It seems like packaging has near-infinite uses, doesn’t it? It offers boxes, bags, void filler, product support, custom designs… the list can go on and on. Packaging is so endlessly useful that it can be easy to overlook some of the most impressive applications of it. Like coffee cup sleeves. They’re simple, useful and unassuming but also hugely in demand.

And if that’s not iconic packaging, we don’t know what is.

Did you know that a coffee cup sleeve is considered a “zarf”? It’s an Arabic word for “vessel” and is used for cups that have ornamentation meant to protect hands. In the past they were made of precious metals, wood, or even the horns of animals. Most of those are no longer in fashion for obvious reasons, and so it’s the corrugated zarf that now reigns over them all.

Coffee cup sleeves are essentially a strip of single face corrugate (that is, there’s no liner on the inside face). It makes them cheaper for production, yes, but the exposed flutes also allow air between the sleeve and the cup. This lowers the temperature between the cup and a person’s hand—while also avoiding humidity that can make the sleeve get moist and soft. It’s a smart, simple, effective and widely used design. Let’s look at some of the best examples, shall we?

Tim Hortons Coffee Cup Sleeves

Coffee Cup Sleeves - Tim Hortons

Are there any coffee drinkers out there who don’t instantly recognize the eye-catching red of a Tim Horton’s coffee cup? That arresting color—combined with the chocolate brown lid—makes their cups a classic example of iconic packaging. The fact that their new printed coffee cup sleeves are quickly becoming just as iconic is a testament to the strength of their brand.

For a long time, Tim’s provided hot drinks in double cups—effectively having the second cup act as a sleeve. For both environmental and cost concerns, they’ve begun to do away with this practice and are embracing printed coffee sleeves for their coffee, tea and other hot beverages.

As you can see in the image above, simplicity does the trick. The kraft coffee cup sleeve compliments the look of their cups and the red Tim Hortons logo brings it all together. A simple but powerful combo.

Dunkin Donuts Coffee Cup Sleeves

Coffee Cup Sleeves - Dunkin DonutsCredit: Jacqueline Canino

Though contrasting looks are always an attention grabber, this picture shows that Dunkin Donuts knows brown shades complement each other very well. Rather than employing the simplicity of black ink, brown inks send out feelings of warmth and comfort—along with inspiring just a hint of coffee beans at the edge of your sense of smell. Because, as much as it can be a moving billboard, sometimes a cup of coffee just needs to be a cup of coffee.

That’s not to say Dunkin Donuts doesn’t know how to have a good time, either.

Their rebranding efforts over the past few years have seen rounded edges and bright, bubbly colors enter their artwork. As part of that change, Dunkin Donuts has begun to switch from coffee cup sleeves to double-walled coffee cups. Though it’s been readily accepted by their clientele, there’s still those who prefer a nicely textured and easy-to-grip coffee cup sleeve.

Because no matter how your business progresses, you can never go wrong with the classics.

Starbucks Coffee Cup Sleeves

Coffee Cup Sleeves - Starbucks

Anyone who’s a fan of customization probably loves getting their coffee from Starbucks. Whether it’s choosing from dairy milk alternatives, weighing the caloric consequences of whipped cream, or deciding on one pump or two of caramel drizzle (come on, it’s two), Starbucks knows your love of choice.

That’s why their coffee cups and coffee cup sleeves change so much between product lines, locations, and times of the year. Every drink and every occasion is a chance to create an entire look and feel for a beverage, and Starbucks doesn’t disappoint.

The picture above is a stellar example. A tall, bright white cup featuring an eye-catching illustration that’s complemented by a kraft coffee sleeve adorned with a striking showcase of the coffee chain’s classic green logo. There’s no mistaking it’s a Starbucks cup, and it probably sets off intense cravings in the coffee lovers who see it.

They don’t stop there, either. If you’ve ever seen their holiday cup lineup, you know the vision and effort Starbucks puts into their graphics, colors and sleeve choices. Thirsty?

Custom Coffee Cup Sleeves

Coffee Cup Sleeves - Custom Coffee Cup Sleeves Pic 1

These are the sleeves that every business wants to get their hands on. Branded coffee cup sleeves are prime real estate that’s seen by so many people—coffee drinkers and passersby alike. Their rate of return (both in terms of sales and brand equity) is more than worth what it takes to create them.

And the best thing about personalized cup sleeves is that they’re not just exclusively for use by the coffee shops out there. Any business that offers drinks to their clientele has an opportunity to broadcast their message. Need a few examples for brainstorming? Let’s go!

Mechanic or Auto Shop?
Ensure your customers leave the waiting room with a steaming cup of complimentary coffee in their hands. Your message will reach everyone they run into—try your logo on one side of the sleeve and a referral promotion on the other!

Esthetician or Hair Salon?
Whether it’s coffee or sparkling water you’ve put in your client’s hands, a printed coffee sleeve is a brilliant finishing touch. Try your hand at affiliate marketing—use your logo on one side and sell the other side to another relevant business!

Unique shop or small restaurant?
A custom coffee cup sleeve is a great way to bring together a marketing campaign. If you’re a retail stall, a brightly colored sleeve will attract plenty of curious customers. And if you’re a restaurant with seating, a well-worded promo can get them to order dessert alongside that delicious coffee.

The opportunities custom coffee sleeves provide is almost endless. All it takes is a little imagination and the right design program. If you can provide the former, then TPC’s Custom Shop can cover the latter.

Create Your Own Custom Coffee Cup Sleeves with The Packaging Company

Coffee Cup Sleeves - Custom Coffee Cup Sleeves Pic 2

There’s no question that sleeves are a simple but powerful way to get your message into your customers hands. And it’s never been easier to create your own printed coffee cup sleeves than it is with the free and easy-to-use design tools waiting for you in the Custom Shop.

Start with your sleeve material of choice. White corrugate has a fresh and clean look that’s perfect for bright colors and interesting artwork. Kraft corrugate has an earthy and natural look that’s ideal for darker colors or all-black designs. Then, settle on your personalized cup sleeve size: 8 oz. for standard cups or the 12-24 oz. size for their taller siblings.

From there, upload your logos or other artwork, add some text, play with colors, and even scope out the free Stock Artwork gallery. When your custom coffee cup sleeves are just as you like them, set your quantity, save the design, and head through the checkout. We’ll take it from there!

Branded coffee sleeves are a perfect example of iconic packaging and a great way to protect your customers hands (and look great while doing it!). Excited to design yours, yet? Because we are. We can’t wait to see what you create.