Coffee Shop Innovation Expo logo

15 & 16 JUNE 2021


Starbucks switches up their cup design

Starting with 500 entries from 50 different countries and whittled down to just 12 final designs, a prize of 1 million was up for grabs! Along with the opportunity to remodel the Starbucks cup with an innovative and groundbreaking design! 

The NextGen Cup Challenge was launched last Autumn with the focus on transforming the coffee cup from a non-recyclable item, to an environmentally friendly holder for the 4 billion cups of liquid gold sold by Starbucks every year. The winners will see their design give the leading chain’s cups a fresh new look; ready to hit the streets without having a negative impact on the environment. 

This competition was a great way for the companies and the individuals to progress and work together. The 12 finalists were split into 3 problem solving categories. One group focused on creating cup liners and the other 2 focused on reusable cup receptacles and working with new materials. 

One of the finalists, Footprint US, was the original company that made the plastic liner to keep the drink hot and stop it from soaking through the material. However, this was not recyclable, and they’ve now created cups, lids and straws with a fiber-based solution, making them completely recyclable. Kotkamills Oy, taking a similar approach, formed a plastic-free, compostable and recyclable cup lining, meaning the Starbucks cup could stay the same on the outside. 

Soluble Ltd who were placed in the ‘new materials category’ created a non-toxic, plant-based cup that was also biodegradable. Another group that rounded off the finalists nicely was CupClub, who created an innovative returnable cup ecosystem, which sees the cup get discarded into one of the CupClub bins, washed and then reused. 

As the competition nears its conclusion, 6 finalists will be selected to enter the ‘NextGen Business Accelerator’, where they will work with business experts to prepare the products for real-world use. 

Starbucks is now one of the many global brands making the move to become more ethically and environmentally aware, with McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Nestle and Wendy’s all also carrying the mantle of sustainability.

Even though this is a massive stepping stone towards a change that will have a huge impact on sustainability, NextGen confirmed it will be a few years until they’re at a point where the recyclable solutions can be rolled out nationwide. We look forward to seeing the progress and development of this initiative unfold and expand for the greater good!