In Praise of the Red Solo Cup

Perhaps inspired by Toby Keith’s recent ode to the Red Solo Cup, Slate’s Seth Stevenson dug deep on the history and cultural significance of the little plastic cup that could.

No doubt the cup’s opacity was a selling point for underage college and high-school drinkers who would prefer not to reveal exactly what they’re sipping. But why red? Healy says the red-colored cups make up 60 percent of Solo party cup sales, with blue cups a distant second. “I’ve been here 12 years, and I’ve tested this over and over. Consumers prefer red, and it’s not very close. I think for one thing it’s a neutral color that’s appealing to both men and women. It’s also just become a standard.” Perhaps it is a psychologically ingrained preference, as well. Some color theory holds that red signifies concepts like energy, passion, and emotional intensity, while blue is linked with tranquility and depth. I know which set of associations I’d rather trigger at my drunken beer blast.

Solo keg cups also hold a bit more liquid than the competition. They boast an 18-ounce “flush fill” as opposed to the 16 ounces offered by some competitors. (Healy explained that “flush fill” numbers measure the amount you could pour right up to the rim, while the “practical fill” stat shaves off two ounces to allow for ice cubes and spill avoidance.) Most partiers will agree: More is better when it comes to beer-containment capacity.

The Solo Cup Co. has had a rocky decade. Private and family-owned since its inception in 1936, Solo ran into debt problems after buying long-coveted competitor Sweetheart Cup in 2004.

Also, wow, the cup changed designs in 2004 and then again in 2009. Had no idea.

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