Today it’s rare to buy a hot beverage without the widely recognized coffee sleeve hugging the cup. This ever-present item was invented in 1993 by Jay Sorensen after he burned himself through a scalding hot coffee cup while driving his daughter to school. Interestingly, Sorenson set out with the idea to design an insulated cup that could be the replacement for all paper and Styrofoam cups.
However, he could not find an effective way to package the cups for clients. It also occurred to him that not all drinks need the large amount of insulation the cup was providing and therefore it would not be economical for stores to replace their line of cups with his new design. Sorenson needed to reevaluate and refocus his idea, and more importantly he needed to scale it down and come up with a flexible alternative.
He started by deciding his invention was not going to be for all drinks, but specifically for hot coffee. He reasoned that by narrowing in on a massive market and focusing on a niche, he could revolutionize how people drink coffee. Turns out he was right. Sorenson now sells over one billion of his Java Jackets® each year.
(Sorenson’s patented his Java Jacket® as a cup sleeve made from embossed chipboard/linerboard. Starbucks® obtained their own patent later, using more expensive corrugated paper on the inside of their cup sleeves and smooth paper on the outside.)