By: Rhoda Miel
March 14, 2013
CHICAGO — That iconic red cup is getting a makeover courtesy of a new Arizona company that's using the cup's design cues in a new line of reusable glasses.
Red Cup Living LLC has created a series of dishwasher-safe ABS glasses not only in the traditional style first created by Solo Cup Co., but also translated into wine glasses, martini glasses, shot glasses, a cup-shaped bottle opener and even glasses for margaritas.
Check out this PN video with Red Cup founder Michael Romley showing samples of his firm's products.
"We had just moved to a new house, and we started having neighborhood parties to get to know people," said Red Cup founder Michael Romley during a March 3 interview at the International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago.
After a few weeks, they took a look at the number of disposable red plastic cups they were going through, and wondered if there was a reusable version on the market. He and wife and partner Kathryn Romley wanted to stick with the red-cup look, reasoning that the design has come to have a certain connotation with parties and relaxation for the American consumer.
At the same time, Romley — who had previously run two other housewares firms — was looking for another business opportunity. Once the couple discovered there were no reusable red cups on the market, the potential market seemed clear.
Eight months after entering the market, the company is gaining traction and Red Cup Living is looking at how it can bring production to the U.S. after launching molding in Taiwan.
"As a startup, we didn't know what to expect, and there's a lot of money to lay out for molds and press time," he said. Initial response, though, has been positive. "We've presold more [cups] than we expected to sell for the full production launch."
Before starting the business, Romley said they carefully investigated any legal issues related to piggybacking on the Solo Cup design, finally deciding that the form had become generic enough — used by other thermoforming companies — that the business was safe. In addition, during the ramp-up to start the business, Solo changed its design to a rectangular base, while Red Cup Living based its design on the original shape.
"We did a tremendous amount of research on this first," he said.
Solo sold to competitor Dart Container Corp. of Mason, Mich., in 2012, just as Red Cup Living was preparing to launch sales in June. Having country music's Toby Keith release a song praising the cup at the same time didn't hurt, Romley said.
Red Cup Living already has competitors who tapped into the same design. Trudeau Corp. of Woodridge, Ill., launched its "Red Party Cup" collection — molded in St. Charles, Ill. — just two months after Red Cup Living. And while it is not a commercial product, Eastman Chemical Co. of Kingsport, Tenn., developed a Tritan-based version on the familiar design to promote itself at the housewares show.
Red Living came to the market with a greater variety of glasses, though. The red-cup-inspired wine glass is the firm's second-best seller, Romley said. The company had 2,000 sales locations before IHHS.
"These are just really resonating with people," he said, as two housewares retailers posed for a photo holding margarita versions of the cup at Red Cup Living's booth. "It's not just about a cup, it's a lifestyle."