What do your custom printed coffee cups say about your brand?

Holly Szakal
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March 11, 2024
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A strong identity, coupled with brand loyalty, has become imperative for the success of a coffee brand. Specialty coffee roasters must devise compelling ways to stand out and make a lasting impression on consumers. Custom printed coffee cups, for instance, have emerged as powerful tools for brand differentiation and customer engagement. 

No longer mere vessels for holding liquids, custom printed coffee cups serve as “walking billboards”, allowing brands to extend their identity. From every element of design, custom takeaway cups can help shape the perception of a brand in the minds of consumers. 

So, how can coffee businesses ensure custom printed takeaway cups accurately reflect their brand? To learn more, I spoke to Hugh Kelly, the Head of Coffee at ONA Coffee, and Michael Craig, the CEO of Creature Coffee Co.

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Takeaway coffee cups: How design communicates brand identity

When it comes to customising disposable coffee cups, the possibilities are endless. Notably, several studies show that the colour of a cup alone can significantly affect the drinker’s experience of the beverage. Clearly, brands must pay attention to the finer details when designing the look of their to go cups. 

Considering colour

2020 Australian Barista Champion and head of coffee at ONA Coffee, Hugh Kelly believes that having a clear brand image and colour palette is important. 

“Choosing a colour or logo that is easily identifiable is great for branding,” he says. “[Find something] that is distinguishable and not too busy. As our eyes affect taste, try to select colours that won’t ‘negatively’ affect the taste of the coffee, such as blue, for example.” 

He also stresses the importance of investing in takeaway cups that don’t “show spills. Cafes are busy places, and if a takeaway cup is very porous and light in colour, it will [clearly] show espresso drips,” he adds. “People carrying around ‘dirty’ cups will affect brand perception.”

A focus on sustainability

Hugh also mentions that sustainability is a priority for a growing number of coffee consumers. Takeaway coffee cups that fail to live up to sustainable standards can lead to a negative brand impression and affect reputation. Therefore, brands must choose disposable coffee cups that are kinder to the environment.

Therefore, in addition to offering disposable coffee cups, he recommends investing in branded, reusable cups. “Ideally, we’d like to push people [towards] reusable cups as much as possible,” Hugh adds. A branded reusable option can improve the customer experience while reducing the amount of single-use cups going to landfill. 

“This is important because in many locations, such as most cities in Australia, takeaway coffee cups don’t go through the recycling system,” Hugh explains. “Even if they are biodegradable or recyclable, they still end up in landfill.” 

Size is everything

Hugh says brands should also keep cup size in mind. “Most companies will advertise a cup size of 12 oz, for example. However, we find them to be 10-15% larger in volume than advertised. This means we have tasted a lot of very milky takeaway coffees around the industry, which can hurt brand perception.”

Last, “ensure there are no taints from materials used,” Hugh adds. “Some cups have a lining that can add a waxy taste, some taste like paper, and some cup lids can impart a plastic taste. So, we carefully consider this in our choice of takeaway cup.”

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Custom printed coffee cups and coffee bags: Should designs match?

When it comes to the design and branding of all packaging, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to whether everything should match perfectly. That said, consistency helps reinforce brand identity and strengthens recognition. Encountering a repetitive brand experience reinforces a consumer’s ability to recall it. Beyond this, matching designs can enhance brand visibility and serve as a cohesive marketing strategy. 

Michael Craig, the CEO of Creature Coffee Co., in Austin, Texas, backs this sentiment. He ensures that the brand’s eye-catching colour palette is used across everything, including the company’s social media accounts.

“We do serious coffee in a fun, less-serious way,” he explains. “We needed something that embodied what we do, who we are, and where we’re from. So, before the cups came the brand.” 

Once a solid brand had been established, Michael says the cups were easy. The brand partnered with brand designer, Aleksandra Apaza, who created “a unique, colourful brand that jumps out at you. 

“Our takeaway coffee cups feature our three brand colours, our logo, and our favourite creatures holding hands,” Michael explains. “They also convey our slogan, ‘Let’s be Friends’, as well as a message for how to dispose of the cups responsibly. This represents who we are as a company. We also feature the bright colours and our cute creatures across all of our social channels.”

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Alternative ways to customise takeaway coffee cups

Another element to think about is the avenues of contact displayed on takeaway coffee cups. For instance, several brands choose to print social media handles or implement a QR code that directs consumers to this information online. 

Alternatively, a cost-effective way to stand out from the competition is to custom-print coffee cup sleeves. While their main purpose is to prevent burns, customised coffee cup sleeves can be a powerful marketing tool for coffee businesses. 

Customised coffee cup sleeves can expose a brand to thousands of customers around the world. Every day, over 4.62 billion people around the world use social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. Furthermore, these people spend an average of 2.5 hours browsing through social media pages.

Having branded coffee cup sleeves may encourage consumers to upload images to their social media pages, and tag the roaster. This increases the chance of thousands of people seeing the brand, which may increase sales.

At MTPak Coffee, we have years of experience and industry knowledge, allowing us to deliver coffee shop owners and specialty coffee roasters with the right disposable coffee cups. All of our takeaway cups are made from high-quality printable materials that are kind to the environment.

Our range of sustainable takeaway cups is made from recyclable materials such as bamboo fibre or kraft paper with an environmentally friendly PLA lining. We also offer recyclable plastic cups made from PET. All our cups are available in different sizes: 4 oz, 8 oz, 16 oz, 12 oz, and 24 oz. 

Our takeaway cups are strong, waterproof, lightweight, and come in 100% compostable options, as well as recyclable options. Our cups can be custom-designed using innovative digital printing technology to feature your brand logo or recycling instructions. Our use of digital printing means we offer customers a quick turnaround and shipping time. This allows us to offer low minimum order quantities (MOQs) of packaging, no matter what size or material is used.

Images courtesy of Creature Coffee Co. and ONA Coffee

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

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Holly Szakal
Holly Szakal

Holly Szakal is a Melbourne-based copy and content writer and is deeply immersed in her city's vibrant specialty coffee culture. She infuses the rich aromas of the specialty coffee scene by delivering compelling narratives on the industry's current events.

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