Entering a coffee shop is an experience. People come to you not only for their favorite beverage, but because they enjoy the ambiance: the interior, the smells, the smiling faces that greet them. The entire ensemble of the store is intertwined in their minds, even the most “mundane” components – everything from the irresistible aroma of coffee to how convenient, clean, and presentable your condiment station is kept. Creating a pleasant coffee shop experience is akin to a theatrical performance: The important work happens behind the scenes, where the set is thoughtfully crafted. How do you want to be remembered after your customer exits your theatre?
This is true for those items that most customers take for granted – sleeves, mugs, cups, lids and even straws and napkins – those necessities of every coffee shop retailer. What products you provide your customers will make as much of an impression as the setting. But, there are many considerations when you purchase these items: Are they cost-effective? Are the cups pleasing to the eyes as well as to the hand? Can they retain heat without burning hands? Is the lid spill-proof? Do the sleeves have a good grip? From what material are they made to ensure quality? Is the product eco-friendly? And more.
There are many choices in the marketplace. It is difficult to choose items that suit both customers’ expectations and the retailer’s budget. Every customer is different when it comes to marketing to them. A key to finding the best products is to understand your customer; retailers must communicate with their customers to see what product features are important to them.
Choosing the right sleeves, cups, lids or mugs
The largest challenge to finding the right products is choosing the right combination of cups, lids, mugs, and sleeves to accommodate the largest number of people and preferences. A retailer is also thinking about costs—everything from brewing to storage. But one area that is often less considered is the message they are sending when promoting their brand on a mug or cup. Retailers need to match the promotion of a high-quality brew with a high-quality cup. As Kevin Blaser from JavaJacket says, “Building a relationship with a reliable and knowledgeable full service distributor plays a key role in that process.”
Stalkmarket/Asean, operated by Buzz Chandler, is an international leader in the development and manufacture of compostable cups, lids, packaging, and utensils. “The global market for earth friendly disposable products in the cafes and in foodservice is rapidly expanding,” says Buzz. “This is a reflection of the level of consumer demand for better solutions to disposing of serving items such as cups, lids, and to-go containers.”
Moducup, who distributes the iconic Greek coffee cup, found throughout New York City, is an example of a business that builds strong relationships. They are still family-owned and depend on customer relationships. “Because we’re still small enough, we can print a lower quantity of cups for smaller shops,” says Moducup’s Dean Kalamaras. “If we can help, we will!”
“After getting the basics for their business, to-go cups and basic C handle cups that hold liquid, it’s picking the right specialty cups for in-store retail and service,” adds Mitch Bangert of Offero.
Michelle Kaffko from Snarky Sleeves explains that retailers want to choose a sleeve to get customers talking about the product and returning to their shop to purchase. Reusable sleeves are perfect for that function.
As for cup lids, customers definitely realize the necessity but may not be aware of their options. In his experience, David Pensak from Vaporiety finds that although retailers can name where they purchase their lids, they usually do not know who made them. Lids are essential to keep the coffee from spilling, as well as retaining the taste and aroma.
Reusable mugs continue to be popular and eco-friendly. Erez Toker from Vessel Drinkware says that his company would like to see more people using portable mugs, which is a customer-conscious way to stay sustainable. Personal, portable mugs are distinctive and people like to have that personal touch.
Dawn Miracle at Hot Straw says that hot-beverage straws have been something that has been overlooked from both an environmental and a health aspect for quite some time. A cost advantage of their products is that they are re-useable. Being dishwasher safe, customers will not have to pay for a new one each time they want to use a straw.
Quality is incredibly important to retailers. Their products are a reflection of their business and the image they portray to customers. Choosing items that are well made from quality materials, and are also available at an affordable price, is important. Larger retailers tend to look for the best price over quality and smaller shop owners tend to look for quality in products over the best price. This is due to the fact that owners interact with customers on an almost daily basis, whereas larger retailers don’t have the consistent face time.
Melissa Wallum of StyroChem says that foam cups are the best value option on the market, and their performance for insulation and strength cannot be beat.
Simply Lids offers a two-piece lid that costs less than current two-piece lids on the market.
Consumers have a choice in their purchases and they find the cost aligns with the quality they are receiving. Higher end design of sleeves, cups, lids, and mugs that use more eco-friendly materials are appearing in the beverage industry. And to be eco-friendly and sustainable is very important.
Sustainability is a huge trend, and customers frequently look for recyclable cups, sleeves, and lids, but these sustainable products are not always the most cost effective for retailers. “The demand for environmentally friendly products is definitely here to stay,” says Michelle Kaffko of Snarky Sleeves. Retailers need to be able to find a happy medium, which can get confusing with so many size and material options when choosing between price and ‘sustainability’. There is also a push for compostable food service products, but there is unfortunately minimal infrastructure across the US for composting as of yet.
There are many sustainable products out there. Here are just a few of those.
• John Gillespie of GreenGood explains that solid food wastes, as well as disposables, are major problems for landfills around the world. GreenGood’s compostable and recyclable products help to eliminate waste. At GreenGood all their products with the it are made from 100% biodegradable materials. Their products are environmentally friendly, disposable foodservice products.
• Simply Lids uses materials that are sustainable, recyclable, reusable, and have anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties.
• “Consumers today are careful about spending,” explains Thomas Perez of Bodum, “and instead of buying a less expensive product that will need to be replaced repeatedly, they are looking to invest in quality merchandise.” Bodum’s products are reusable, which is a very sustainable way to curb waste.
• P&P International provides recyclable plastic packaging to the fresh-cut produce, food service, bakery and deli industries.
• Don Scherer of BriteVision says his company’s investment in a manufacturing plant that recycles almost all of its paper waste is a keystone of their commitment to an industry focused on support of environmental practices.
• At ūVu Lids, they use Virgin Polypropylene, a petroleum-based lid that features some of the lowest carbon footprint of all materials being used by coffee lid manufacturers. Also, at uVu, their lids are colored to complement your brand.
• Sunset Hill’s products can last for generations if used properly. All reusable coffee mugs are eco-friendly because they eliminate the need for disposables.
Many sleeves, cups, and mugs can be used as promotional material. Companies are able to add logos, scratch & wins, QR codes, promotions, coupons or use as collector items. Sleeve manufacturers, such as Java Jacket and BriteVision, can be used to advertise, promote, or communicate on many levels. Cups are also vehicles for advertising. Cup manufacturers such as Pacific Pulp Molding and StyroChem, and many others offer custom printing, as well as manufacturers of reusable containers from companies such as Vessel, Sunset Hill, and others.
Retailers should never underestimate the power of their customers. You will be surprised how much of a positive experience they will have when they know their sleeves, cups, lids, or mugs are sustainable, attractive, accessible, and dependable. The more creative you are, the more customers will appreciate the whole experience of your shop. Your audience will applaud you—and, more importantly, return for more.