Packaging Peculiarity: the Edible Cup

How do you address the twin problems of green image and the need to do something quirky in order to generate a buzz on the Internet?

If you’re KFC (or Kentucky Fried Chicken, for people my age) you introduce the edible coffee cup: a concoction made from biscuit, rice paper and temperature-resistant white chocolate. Finish your coffee, and you can chow down on the cup. And why not? A hundred and ten years ago, ice cream retail underwent a similar revolution when it was discovered that customers didn’t need to be given a bowl and a spoon, merely a conical wafer.

2015: enter the ‘Scoff-ee cup’ – and for once the UK doesn’t need to wait for something the USA had first. Quite the opposite, as the cups are planned for trials in the UK first. (Is my island now considered to serve as a testbed for Uncle Sam? That marks an interesting development in itself… or perhaps we’re simply less litigious over here.)

As for the cups themselves, they’re still under development. At this time I can’t tell you about the flavour, nor how many calories the cup is expected to deliver. What we do know is some of the aromas that freaky experimental foodie consultancy The Robin Collective have proposed for the cups, including coconut sun cream, freshly cut grass, and wild flowers. That coffee should actually smell like coffee is out, it seems. Given that the whole exercise is largely a gimmick conducted in order to announce that KFC will be selling Seattle Best Coffee (a Starbucks brand) this seems like something of a mixed message.

Anyway, you finish your drink, and then you get to eat the biscuity cup. To my mind, this is a bit backwards: if I’ve just eaten a chocolate biscuit and some rice paper, I’d be looking for a drink to wash it down. But maybe that’s just a fiendishly clever way to drum up repeat business.

Cardboard and biscuit-based coffee cups compared

Om nom.

In terms of sustainability, an edible cup is probably worse than a cardboard one (never mind the health effects; I’m thinking of the embodied water in materials such as chocolate) but at least it’s biodegradable. An edible cup won’t end up floating around in the ocean for decades like a plastic one.

The cups that have been shown to-date are thick-walled and that means they won’t nest at all well, so a consignment of cups will be bulky, leading to expensive and more carbon-intensive transportation… but the real job of this cup is to provide viral advertising – just like the silly stories of a drone-based delivery system that Amazon generated so much hype with, shortly before Christmas 2013.

Of course the Internet is fickle, and you never know if your innovation will go viral, or if it’ll just be mocked. For Amazon, a particularly classy piece of mockery comes from Audi, with their new advert for the A6…  and for KFC, there’s a piece in The Onion. Also, an honourable mention must go to Sαrαh Dαvis of Georgia Southern University (twitter: @sarahkate678) who wrote the following:

“KFC is now making a coffee cup that will be edible…. No word yet on when they’ll make their chicken edible.”

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