How to make your takeaway coffee cups a sensory experience for consumers

Holly Szakal
May 9, 2024
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A coffee’s flavour is determined by several factors, such as origins, growing conditions, processing methods, and brewing techniques. That said, one influence that is often overlooked is the takeaway coffee cup it is served in, and how it can alter the consumers drinking experience.

According to a study published by the Flavour Journal, the colour of a takeaway coffee cup can significantly affect the drinker’s experience of everything from flavour and acidity to body and sweetness. Another element that is becoming increasingly important is the texture of disposable cups. Recent studies show that the texture can influence consumers’ perceptions of coffee in terms of mouthfeel, and may even affect aftertaste. 

Clearly, takeaway cups form an integral part of how consumers perceive your brand. From the colour, texture, and shape of the cups to the lid, every aspect can help provide customers with a stellar drinking experience. 

So, how can brands ensure their takeaway coffee cups are providing customers with a memorable experience? I spoke to Kevin Gascoyne, of Camellia Sinensis, Gefen Skolnick, of Couplet Coffee, and Samuel Finch from Blacksmith Coffee Shop and Roastery.

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How takeaway coffee cups form part of sensory marketing

In its simplest terms, sensory marketing is a strategy for appealing to customers using their five senses. A more accurate explanation is brands have realised that unconscious and conscious awareness of sensory stimuli can significantly impact consumer behaviour. It does so in a subtle manner, and customers who don’t perceive it as aggressive marketing tend to be more receptive to it. 

“Sensory branding means engaging with consumers in a way that engages multiple senses through multiple mediums,” explains Gefen, the co-founder of Couplet Coffee in the US. “However, speaking to someone’s senses can mean different things for different consumers.” 

A prime example of effective sensory marketing is a campaign that Dunkin’ Donuts ran in South Korea. When the company jingle played on municipal buses, an atomiser released a coffee aroma. This simple act increased visits to Dunkin’ Donut outlets near bus stops by 16% and sales at those venues by 29%. 

Essentially, sensory branding and marketing should factor in the consumers’ five senses: sight, touch, taste, smell, and sound. When used correctly, sensory marketing can use the texture, text, colour, and imagery on takeaway coffee cups to positively impact a customer’s drinking experience.

“Sense of touch is important because many times, people can recognise when a product is cheap by the simplest touch,” Gefen adds. “In specialty coffee, many tend to gravitate towards [specific kinds of materials],” Gefen explains. 

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Ensure your takeaway coffee cups highlight your product 

One industry that is no stranger to these external sensory experiences is the tea industry—a long-lost yet very fond cousin of the specialty coffee industry. The tradition of a sensory teahouse experience dates back thousands of years globally.

Kevin Gascoyne is co-owner of Quebec-based Camellia Sinensis. He knows all too well the utmost importance of providing his tea roast in the perfect cups.

“In the tea industry, we are very sensitive to the cups we use. The varied shapes of drinking vessels can play with the subtle dynamics of liquor delivery to the mouth, the channelling of aromatic vapours, and heat retention,” he says.

“Thus, the same tea tasted in the different cups will give a different sensory experience. With all takeout experiences, food or drink, there is naturally a certain amount of compromise.”

This multisensory experience is called flavour distortion and is a popular term used in the fine culinary industry. It is defined as an altered taste perception based on external influences. In this study, the main culprit was mugs, but the same ideology can be applied to takeaway coffee cups. 

When it comes to takeaway coffee cups, one key element that is often overlooked is the lip of the cup, with some even reporting that drinking coffee through too small of a hole negatively impacts the flavour experience when making contact with the palette.

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What to consider when customising to-go cups

Using the results of the above studies, coffee businesses can nail down the ideal takeaway coffee cups that emphasise their consumers’ experiences.

Samuel has worked at Blacksmith Coffee Shop and Roastery for over 10 years, making his way up from barista. He explains that the brand “strives to offer a handcrafted coffee experience that pays tribute to the 19th-century blacksmiths who originally honed their craft in the same location.”

“The intentionality of this product experience begins with selecting the best specialty coffee and carefully roasting it to perfection,” he says. “It ends with the vessel in which the coffee is served.” 

Samuel explains that Blacksmith Coffee strategically chose takeaway coffee cups with a matte finish to “reflect both the rustic atmosphere of the blacksmith shop and accentuate the handcrafted-ness of the beverage.”

He notes a recent trend in coffee cup design and branding. “I’ve noticed many coffee companies, particularly those in the specialty sector, are breaking away from ordinary coffee mug styles like what you would find in a gift shop. They’re starting to use cups with styles and designs that reflect their brand and aesthetic.”

Samuel explains that Blacksmith Coffee worked “with companies whose approach to design is taking something ordinary and improving it to something extraordinary. I believe that this mindset is also reflected in how the speciality industry has moved away from roasting and serving coffee the way that it has always been done, and ventured into new and innovative ways that better represent the true characteristics of the coffee.”

Choosing the right custom printed coffee cup is important to ensure that it complements the characteristics of coffee and does not distort the qualities of coffee.

At MTPak Coffee, we have years of expertise in creating bespoke custom printed coffee cups for specialty coffee shops and roasters around the world. Our custom printed coffee cups are completely customisable and are available in various sizes, such as 4 oz, 8 oz, 16 oz, 12 oz, and 24 oz. 

Each one is available to order as either a single or double wall, while we also sell sleeves for all three sizes. These sleeves can be fully customised to showcase your brand and highlight your coffee’s characteristics.

To create bespoke takeaway coffee cups, contact us today

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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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