Are “Starbucks travel mugs” Reusable Cups Worth It?

By: RandyYoumans

These are the pros and cons

The use of reusable cups has become a popular trend among environmental conscious people. Starbucks Travel Mugs quickly jumped on this trend in the early 2010, marketing their cups as both a way for the planet to be saved and as a brand accessory for fans. However, the tumblers aren’t popular with consumers due to the many cheaper alternatives.

Are Mugs Reusable Cups Worth It? Although past versions of Starbucks travel mugs-branded tumblers may have cost more than they were worth, buying from the latest line-up of reusable cups is a stylish, environmentally-friendly way to save money, but there are still pros and cons to consider.

Starbucks has been committed to the long-term goal of increasing the number customers who bring reusable cups and tumblers into stores. However, the company has not been as successful in achieving this goal as it had hoped. Continue reading to learn where Starbucks’ travel mug strategy is failing and what the future holds for it.

Starbucks Travel Mugs’ Waste Reduction Strategy Over the Years

Starbucks travel mugs has long promoted and marketed its commitment to environmentally-friendly practices, including serving its beverages in “a cup with 10% post-consumer recycled paper fiber since 2006” and, later, encouraging the use of reusable cups.

The company later came up with the idea to encourage customers to bring in reusable tumblers.

The company previously set a goal to ensure that 5% of Starbucks’ travel mugs beverages were sold in-store in tumblers owned by customers by 2015. This amendment was made to an earlier goal, which was to have reusable tumblers in 25% of all in-store beverage sales by 2015.

Starbucks Travel Mugs reported that less than 2% in-store beverages were sold in Starbucks travel cups in 2011. This is a decrease of less than half of the percentage points in the two previous years. This percentage, however small, meant that in 2011, 34 million less Starbucks travel mug cups were thrown away.

The $1 Reusable Cup

Starbucks’s use of reusable cups by customers has been slow. It fell to 1.5% in 2012, and then to 1.8% in 2013. Starbucks introduced a $1 reusable cup in 2013 to encourage customers to use it in-store.

Starbucks customers who purchased reusable Starbucks travel cups for $1 got the same 10 cent discount as regular tumblers on each drink they bought/served. The cost of the mugs would be recouped in 10 purchases.

Starbucks’ travel mugs customers are visiting Starbucks on average 6 times per month. The most loyal 20% of Starbucks travelers visit Starbucks 16 times per month. This would make it seem easy to purchase this reusable version of Starbucks’ travel mugs. But, it didn’t sell as well as Starbucks (and many other media outlets at that time) had expected. As the company grew over the years, the use rate for reusable cups dropped to 1.3% in 2018, which brought the total number of cups saved to 42,000,000 that year.

Mugs successfully launched the $1 reusable cup after a trial in the Pacific Northwest. However, the low discount and the fact that customers forgot to grab their cups on their way to mugs were obstacles to this success. Despite the fact that the Pacific Northwest tested 600 stores, the national use of reusable cups in the U.S. was still low.

Additionally, the fact that these cheaper cups were advertised to only last for 30 uses was likely a deterrent to two camps of potentially interested customers: 1) those who were invested in the money-saving aspect and 2) those who cared more about the environmentally-friendly waste reduction.