TO GET AN idea of how much coffee is consumed by Americans, consider the case of researchers in the Seattle area. Thinking they could trace the flow of pollutants in the Puget Sound and the currents that carried them, scientists began taking caffeine samples. Unfortunately, the amount of caffeine proved so great it made the data unusable. According to an Associated Press article, caffeine was found in more than 160 of 216 samples in water as deep as 640 feet. Where did all the caffeine come from? Human bladders and coffee spilled on the street.
Meanwhile, the Web site coffeereasearch.org reports “The National Coffee Association found in 2000 that 54 percent of the adult population of the United States drinks coffee daily,” and “the average consumption in the United States is 3.1 cups of coffee per day.” It seems there may be some truth to the very catchy Dunkin’ Donuts slogan. The American economy is in some way driven by coffee.
The beverage has become more than an early morning necessity. Coffee sets trends and influences style. Starbucks may be responsible for reinventing the coffee industry image and capitalizing on the counter-culture which relied on cafes. Now models wander out of posters for expensive clothing lines and into posters for mochaccinos.
Where the drink goes, the container follows. “I just think that drinkware, in general, has become more of a stylish, like a fashion, type of product,” said Robert Gluck, vice president of New Hyde Park, New York-based Gordon Industries. “Today people want something different; they want some style,” he said of end-users’ drinkware preferences.
Rachel Halpern, president of Gordon Industries, agreed but asserted style is only part of the equation: “[A drinkware item] doesn’t only have to be aesthetically unusual and great looking,” she said. “It’s got to be comfortable.” In fact, Halpern said a successful drinkware item “has to be comfortable and safe and smart.”
The great demands on drinkware may be a result of the ubiquity of the items in the promotional market. Halpern said one of the latest scrutinies revolves around an item’s lid: “In the last six months, [end-users] are very insistent that the lid, the closure on the lid, is very secure.” As a result of the critical attention, many suppliers are upgrading closure mechanisms across the board.
The closure mechanism is key in drinkware lines because it enhances the mobility of the product, which is where the utility is most capitalized. Closure mechanisms are only part of the problem when choosing the right drinkware container. Promoting mobility concerns all aspects of the item’s design. For this reason, regardless of shape, style or the addition of a handle, a successful travel mug must fit into standard car cup holders.
Coming up with the perfect design is the challenge for suppliers. Finding the right item and getting it into an end-user’s hand is the challenge for the distributor. Once the item is found, everyone wins. According to Karen Sherrill, director of marketing at Gold Bond, Hixon, Tenn., “Our number one seller is a travel mug.” Sherrill attributes the item’s success to it’s design. “It’s just got a great shape [and] very clean lines to it.”
Sherrill feels drinkware items are good for promotions because “drinkware fits so beautifully into our lives.” Halpern agreed, pointing out drinkware’s mobility allows it to be a successful promotion regardless of market.
Of course, coffee isn’t the only beverage that people want to keep on the road. For every personality and activity there is a container to support it. The country’s obsession with sports led to the popularity of polycarbonate bottles. Originally used primarily by hiking enthusiasts, these bottles quickly fell into the retail and promotional markets due to their durability and impermeability. When Halpern first saw a polycarbonate bottle, she decided to put it to the test. She told one of her employees who had a four-wheel drive vehicle to run over the bottle and then back up and run over it again. Halpern said the bottle had “not a scratch. A real polycarb has to stand up to the test.”
The extreme impact resistance of polycarbonate drinkware is not without a cost. The material is expensive to produce and most of the common polycarbonate plastics are proprietary, such as Lexan, made by General Electric and Calibre, made by DOW Chemicals. Many companies have developed polycarbonate alternatives, plastics that are similar in look and feel to true polycarbonates, but that do not have the same structural properties. An example of this is Gold Bond's PolyClean material.
The high costs of true polycarbonates have not driven the bottles from the shelves, only opened the market to options.Sherrill said athletic and polycarbonate bottles continue to show market strength and pointed out that Gold Bond developed a way to print four-color imprints on polycarbonate bottles of nearly any shape, giving the company repeated success in the athletic drinkware category. “[Customers are] expecting better print techniques,” she said. “I think innovation satisfies need.” Halpern asserted a similar sentiment: “People are wanting better and better [products] for the same price,” she said.
To satisfy customers and end-users, suppliers must constantly build on the current innovations and find ways to make superior products with similar price tags. “We always have, on the back burner, something that’s new, that’s not been exposed to the public,” said Halpern. Gordon Industries’ newest success is the Eclipse series of color-changing tumblers. The items’ insulation contains a full-color image that is revealed almost instantly with the addition of hot water.
All the innovations and designs available simply give clients the chance to have their beverage containers become an extension of their personal style and philosophy. And if enhanced fashion appeal isn’t enough to make an end-user jump with excitement, the coffee certainly will.