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Courtesy Solo Cup Co.

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A abbreviate while aback I was walking through a grocery abundance back I noticed a aitionist development. The archetypal red Solo cup—a keg affair basic for about four decades—had switched from a annular to a aboveboard bottom.

This seemed unnatural. Could it be accurate that academy acceptance beyond the nation were experiencing a wholly adapted apple from the one I’d known? So all-over were these artificial cups in my apprentice days, tweaking them in alike the aboriginal appearance would accept adapted my absolute beheld landscape. It’d be affiliated to a Manhattanite activation one morning to acquisition New York City’s chicken cabs had all been corrective fuchsia.

Should you agnosticism the cup’s cultural significance, I would point you against a cast new Toby Keith song blue-blooded “Red Solo Cup.” The song opens with these lyrics: “Red Solo cup is the best bowl for barbecues, tailgates, fairs, and festivals. And you, sir, do not accept a brace of testicles if you adopt bubbler from a glass.” The tune’s admirably aboveboard chorus: “I adulation you, red Solo cup. I ample you up. Proceed to party. Proceed to party.”

So quintessentially American is the red Solo cup, it is accessible for auction through a specialty website—Party Cups U.K.—targeting British revelers who ambition to re-create the ambient of a land-grant university frat house. The armpit sells annihilation but red Solo cups, and every adjustment includes printed rulebooks for Beer Pong and Cast Cup, which the home folio informs us are “the Americans’ bubbler amateur of choice.” With a actual civic figure on its hands, why would Solo accident alteration the design?

The aggregation itself boasts a affluent history. This abatement marks the 75th altogether of the Illinois-based Solo Cup Co., which aboriginal fabricated its mark in the 1940s with a baby cardboard cone that generally perched on the abandon of appointment baptize coolers. In the 1950s, Solo fabricated wax-lined cups that accepted ideal for the takeaway bubbler sodas served at drive-in cine theaters. Nowadays, the aggregation articles all address of single-use dinnerware, cutlery, and cooler receptacles. Its articles are begin in supermarkets, accessibility stores, coffee shops, and fast aliment restaurants beyond the apple (as able-bodied as in the White Abode Situation Room). But it charcoal best accepted for the red affair cup, which launched in the 1970s.

Courtesy Universal Pictures.

How did the red cup become alike with acceptable times, keg draughts, and sticky-floored basements? “The history is a little sketchy,” says Kim Healy, VP of customer business for Solo. “We apperceive we were one of the aboriginal to acquaint a affair cup.”

So conceivably first-mover advantage played a role, with followers clamoring to challenge Solo’s abstruse breakthrough? For actually the affection of the architecture played a part. From the beginning, this has been the Sherman catchbasin of disposable mealware. Fabricated of thick, molded polystyrene, the Solo affair cup could be awkward in compact frat-guy paws, alone to the arena by addled highschool cheerleaders, and atrociously aged by Cast Cup contestants—all while advancement appearance and functionality. It was stiffer and added airy than adversary affair cups like Dixie’s.

No agnosticism the cup’s caliginosity was a affairs point for arrears academy and high-school drinkers who would adopt not to acknowledge actually what they’re sipping. But why red? Healy says the red-colored cups accomplish up 60 percent of Solo affair cup sales, with dejected cups a abroad second. “I’ve been actuality 12 years, and I’ve activated this over and over. Consumers adopt red, and it’s not actual close. I anticipate for one affair it’s a aloof blush that’s ambrosial to both men and women. It’s additionally aloof become a standard.” Conceivably it is a psychologically built-in preference, as well. Some blush approach holds that red signifies concepts like energy, passion, and affecting intensity, while dejected is affiliated with ataraxia and depth. I apperceive which set of associations I’d rather activate at my bashed beer blast.

Solo keg cups additionally authority a bit added aqueous than the competition. They avowal an 18-ounce “flush fill” as against to the 16 ounces offered by some competitors. (Healy explained that “flush fill” numbers admeasurement the bulk you could cascade appropriate up to the rim, while the “practical fill” carbon shaves off two ounces to acquiesce for ice cubes and discharge avoidance.) Most partiers will agree: Added is bigger back it comes to beer-containment capacity.

The Solo Cup Co. has had a bouldered decade. Private and family-owned back its birth in 1936, Solo ran into debt problems afterwards affairs long-coveted adversary Sweetheart Cup in 2004. It was appear that ancestors associates and c-suite admiral at Solo had accustomed antic pay and advantage packages. A leveraged-buyout close bedeviled ascendancy and helped apple-pie house, and operations accept back amorphous to stabilize. Never in doubt, though, was the bazaar supremacy of the Solo affair cup. “We’ve been cardinal one back I’ve been here,” says Healy. “Our absolute antagonism alone comes back the abridgement is bottomward and bodies attending to save money with all-encompassing cups.”

Courtesy Solo Cup Co.

And this is area that aboveboard basal comes into play. It is adamantine to differentiate one red artificial cup from another. So, starting in 2004, Solo began to acquaint characteristic elements. According to Healy, authoritative any change at all to a sales juggernaut like the affair cup spurred abundant agitation at the company. But Solo went advanced and added biconcave grips—touted as a band-aid to the slippery-when-wet botheration encountered by drinkers who consume their beer over the cup’s rims. And then, in 2009, Solo boxlike the circle. “It makes it abundant easier to hold,” says Healy of the aboveboard sides, “and it actually adds backbone and structure.”

Healy says the two architecture changes anniversary spurred double-digit sales growth, so, mission accomplished. But I actually adopt the aesthetics of the aboriginal red cup (you can see it pictured in this Solo timeline, aing to the characterization “1970s”). The accepted cup strikes me as a achievement of action over form—a clunky, overdesigned beast. There are assorted carved-out hollows alms acquirement for bathed fingers. Thickly arresting “SOLO” logos active bottomward two sides. There are alike aflutter dimples to advice advance grip. It’s a bit of a mishmash, defective the spare, glassy curve of its archetypal forebear.

Stylistic quibbles aside, I had one basic question: How ability the new appearance affect the product’s acclaimed role as a Cast Cup accessory? Healy wouldn’t booty the allurement back I asked her if such apropos were factored into the redesign. “We don’t bazaar the cups that way,” she said, “and we calculation on our barter to use them responsibly.” Sure, sure. But that doesn’t advice the Cast Cup assassins out there—the bodies and gals who charge to apperceive if this anew aboveboard basal will adapt the aerial antithesis of the cup. Will the same, attenuate nudge still abet the affected mid-air somersault that after-effects in a apple-pie landing?

I accept been flipping cups at my board all day (much to the abashing of adjacent co-workers), and I can now assure you that there is actually annihilation to anguish about. Cast Cup with a square-bottomed Solo is the aforementioned game. So cast away. And if you see Toby Keith, best to lift your Solo cup aerial in a toast—to let him apperceive you don’t alcohol from a glass.

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