Innovative packaging suggestions to make your disposable coffee cups more engaging

Tori Taylor
May 27, 2024
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Despite the gradual transition towards a more digital world, branded disposable coffee cups have remained an effective advertising method. Custom printed takeaway cups can help create a memorable experience and help café owners and roasters establish recognition within their segmented market audience.

Branded takeaway coffee cups are not just a trend, they are a strategic marketing tool for business owners. They offer a way to establish greater visibility, reach potential customers, and build lasting relationships with current consumers. 

According to recent statistics, the out-of-home (OOH) coffee market is predicted to reach $334.5 billion by 2028. In light of this, investing in custom disposable coffee cups could help brands profit from the growing demand for specialty coffee

Fortunately, there are several cost-effective ways to make your disposable coffee cups more engaging for consumers. I spoke to several players within the specialty coffee industry about how they’ve updated the look of their cups with incredible results. 

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Quick, affordable ways to boost branding on disposable coffee cups

Custom-printed stickers

Personalised stickers are one of the most cost-effective ways to brand packaging and disposable coffee cups. They can promote the fact that a brand offers ethically traded organic beans or uses sustainable business practices. However, businesses must ensure there is a way for them to back up these statements.

That said, stickers can be problematic for specialty coffee roasters and consumers concerned with sustainability. The majority of custom-printed stickers are made with virgin paper and plastic. Beyond this, they may contain hidden plastics, petrochemicals, and other harsh chemicals, and are not themselves recyclable, compostable, or reusable. 

Luckily, eco-friendly alternatives are available, such as:

  • Biodegradable stickers: These decompose via bacteria or other living organisms. The plant-based materials avoid plastic pollution. 
  • Compostable stickers: These comprise plant-based materials and can disintegrate into natural elements in a compost environment, leaving no toxicity in the soil. This happens in around 90 days. However, some compostable materials require industrial composting facilities and are not suitable for home composting. 
  • Recyclable stickers: These are suitable for processing that will make their materials reusable. They are often made of paper or plastic that can be recycled per local regulations.

Custom printing

When Creature Coffee Co. launched, the brand used stamped white takeaway cups and clear polyethylene terephthalate (PET) cups with stickers. However, the stickers often prevented these cups from being recycled or composted. That said, as the business expanded, it was able to invest in custom-printed compostable paper cups and recyclable PET coffee cups

The brand’s larger paper cups show two graphics holding hands, with the white, yellow, and pink designs popping off a bright blue background. The smaller cups, used mainly for espresso, feature a grinning coffee cup on a bright pink background, while the clear cups showcase the brand’s tagline: “Let’s be friends.” 

“We use paper cups for all of our hot beverages, while our clear takeaway coffee cups are often used for iced americano, cold brew, and iced lattes,” explains the brand’s CEO Michael Craig. “The design on our clear cups is quite prominent when the cup is full. He adds that the quality of the mil the brand uses, alongside the coffee it provides, is high-end. “Therefore, we wanted the branding on the cup to look like it is high-quality yet professional while still being fun and cute.”

Cups sleeves

While their main purpose is to prevent burns, coffee cup sleeves have become a powerful marketing tool for coffee businesses. Sleeves offer additional space for branding and can be customised according to drinks, seasons, and even specific customers. This helps to create a more memorable and versatile product that fosters greater customer loyalty. Branding coffee cup sleeves can reduce costs and allows brands to switch up messaging easily. 

Some businesses may choose to print logos on the cup sleeve, which can help boost brand awareness. Others may wish to engage with customers by printing some lesser-known facts about specialty coffee, which can help educate consumers about the supply chain. Alternatively, some coffee roasters may choose to add short messages or facts about the brand. 

Additionally, they can custom-print QR codes onto cup sleeves to help inform customers about the coffee they are drinking. By scanning the QR code, customers can find out more information about the business or coffee, such as its origin, how it was processed, and who grew it. 

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Additional ways to make your disposable coffee cups stand out

Ripple wall cups

The majority of coffee shops and roasters offer takeaway coffee in paper cups. These cups support customers’ increasing environmental concerns by providing a sustainable substitute for conventional plastic or Styrofoam solutions. However, as paper is a poor heat insulator, most businesses are turning to double-walled or ripple-wall cups. 

Ripple wall takeaway cups consist of a standard paper cup with an outer layer made from corrugated cardboard. This layer gives the cup its signature ripple effect. The gap between the two layers creates a cushion of air, or barrier, that helps retain the cup’s heat. Further, the ridges of the cups insulate the cup by slowing its heat loss. This eliminates the need for a cup sleeve, allowing the customers to hold it comfortably throughout their drinking experience. 

The ripple on the cup can run vertically, horizontally, or in an S-shape, and the surface is easy to brand and print on. The texture of these cups can help create a sensory experience for on-the-go consumers–an essential part of the customer journey. Notably, recent studies have shown that the texture of disposable coffee cups can influence consumers’ perceptions of coffee in terms of mouthfeel and may affect aftertaste.

Coffee cup carriers

Takeaway cup carriers or trays are often an underrated form of packaging despite their ease of use, convenience, and ability to act as free advertising. Many may argue that cup carriers are largely unnecessary and may only contribute to packaging waste. However, depending on the location of your café, the size of your target market, and the amount of daily foot traffic you receive, disposable coffee cup carriers may help increase profits and customer loyalty.

Bean Shot Artisan Coffee has chosen to upcycle used packaging to create eco-friendly cup carriers from used plant milk cartons. The system reuses waste packaging, which can still be recycled effectively afterward 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,” explains Graham Cox, director of operations. “This is a significant driver for coming up with unique solutions and finding out ways to solve relatively simple problems.” 

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.

Graham explains that Bean Shot Artisan is the only shop in the area that uses upcycled carton cup trays, allowing its branded coffee cups to do the advertising. Bean Shot’s cups coffee cups boast the brand’s logo and business name in white on a solid black background. The rim and bottom band of the cups remain white, ensuring the branding is framed, front and centre. 

At MTPak Coffee, we have the expertise to provide business owners and coffee roasters with disposable cups made from high-quality materials that are 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, and 24 oz. 

Our takeaway coffee cups are strong, waterproof, lightweight, and 100% compostable. Beyond this, they can be custom-designed using innovative digital printing technology to feature your brand logo, QR codes, or recycling instructions. Our use of digital printing allows us to 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.

Images courtesy of Creature Coffee Co. and Bean Shot Artisan Coffee

Invest in bespoke disposable coffee cups today!

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Tori Taylor
Tori Taylor

Victoria is a highly experienced content creator, writer, and editor based out of South Africa. With the experience gained by working in newsrooms and writing for lifestyle magazines, she is now focussed on creating insightful and relatable content for the specialty coffee community.

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