Clever Cup-and-Sleeve Packaging

by Rob Croft
Disposable coffee cups differ little from brand to brand whether it’s a 50-cent cup of “Joe” from a street cart or a $5 latté from a swanky coffee shop. These generic paperboard cups with plastic lids also can present a spillage problem for consumers seeking a quick coffee and a Danish in the morning.
Many premium coffee marketers have overlooked structural packaging as a means to compete beyond product flavor. They should rethink their packaging design to improve functionality, branding and cross-sell opportunities.
Our “blue-sky” coffee cup concept builds upon the paper cup platform with a number of evolutionary improvements.
For starters, we’ve replaced the traditional thermal band with a corrugated polyethylene film to create a stylish, translucent, conical carrying tube.
This sleeve grips the tapered sidewalls of the cup and extends upward to create a handled carrying place for pastries.
Unlike a paper bag, the carrying tube ensures the cup is always upright in transit. The flat base of the cup provides stability when the package sits on a table.
Perforations in the film allow the user to remove the top half of the tube for regular sipping, once the consumer reaches their drinking destination.
Sipping options
A modified, stock paperboard lid replaces the conventional sip lid. This new lid features a punched hole and a snap-in polypropylene “sipper.” A tethered plug in the sipper allows the user to close the opening when in transit.
The injection-molded sipper also accepts a drinking straw, which provides controlled sipping and safer drinking while driving. (The user does not have to rock his/her head backward to drink.)
The use of a paperboard lid leads to greater branding opportunities on the sides and top of the lid, in the form of embossed and printed graphics.
As the diversity of coffee shops increases, brands will have to provide a more complete coffee product offering, rather than simply competing on the basis of “great taste.” Clearly, the brand that delivers lifestyle-relevant cup packaging with superior imagery and functionality will “roast” the competition. BP
The author, Rob Croft, is Managing Partner of Swerve Inc., specialists in 3-D brand design. Contact him at 212.742.9560 or