November 2, 2005 We’ve discussed the peculiar human trait of heating liquids to boiling temperature and pouring it on the second most sensitive area of our bods once before when we wrote about the ingenious Brugo Travellers mug. Now we’re proposing an equally ingenious solution for the take-away coffee industry – a colour changing disposable beverage lid that indicates the temperature of the liquid inside and clearly indicates that the lid is securely in place. The "smart" lid alerts consumers that the contents are hot by changing from coffee brown to bright red in colour with the colour range designed to indicate the temperature, enabling regular customers to “read” the temperature of their coffee. It’s a small but significant product upgrade, adding significant functionality to the old dumb coffee lid at a price of US$0.01 (a cent to you) per item for the approximately 50 billion take-away cup a year United States marketplace, with the European and Asian take-away coffee markets believed to be of similar magnitude. The company’s product development plans for the subsequent generation of coffee cups are even more ambitious.
Over four years in development, the inspiration for the invention came to inventor Nick Bayss after spending his life growing up in his parents’ coffee shops, and running his own coffee shops for the last 15 years.
“There were two ways people got burned with hot coffee,” says Nick. “The first is that they underestimated the temperature of the coffee. The second, and probably the greatest cause of serious scalding, was when the lid was not put on the takeaway cup correctly.”
“There was no blinding flash and I’m sure there was no single point where the idea came to me, but it was rather that I recognised the need for some way of alerting people to the temperature, and more importantly, finding a way that clearly indicated that the lid was secure.”
“In the end, the special colouring material that changes colour based on the temperature solved both problems because the thicker rim of the coffee cup insulates the lid and creates a thick brown band. If the lid isn’t correctly in place, the steam passes through the gap and it can be clearly seen by the colour.”
“Getting to that point has been a long and difficult process and we worked with Matsui, the company that makes the colour-sensitive pigmentation to create a substrate that was considerably thinner than anything they’d previously worked with.”
Now Smart Lid Systems has commercialised the world's first colour-changing single-use coffee cup lid, recently signing Australian and Asia Pacific licenses and the company is now seeking distributors and licensees in Europe and America.
Aimed at both high-volume users (large quick service chains), and small independent cafes, this new lid has entered the market at the right time as most cup and lid manufacturers are developing new ways of delivering hot beverages. Recent developments include high-quality insulated paper cups and resealable coffee lids. No company to date has introduced a product that communicates the temperature of the coffee to the drinker, and Gizmag expects this to be a product with a rapid global take-up. The lid slowly changes back to the brown colour as the drink cools, signalling your beverage is becoming too cold to drink. This allows interaction between the customer and the product.
The product uses United States FDA food-contact compliant additives and Smart Lid Systems has multiple patents pending in all major regions of the world.
The next generation
“During the development process we found we could use any colour to indicate any temperature and so we used the logical colours of coffee coloured for cold through to the intuitive red for danger in our first generation of products, but we see many possibilities for further enhancing our products,” says Bayss.
“The current product was developed with the price sensitivity of the industry in mind, with a view to keeping the price difference between the current coffee lid and our lid down to no more than one United States cent.”
“But some of the larger chains with specific branding requirements can see the advantages of spending a bit more on the lid and offering much more functionality to further enhance the purchase experience.”
“Our subsequent developments are in several areas but one example might be that we can make the lid in corporate colours and have it change to any specific colour the marketer requires, or to have messages appear when the lid is placed on the coffee – this lid really does have the potential to significantly change the coffee drinking experience.”
Quite clearly, hot beverage consumption will become an entirely new experience in the near future. Smart Lid Systems is seeking licensees in America and Europe and interested parties should email Nick Bayss here.