely – an important aspect for cups that are carrying hot liquids.

“Generally speaking, compostable cups can break down in three months – the average length of a composting cycle,” explains Emile Fourie, the co-founder of Ywaste Solutions in Cape Town, South Africa. However, it is important to note that compostable cups require oxygen to break down, which is why they should be kept out of landfills.

Compostable coffee cups offer specialty coffee brands several benefits, such as convenience. This is particularly true for the team at Weak Coffee in the US. “We’re a small coffee cart, so we’re unable to offer consumers ceramic cups,” explains owner Stephanie Reiman. “To offset that, ‘we’ve committed to having fully customisable takeaway items, and composting all of our used coffee grounds and filters.” 

Russ Bruguiere, the co-owner at KOS Coffee Roasters, US, explains that the brand’s sustainability initiative is more of a mission and overall way of managing the business. “We’re a zero-waste facility, from our kitchen and cafe to the roastery,” he says. “Additionally, we’re 100% plastic-free. All of our to-go cups, lids, and straws are 100% compostable, and we compost all of our used coffee grounds and chaff.” 

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What to consider when customising compostable coffee cups

Designing disposable takeaway coffee cups that deliver valuable recognition and brand identity requires roasters to consider several facets. 

Specialty coffee roasters need to consider their visual identity, which includes attributes such as colour palette, logos, font, and the overall impression they want to make with their takeaway cups. Next is to consider the type of message and information roasters want to share or convey to consumers. 

Another element to think about is the forms of contact that are displayed on the coffee cup. For instance, several roasters choose to print social media handles and email addresses or implement a QR code that directs consumers to this information online. 

Notably, the type of material cups are made from will also impact the overall design. For example, when directly printing on cups, it can be harder and more expensive to print elaborate designs on plastic cups. 

Alternatively, with compostable paper cups, it is possible to incorporate different designs, shapes, and colours. The materials used can make a difference. High-quality paper cups can often hold design better and for longer, while the opposite can be said for lower-quality material cups and sleeves. 

MTPak Coffee provides years of experience and industry knowledge to deliver business owners and roasters with the right disposable coffee cups that are made from high-quality printable materials, but are also kind to the environment. Our range of sustainable takeaway coffee cups is made from recyclable materials such as bamboo fibre, PET, or kraft paper with an environmentally friendly PLA lining and are available in different sizes: 4 oz, 8 oz, 16 oz, 12 oz, 22 oz, and 24 oz. 

Our takeaway coffee cups are strong, waterproof, lightweight, and 100% compostable, and can be custom-designed using innovative digital printing technology to feature your brand logo or recycling instructions. 

Our use of digital printing allows us to offer customers a fast turnaround and shipping time. This allows us to offer low minimum order quantities (MOQs) of packaging, no matter what size or material.

Images courtesy of Weak Coffee and KOS Coffee Roasters.

For more information on customising compostable coffee cups, contact our team. 

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