Why Are There So Many Different Sizes of Paper Cups and Coffee Cups Available?

A couple of days ago, during a particularly strenuous shopping session in which I was faced with a myriad of decisions, I decided to take respite in the high street haven which is the coffee bar. Again, I was bombarded with a number of dilemmas – should I go small, medium or large? Cappuccino? Latte? Espresso? Macchiato? Etc etc? The former was no problem at all – I always opt for the middle – refusing to be sold up to, but not wanting to be a cheap skate by going for the less pricey product. After some minutes I settled on the espresso, hoping for a reinvigorated final shopping offensive. As I peered through the dribbling streams of condensation to the shopping hoards, I could hear that nearly all the customers in the queue behind me were requesting the middle option. Why was this? Surely not everyone had the same philosophy about decisions as I did. Surely, not everyone was so bored with everyday life as to have given this any thought whatsoever!

On my return home, laden down with some bargains and some not so bargains, I put the kettle on and was prompted by the sight of many medium sized coffee mugs to return to my previous thoughts. This needed some further exploration – the lap top called.

Amazingly, after just a couple of minutes tapping keys, my suspicions had been confirmed – numerous social studies had shown that when people are presented with three alternatives, the middle option is chosen much more often than the others. This obviously has repercussions for many retailers – particularly those in the business of selling food and drink and the related suppliers and, above all, drinks cup manufacturers.

Further investigation revealed a really canny way of food and drink retailers increasing their business and perhaps explains the reasoning behind the ever growing paper cup. Apparently, all paper cups used to be one size and they were invented to be a more hygienic way of drinking water at public fountains. The vending industry saw an opportunity and adopted this cup for dispensing soda or carbonated drinks such as cola. After some time selling this single size drink, a shop wanted to increase business and introduced a larger cup. This led to sales being shared 60% small drinks and 40% large drinks – a small, but significant rise in sales. The clever bit however, comes when a third size is added – the extra large cup. Now, because of people’s preference for the middle option, sales are split as follows: – 20% small, 40% large and 20% extra large – this represents a much larger increase in business and profit without having to invest in new lines or new ideas, just new sizes of paper cups!

The next step becomes obvious, where in the example above the paper cups would be 7oz, 9oz and 12oz sizes, further increase in profit can be made when the sizes are increased to 9oz, 12oz and 16oz sizes and so on. You may have noticed recently that one company has introduced a gargantuan 31 oz coffee cup – possibly producing gargantuan profits as customers opt for the new middle sized receptacle. This cup size however is not new; any trip to the cinema will reveal paper cup sizes of 20oz, 32oz and 44oz and while you may question who can drink this amount of liquid, next time you are in your local hostelry, notice how many drinkers can down a couple of glasses of beer in an hour!

It is now possible to see how drinks retailers have managed to increase sales and profits while also providing us, the consumer, with a vast amount of choice as long as we all don’t automatically go for the middle option! best cups for iced coffee






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