By Andrea Lillo
Styrofoam is so last decade.
Looking to drink on the run, consumers are turning to thermal mugs to keep their liquids heated and close at hand. But they are also using the mugs as a way to express their personalities, and suppliers are giving them a plethora of styles from which to choose.
For those with a green attitude, these types of travel products also allow consumers to cut out single-use cups or to make coffee at home and take it on the road to decrease spending.
“It’s where a lot of the public drinking has shifted,” said Marlene Reiss, manager for 3-D reproduction, home products and decorative arts, Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has seen its thermal mug category perform very well in its retail store.
“This category is strong when merchandised with authority,” such as Starbucks, said Mike Nemoir, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of home for Bon-Ton. In addition, they are “driven by color, style and technical innovation.”
At last month’s New York International Gift Fair, a specialty retail line of thermal mugs was introduced by Pacific Market International’s Aladdin brand. “We see these as accessories—they are a statement,” said Ken Mitchell, vice president, marketing and product development. The Aladdin customer “is an aspirational consumer who is into style,” he said, and the two new collections—Adesso and Novo—have “international flair and a unique style.” The sleek look of Adesso is available in the patterns Web, Lace and Rose, while Novo is a white, double-wall porcelain item with splash-proof lids. The company also debuted specialized beverage containers, the Cocoa Mix-It Mug and the Essential Infuser Mug, for cocoa and tea drinks.
The Metropolitan Museum added travel mugs to complement its porcelain mug program with great results, Reiss said. For many tourists, the porcelain mugs are breakable and heavy to pack into a suitcase, while the thermal mugs are a good solution. Each design is more than just replicating a piece of the museum’s art onto it, she added. For example, a Tube Train design, based on British subway art, and an iconic black-and-white photo of the old Penn Station “play on the ideas of commuting,” she said. In addition, “we’re bringing in things that appeal to younger customers.”
Currently, the mugs are double-walled plastic, but two new spring designs will have stainless-steel interiors—and a higher price point—to keep beverages warmer.
“We find that our customers are using these items for different purposes like commuting, traveling, kids’ lunches and more, so we feel that providing our customers with options is very important,” said Chris Nielsen, vice president, Amazon.com’s Home & Garden store. He added that right now, customers are interested in products that do not use BPA (Bisphenol A) [with which some consumers have health concerns] and “stainless steel is certainly part of this trend.”
“Luckily for us, much of America is on the go and the need for drinkware that can travel while still maintaining the appropriate temperature is imperative,” said Jennifer Bement, media marketing manager, Tervis Tumbler. “Also, in this day of recycling, few people rely on the Styrofoam predecessors of the category, as they are becoming far more environmentally conscious.”
Tervis Tumbler also offers many options for consumers to personalize their tumblers, said Bement, such as emblem choices, laser twill initials, the ability to include a personal photo and more. “These types of items seem to really be driving the category as it is one way for people to make something their own.” Earlier this year, the company debuted the Wrap It Up collection, for which it took its most popular 16-ounce tumbler and “wrapped” it in art.
For Bodum, “the thermal drinkware has been a consistent category,” said Jeff Malkasian, vice president. The company breaks the thermal category into two groups—the thermal travel presses and tumblers, as well as the handmade, thermal double-wall glass drinkware. “Both categories continue to grow, especially as consumers learn more and more about experiencing a great cup of coffee or tea at home,” he said. “We are an ‘on-the-go’ society and the thermal beverageware allows the consumer to extend the experience by enjoying a warm beverage such as coffee or tea over a longer period of time in addition to not having to be in a single location to enjoy it.” New products include a Picture Press thermal tumbler that allows the customer to have a travel mug and customize it with their own artwork or pictures.
“U.S. consumers tend to be more interested in the travel/transport ability than thermal capacity,” said Richard Murphy, director, sales and marketing, Oggi Corp., especially with the increases of stainless steel. Oggi travel flasks and carafes are double-walled, thermal stainless steel, but almost all Oggi travel mugs “are now plastic-lined insulated rather than all-stainless due to consumer affordability demand.” Trends include ease of use and car-cup compatibility, he added. Oggi’s introductions include the 16-ounce Travel Tumbler with stainless-steel liner.
“Even with the troubling economy, consumers find they still need their cup of joe or a refreshing sip of water to keep them motivated,” said Michelle Campbell, product development manager for the thermal category, Trudeau. She saw simple, sleek designs with leakproof lids as trends right now, and finished in “cool, metallic looks,” similar to automotive finishes and colors. Some of the new products in its line include the Pentium tumbler, a vacuum-insulated item with a temperature gauge in the lid and, for the guys, the Jazz tumbler, in double-wall stainless steel with a satin or mirror finish for a more rugged look.