Advertising & Marketing

Who Invented the Travel Mug?

What did we do before the travel mug? For one thing, we spilled a lot more hot coffee and iced tea while driving to work or running errands around town. Read on for a brief history of travel mugs, including who invented the travel mug, how it came to be one of the first mass-produced promotional mugs and why it remains more popular than ever.

What Is a Travel Mug? 

A travel mug is a reusable, insulated mug that is designed to keep hot or cold drinks at their desired temperature for extended periods of time. Travel mugs are typically plastic, stainless steel or ceramic and they include a spill-resistant lid with a hole for drinking, or a straw. Some travel mugs also have a handle and almost all are designed to fit within a car cupholder. 

When Were Travel Mugs Invented?

If you are wondering when the first travel mug was made, we have the answer! The travel mug was invented in the same decade as many other indispensable inventions such as the laser printer, word processors, sticky notes, mobile phones and roller blades: The 70s, of course!

One of the earliest patents for a travel mug was granted to a California real estate developer named Joseph F. Corey in 1978. Corey’s design featured a non-drip lid and an insulated interior with baffles that helped beverages stay hot or cold. What’s a baffle, you ask? A baffle is a vertical insert on the interior of a vessel that breaks the circulating flow pattern. This can serve to reduce heat or cold loss (temperature change) and reduce spills by slowing down the movement of the contents.

The travel mug was widely distributed thanks to Bob Sokolski, the founder of Whirley Industries. The company mass-produced plastic travel mugs in the early 1980s that were made of durable plastic and featured a screw-on, spill-free, temperature-maintaining lid. These travel mugs were primarily distributed at convenience stores in the USA – perhaps the first ever branded travel mugs! More on that below! 

What Is the History of the Travel Mug? 

The travel mug was popular immediately and its use has continued to expand over the decades:

  • Convenience Store Marketing Tool: The fast-growing popularity of travel mugs, which began in the early 1980s, is largely the result of ‘coffee club’ promotions by convenience stores in the USA. When a customer bought a promotional plastic travel mug at one of the many convenience store chains that had a coffee club at the time, they would become a ‘club member’, entitled to buy refills at a discount.1    
  • Coffee Shop Branding: In the 1990s, mega coffee shop chains such as Starbucks® started selling travel mugs. These mugs changed seasonally and were (and still are) popular among both the most practical and most stylish of beverage sippers. 
  • Form, Function, Fashion Accessory: In the past 20 years, travel mugs have become more and more sophisticated, with added features like stainless steel walls, copper lining, vacuum insulation, integrated straws and leak-proof, lockable lids.

What Are the Benefits of Using a Travel Mug? 

There are many reasons why the history of the travel mug has grown from a uniquely designed piece of drinkware to a daily accessory for work, school, travel and sports:  

  • Convenience: Travel mugs allow you to bring your favourite beverage with you wherever you go. This is especially important on busy mornings when you don’t have time to stop for coffee or tea. 
  • Less Waste: Bring your travel mug into the local coffee shop and pat yourself on the back for preventing one less disposable cup from ending up in landfill! 
  • Fewer Spills: Travel mugs are designed to prevent spills, so you don’t have to worry about your beverage getting all over your clothes or belongings. 
  • Branding: Throughout the history of the travel mug, this drinkware option has offered a highly visible way to advertise your small business, sports team, school and more. 

Now that we know who invented the travel mug, and the history of its continuous progress and mass appeal, it is clear what an important inventor Joseph F. Corey was! 

How Can I Customise Travel Mugs to Promote My Business?  

When the time comes to choose your next promotional product, it’s easy to add your logo or other special messaging to a travel mug for visibility all around town. Use a customised travel mug for customer appreciation, team-building, or as a gift with a purchase. Below are some top picks for promotional travel mugs. We picked three, and each one addresses one of the three most important considerations when picking a personalised travel mug to customise: budget, top-notch functionality and high style.

  • Budget: For a price point that meets smaller budgets or mass distribution where your target price per piece is lower, we like the 280 ml Double-Walled Dilan Travel Mug. The stylish textured detailing on the stainless steel exterior ensures a firm grip, and the screw-top lid and pop-top opening are well-suited for on-the-go days of work, school, and travel.
  • Functionality: When your goal is to show customers and employees they matter the most, while ensuring your brand looks its best all around town, the Jetta 330 ml Copper Vacuum-Insulated Tumbler won’t let you or your recipients down.
  • High Style: Want your brand to be best dressed in any setting? Pick the 410 ml Insulated Elwood Tumbler for a sleek tumbler and a pop of colour that draws eyes to your imprint every time.   

Will Travel Mug History Include Your Small Business?  

If the past 50 years is any indication, travel mugs are here to stay. They are a common sight anywhere people want to have a drink handy on-the-go. Add your logo or an ad message to the travel mug that suits your style, event and budget!

Where Can I Find Related Content?

For more drinkware and marketing ideas, browse more products and blogs:



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