Shopping Guide: Paper Cups
By: Sabrina Huda Sanchez

All year-round consumers enjoy the coffee and sodas on the go with disposable paper cups. Paper cups are an essential restaurant supply, but there are so many choices, from insulation thickness to eco-friendly alternatives, that it may be hard selecting the right ones for your business. This guide presents the differences between paper cups best used for hot beverages and those used for cold beverages.


Hot Paper Cups

- Regular

Standard paper hot cups are designed specifically to be used with hot beverages like coffee or tea. These types of cups are thicker than paper cold cups and typically contain a double poly-lined inside layer to prevent leaking. However, heat can still radiate through the paper material so it is highly recommended that cups containing scalding hot contents also use a cup sleeve to prevent burns.

Regular paper hot cups come in a variety of sizes and designs from plain white to coffee prints. Large coffee chains such as Starbucks and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf use white paper cups and lids which allow them to showcase their custom print logos. Coffee cups with preprinted designs are more commonly used in businesses where coffee is not the focus such as a donut shop.

Along with the benefits of leak-proof construction and a wide selection, regular paper hot cups are also the lowest cost option at around $0.04 - $0.06 per cup.


- Ripple

Ripple paper cups are made with an extra layer of textured insulation to keep drinks warmer and eliminate the need for cup jackets. Named for its textured appearance, ripple hot cups not only provide insulation but also creates a superior grip. These premium-looking cups are double poly-lined for leak protection and added resilience.

These hot cups make an excellent choice for small stores. Without the need for additional restaurant supplies such as cup jackets, businesses with limited space can reduce the number stored supplies because this one product replaces a regular cup with a cup sleeve.

Depending on which restaurant supply store you shop at, the various sizes of 4oz to 20oz ripple cups can range from $0.09 to $0.25 per cup.


- Double Insulated

Similar to the ripple cup, double insulated hot cups have an additional wall to help keep coffees and teas warmer for longer. These hot cups do not require a cup jacket and therefore saves money on additional cup accessories. The simplicity of this cup style offers the same benefit of a plain regular cup when custom printing; the branding stands out more.

When In N Out introduced hot cocoa as their latest menu addition, they used a double insulated paper cup. Their famous palm tree design perfectly pops against the simple flat surface.

Double insulated paper hot cups are more economical than the ripple cups. They can be found in 8oz to 20oz sizes and can range between $0.10 - $0.18 per cup.


- Eco-Friendly

The business of serving hot beverages on the go requires disposable restaurant supplies. Customers need the convenience of grab-and-go but operators who want to reduce their impact on the environment can choose to buy eco-friendly paper hot cups.

Not all paper hot cups are compostable or recyclable because the internal lining is made from a poly plastic material whereas environmentally friendly paper cups use a plant-based material, called PLA, to create that same leak-resistant layer. These renewable resources make eco-friendly coffee cups compostable, thus better for the environment versus regular coffee cups.

Eco-friendly paper hot cups are available in single wall and double insulated versions between 8oz and 20oz. The price range for these are wide depending on the distributor, starting from approximately $0.07 per cup.


Cold Paper Cups

- Regular

Regular paper cold cups are meant to be used for iced beverages such as fountain drinks/sodas. The double poly lining prevents cup condensation and the rolled top edges allows for a secure seal with matching lids. Paper cold cups are found in many styles and sizes but are less likely to be used as a solid white cup. Regular paper cups will either have custom prints or a large soda brand.

These truly are versatile for accommodating nearly any cold drink. Their multiuse, as well as low cost, make them the most economical choice for cold cup options. Available in sizes 9oz to 44oz and ranging from $0.04 - $0.09 per cup, these are great for any business.


- Eco-Friendly

While regular paper cold cups are less expensive, they may not be the best choice for Mother Earth. Eco-friendly cold cups still have the reinforced lining to prevent leaking and condensation, but this layer is made from a plant-based material that can be commercially composted and broken down in less than one year. The plastic lining in regular paper cups also means the renewable paper resource cannot be recycled as there is no equipment that can separate the chemically-made plastic from the plant-based paper. Paper cold cups with PLA means less waste in landfills.

Many customers are willing to pay more to receive their beverages and food in environmentally friendly restaurant supplies. For an additional cost, these cups tell a message that your business believes in going green and thus portraying your brand in an even more positive light. Pricing may range between $0.06 - $0.10 per cup.


Paper cups are the only way to go for hot beverages on the go and there are so many options from single wall to additional textured insulation. For cold beverages, clear plastic cups and paper cold cups are both viable options. Clear cups may be popular for showing off brightly colored drinks or textured add-ins, but for all other beverages, paper cups are great options for branding and preventing condensation.

Please note listed price ranges are based on various sizes, case counts, and costs at time of writing.