Coffee for the Holidays

A look into why coffee companies “festivize” their cups for the holiday season

Written by: Alex Scott & Luvy Hardy; Edited by: Jocelyn Courneya

The holiday season is upon us, and for many of us that means buckling down, writing exams that make you question your sanity,  and buying expensive Christmas presents you can’t afford. In some cases, the holidays also spark the buying of 7 dollar coffees, in hopes that they will help you to finish that final 20 page paper. Not being much of a coffee drinker myself (Alex), I tend to lean more towards a chai tea or hot chocolate, rather than the choices of some coffee enthusiasts . Whereas I (Luvy), cannot go one day without a cup of coffee, it’s crucial to my existence and it’s how I function properly. Whether a cocoa lover or coffee enthusiast, we both like to take into appreciation the pretty little pictures on the side of our cups that appear once the holidays arise in the coffee world. In a time where the lack of a snowflake on the side of a red cup becomes a front-page news story, it is easy to say that there is a lot more to coffee’s relationship with the holidays than pretty pictures and new flavours.

Yesterday, 65% of Canadians aged 18-79 drank a cup of coffee and in the past year, 84% of Canadians aged 18-79 drank a cup of coffee. With a whopping average of 2.8 cups a day, it is quite clear that Canadians love their caffeine (Coffee Association of Canada, 2013). The coffee industry has quickly realized this great demand for caffeine, and has been able to make approximately 650 million dollars per year off of it (Agriculture Canada, 2011). For obvious reasons, Christmas is by far the biggest holiday on the Canadian calendar. In 2014, the average Canadian spent $888 on Christmas shopping (MNP Debt, 2015). Keep in mind; this price does not include traveling expenses, entertainment costs, décor costs, and miscellaneous costs that one can come across. So what should one do with the biggest Canadian holiday and one of the most consumed beverages next to tap water? Combine them of course!The value of food and beverages purchased at large retailers in Canada in December 2013 was up 11.0% from average monthly sales of $3.92 billion. A total of $4.35 billion dollars comes from the Christmas food and beverage industry (Stats Can, 2013).


What coffee industries take advantage of this money making opportunity? Second Cup, Tim Hortons, Starbucks, Timothy’s, and McDonalds are some on the list, just to name a few. These coffee selling organizations use specific colors, snowflakes, snowmen, presents, reindeer, and other Christmas symbols on their coffee cups for the holiday season in order to attract their publics. These ‘festive cups’ encourage consumers, by making them associate Christmas cheer with Christmas drinks. The stronger that association is, the larger the profit will be. These coffee organizations change their cups for a vast majority of reasons. Getting into the Christmas spirit, promoting Christmas drinks, and fighting the cold of winter, are a few to name. Every Christmas season, these big name coffee chains launch their holiday specials; and to go along with their new drinks, many companies launch new cups yearly. Not only is this time of year extremely profitable due to the nature of the holiday, but it is also profitable because of the weather. When there is cold weather, people want warm drinks. Thus, coffee sales go up regardless. Additionally, having festive cups for the holiday season, definitely adds an appeal factor for its consumers. When given the choice of a plain dark cup versus a bright red cup (with or without snowflakes), those of us that actually enjoy the festive season will steer clear of the cup that reminds us why we needed that coffee in the first place.

No matter how tragic the season may fee, with about as much snow as a desert, we know we can always count on the holiday spirit to bring out the creative minds of the PR, marketing and advertising departments of these coffee chains. Let their creative minds flow and entertain us with as many holiday symbols as they can fit on the side of a cup. We don’t know about you, but with all this coffee talk we think we’re in need of a… seriously? An eggnog latte? Now that’s just crossing a line.