Roll up Tim Hortons’ (spill-proof) rim

In 2012, the iconic company finally unveiled a cup lid that didn’t drip hot coffee down your leg
Roll up the (spill-proof) rim
Photograph by Brandon Titaro

Coffee-stained pants, endless frustration tucking back a plastic tab that won’t stay in its designated groove—if you’re a Tim Hortons regular, you’re familiar with such tribulations. The cause, as discussed vehemently on dozens of Internet forums and Facebook groups, is the flat, flimsy lid used by Tim Hortons on their cups.

With an eye to curbing such criticism, Canada’s favourite doughnut shop has quietly unveiled a new lid with an “improved flip tab design.” First available in January, the company plans to have the new lids topping warm beverages in Canada and the U.S. by the end of the year. “We have gotten some comments from customers [saying] they were disappointed with the consistency of the flip tab,” says Tim Hortons’ manager of public affairs Alexandra Cygal. “We wanted to make sure the design is consistent.”

To the oblivious coffee guzzler, the new lids might not appear any different. They’re made from the same plastic material, are still relatively flat (unlike the domed lids at rivals like Starbucks and McDonald’s) and they’re still coloured that familiar chocolate brown. The most significant change lies in the dreaded flip tab, which has been redesigned to fit more snugly into the curved notch and be less prone to tearing. The new lids also appear to offer a tighter seal (eliminating most of those annoying leaks) and allow better stacking of cups one on top of the other.

Cygal says Tim Hortons began looking into a lid redesign last year, amidst the online exhortations of disgruntled customers. “I am so sick of the damn things leaking all over my console in my truck,” wrote one user on the Facebook group, Tim Hortons Lids Leak and Suck A–. When Maclean’s first wrote about the backlash last year, Louise Harpman, a New York City architect and professor who, along with her partner Scott Specht, has amassed a large collection of patented plastic cup lids, sided with the online detractors when shown one of the old Tim’s lids. “This is very much old news in the lid world,” she said, citing “inferior leakage containment and inferior mouth comfort.”

Cygal says the company landed on the new design after consulting with suppliers. It was their first lid change “in quite awhile,” Cygal adds. But even though the upgrade was a long time coming, it’s unlikely it was instigated out of fear of a wider customer backlash. The company says it sells two billion cups of coffee per year. Sales in 2011 jumped more than nine per cent, while the company’s revenues grew 21 per cent to $780 million.

Still, there is no doubt a nation of grateful hockey parents and office and construction workers are happy to see that Tim’s has finally got with the times when it comes to that great innovation: the modern, disposable coffee cup lid.