When you think “fashion,” you think clothes, right? The cuts and silhouettes that are in right now? The materials? Big logos or subtle prints? Trending colors?
The world of fashion doesn’t stop at wearables, though. Trends and fads translate over to consumer products and accessories, most notably drinkware. Try telling the TikTok kid who demands the latest water bottle they saw their favorite influencer using that drinkware can’t be trendy.
As with apparel, choosing a good drinkware product means finding the right material (especially if it’s eco-friendly), choosing the right color(s) and fitting with current consumer wants or needs.
“Fashionable or stylish and functional drinkware that is designed with a purpose is the future,” said Vinh Lieu, co-owner of Elemental Bottles, Fountain Valley, California. “I am excited about our Iconic 14 oz. Fidget Pop bottles that are coming out at the end of May. This bottle has a unique fidget pop handle strap and is super relaxing to play with. Normally, you fidget by clicking pens or shaking your legs, and sometimes that can annoy people in meetings. If you have this bottle, you can hydrate at the same time while fidgeting, and not disturb anyone!”
That’s just one example of the ways drinkware is evolving to be more than simply a vessel for your beverage of choice. Let’s take a look at a few more and what that might mean for promo.
Style and Purpose
Trends and demand go beyond just looks. Sustainability is now a huge priority for many consumers and brands. People want products that make them feel like they’re doing their part to help the environment, or at least not make things worse.
Choosing reusable bottles over single-use plastics is already a good start, but distributors should look at other factors in the manufacturing and decoration process that appeal to eco-conscious end-users. And it’s not enough to just be reusable—sustainable drinkware still needs to look good, so that consumers want to use it day in and day out.
“I believe a high-quality, stylish and functional piece of drinkware will be used over and over again, and this is sustainability through usage,” Lieu said. “A cheap or not-great-looking reusable product will not be used and will just end up in the landfills.”
Brian Sommers, owner of Baltimore Glassware Decorators, Baltimore, said his company has implemented numerous processes to fit with current standards of environmentalism and safety.
“We do actual ink application technology,” he said. “In this facility, we’re completely organic, UV, lead-free, metal-free. All of our applications [and] our inks can pass child safety standards. It’s the same kind of ink technology they use on kids’ toys. So, that’s really a big key factor for us as far as the green initiative: No one’s going to get hurt, no one can get sued, we’re completely compliant and Earth-friendly for the application process.”
Right now, you might not be able to get your customer their first-choice drinkware item. We’re all familiar with the supply chain issues that have led to long lead times and inventory shortages.
That means that the most successful distributors are the ones who can make an order happen for their customers no matter the obstacles. Distributors need to be sure that they can find the products their clients need, even if that means looking outside their usual suppliers.
“It’s the guys who have the stock that are winning the race right now,” Sommers said. “So many other competitors and things in our drinkware industry category, a lot of people are struggling on stock, which produces issues on turnaround. We’re loaded. We’ve increased our stock levels over 160%. So, we’re prepared to come through while everybody who has been asleep for the last two years, they’re awake now, but we’re able to come through. That’s the biggest thing. Every call we get, people are asking us three to four times, ‘Are you sure you have the stock?’ Because they’ve been burnt by so many other people. That’s really been the key for us right now—having product.”
These days, that might also mean looking at other materials or styles you may not have considered before.
“We were pushing and hammering so hard and doing well, but most of our ceramics are imported,” Sommers said. “So, right now, they’re so outrageous and expensive that the ceramic volume is down right now. Glass volume is through the roof, but ceramics you’re talking about over a 100% increase [from] a year ago in cost for that item. So, it’s kind of a weird time for that sector.”
Let’s say you’ve found a supplier that has warehouses full of the exact products you need. That’s awesome! Unfortunately, it’s no longer as simple as just shipping a box of travel mugs to your client’s office.
Other aspects of our modern lives influence drinkware demand. Take, for example, the work-from-home boom and the wave of new hires. Companies can use drinkware in onboarding kits for employees whether they’re in the office or working from home, and distributors can add value by handling the delivery of those items.
That might mean drop shipping directly to recipients or spiking things up with a fully realized kit. Drinkware items work great for pairing with other goods like T-shirts, notebooks or writing instruments to create a comprehensive promotional experience. That trend has been big for Lieu and Elemental Bottles.
“Our drinkware gift sets have been very popular,” he said. “The most popular set is our Classic Water Bottle and our Artisan Tumbler gift set. We also get lots of requests to add items to this gift set and drop ship them. [We saw] a surge of over 300% for us in 2021 since 2020..”
Among those added items—apparel, writing instruments, etc.—there’s a good chance that the drinkware piece will get the most use and have the longest shelf life. That is, of course, as long as it looks nice. Like we said, a new piece of drinkware can serve as a fashion statement on its own.
“The wild thing about the drinkware category [is that it] Almost serves as a trophy/award-type product,” Sommers said. “To explain that, someone brands with a pen or T-shirt, they go in a drawer or closet. Someone gets a branded glass, eight-and-a-half times out of 10 it’s ending up … displayed, traded, resold online. You’re borderline almost an award or trophy-style product.”