The red Solo cup has been the life of the party since the 1970s! You can drink booze, soda, water, and many other tasty beverages from these cheap, disposable cups. They really save the day when it comes to avoiding dishes after a gathering, whether it’s a college kegger or Thanksgiving dinner with the family!

You see red Solo cups in almost every store today, but where exactly did this iconic drinkware come from? Pour yourself a drink and let’s get into the fun history of Solo cups!

“If you’ve ever cleaned up after a kegger or done drink duty at an office party, you’ve seen them – the red Solo cups that are Americans’ receptable of choice for beverages both alcoholic and non.”

– Erin Blakemore, writer for Smithsonian Magazine

History of Red Solo Cups Timeline

Solo Cup has been around since after the Great Depression, but the iconic red cup is relatively young. This timeline shows where the company started and where it’s at today!

  • 1950s

    Source: officedepot.com

    Fountain drinks were becoming popular. Solo met the demand by coating the inside of their cups in wax. These were very popular at movie theaters and fast food restaurants since they stopped condensation from destroying the cups.

  • 1970s

    Source: nytimes.com

    Leo Hulseman’s son, Robert, is credited for inventing the famous red Solo cup. This drinkware was first marketed as a wholesome product for families to use at picnics. Boy how things have changed!

  • 1979

    Source: historydumpster.blogspot.com

    Solo Cup sponsored and made an appearance on the “Dora Hall TV Show.” This TV special starred many famous jazz crooners including Frank Sinatra Jr., Donald O’Connor, and Scatman Crothers.

  • 2005

    Source: jovoto.com

    Robert Hulseman worked with his friend Jack Clements to create Solo Cup Traveler Lids. These are the disposable lids that adorn the top of your to-go cups at places like Starbucks. The design is so iconic, it’s even part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City!

  • 2008

    Source: webstaurantstore.com

    Disposable products often get a lot of flak for not being eco-friendly. Solo’s idea was to partner with Bare® and release cups that are made from 20% recycled, compostable materials.

  • 2011

    Source: nytimes.com

    Country singer Toby Keith released his hit song, “Red Solo Cup.” It peaked at #1 on the Billboard charts and was certified double platinum after selling 2 million digital downloads!

  • 2016

    Source: usatoday.com

    Solo cups can be part of magical moments! Just look at Gavin Spinneweber, a student at Rockledge High School in Florida, who creatively asked his date to the prom using red Solo cups.

  • 2018

    Source: thecomeback.com

    In a clever bit of cross promotion, the filmmakers behind Solo: A Star Wars Story partnered with Solo Cup to release these limited edition packages. They also created a Millennium Falcon out of red Solo cups and displayed it on Hollywood’s red carpet at the movie’s premiere!

  • 2020

    Source: prnewswire.com

    Solo is all about giving back. In 2020, they partnered with Feeding America® to provide 1.5 million meals to families in need across the country. With the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, the timing couldn’t have been better for this initiative.

Source: nytimes.com

When Was the Red Solo Cup Invented?

Source: nytimes.com

The red Solo cup was invented by Robert Hulseman in the 1970s. The Solo Cup Company was already successful at this point for the paper cone cups that attached to water coolers. The red Solo cup, however, took the company to a whole new level!

Interestingly, Hulseman created the red Solo cup because he believed families would love using them at picnics. He never dreamed they would be the stuff of wild tailgates and college parties!

Why Are Solo Cups Red?

As the story goes, the inventor of the red Solo cup, Robert Hulseman, asked his kids to help him pick the colors for his new plastic cups. Red happened to be one of the colors on their list!

Psychology can explain why red is the most popular color for Solo cups. This vibrant color is said to be associated with adventure, excitement, and energy. For this reason, red is often used by food and drink companies, like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, because just seeing the color can increase our heart rates and evoke happy memories.

The Solo Cup Company is a family-owned and operated business. Robert Hulseman’s son, Paul, took over from his father and worked as the Senior Vice President for 22 years.

What Are the Other Solo Cup Colors?

It might be surprising, but the red Solo cup wasn’t the only color that came out in the 1970s! Solo also released the following at the same time:

  • Peach
  • Blue
  • Yellow

Peach

Peach wasn’t much of a seller when colorful Solo cups first hit the shelves at stores. Everybody loved red more since it was bolder and stood out from the rest of the colors.

Blue

Blue was reportedly Robert Hulseman’s personal favorite color. Still, that didn’t stop red from outselling the blue cups by a wide margin.

Yellow

Yellow was a bestselling Solo cup color in Texas. These sunny cups even beat red in sales! This was the only state where any other color reigned supreme.

Today, you can buy Solo cups in a variety of colors, not limited to green, gray, pink, orange, and even rainbow! They’re easy to find everywhere, and the best part is they’re usually packaged in sleeves that cost under $4 for a set of 50.

Source: sillyamerica.com

Where Are Red Solo Cups Manufactured?

Source: sillyamerica.com

Solo cups are manufactured in Lake Forest, Illinois – a suburb about 35 miles outside of Chicago. The company has been family-owned and operated since it started in 1936.

Solo Cup has since opened other offices and distribution centers across the United States. One of their most famous is in Springfield, Missouri. The giant paper cup on the outside is a popular tourist attraction that results in amazing pictures on social media!

What Are Red Solo Cups Made Of?

Red Solo cups are made of polystyrene, a lightweight type of plastic that’s easy to shape. Unfortunately, this plastic is similar to Styrofoam and can’t be easily recycled.

Thankfully, Solo is taking steps in making their products more sustainable. In 2008, they partnered with Bare® to come out with cups that are made from 20% recycled materials. If that’s not enough, they also offer the Solo Cup Brigade through TerraCycle. Schools, non-profits, and other organizations can return used Solo cups for recycling, and TerraCycle will then reuse them to create playgrounds, park benches, and outdoor furniture.

Solo Cup is always looking for green solutions so you can sustainably dispose of their products. It’ll be exciting to see what’s next for this popular brand!

What Are the Solo Cup Sizes?

Today, the most common size for Solo cups is 16 ounces. When they first came out, the cups were offered in 5, 7, and 9-ounce sizes.

Solo made the switch to larger 16-ounce cups to keep up with demand. As more and more people started to drink (particularly alcohol), the company increased the serving size. This forward thinking mentality has helped keep Solo at the top of stack when it comes to disposable cups!

According to Solo, you can use the lines on the outside of the cups to provide exact measurements for your drinks. The top line is for beer, the middle line is for wine, and the bottom line is for other types of liquor.

When Was Beer Pong Invented?

The history of beer pong is as fuzzy as how you feel after an all-night bender! Some people believe it was invented sometime between 1950 and 1960 at Dartmouth College. Others report that the game is actually called “Beirut” and was started in Lebanon.

It’s a game that is seemingly everywhere, yet surprisingly, it’s actually only really played in America. In fact, young Europeans who travel to the United States reportedly bring red Solo cups home as souvenirs. They’ve seen them used in teen movies like American Pie, Superbad, and Van Wilder and associate them with American parties!

https://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/really-we-do

The World Series of Beer Pong, also known as BPONG, is held every year in various states throughout the country. In the past, this event has drawn over 1,000 competitors from all over the world.

Why Do We Use Solo Cups?

We love Solo cups because it’s way easier to use them at a party than regular glasses or cups. You can stack them on a table near the drinks and let your guests serve themselves. Plus, you don’t have to worry about doing the dishes afterward!

Solo cups are particularly popular for:

College Parties

Red Solo cups are often in attendance at keggers, frat parties, and other social gatherings. They’re a cheap way to drink alcohol, which is perfect for students with loans to worry about!

Backyard Barbeques

You can’t grill outside in the summer without a cooler full of ice and Solo cups. A mix of red and blue cups is particularly festive for the Fourth of July!

Picnics

Solo cups are handy for back-to-school picnics and company picnics! Everyone can basically clean up after themselves as soon as they’re done eating. If the stores are fresh out of Solo cups, custom plastic cups are also a good option for these events!

Tailgates

If you don’t have koozies at a tailgate, the next best thing is pouring your drinks in Solo cups. Your hands will stay dry, which makes it easier for you to toss around a football or eat snacks before the big game!

Outdoor Concerts

Glass drinkware can be dangerous at music festivals and outdoor concerts. It’s much better for concession stands and vendors to pour the drinks directly into disposable Solo cups.

Gatherings With Friends & Family

You love your family and friends, but you don’t want to spend a ton of time cleaning up after them! Next time you have people over, keep disposable Solo cups near the drinks on the snack table.

Casual Weddings

The average American wedding costs over $30,000! If you’re not into the frills, you can opt for a nice, casual ceremony instead. Solo cups in your wedding colors will look great next to ice buckets filled with wine and champagne bottles. It’s just like an open bar, without the high price tag!

Holiday Parties

It takes a ton of work to plan a party, especially if it’s for a major holiday like Christmas, Easter, or Thanksgiving. Save yourself a little bit of time and effort by getting Solo cups for the drinks.

Bar & Pub Crawls

When you’re going from one bar to the next, you don’t really want to carry around a heavy glass or bottle. Solo cups are much more lightweight and easy to bring with you on the go.

“The red Solo cup is a tailgate mainstay, a cookout staple, a fixture of dinner parties and keggers; it’s synonymous with flip cup, with beer pong, with debauchery and merriment and revelry.”

– Calum Marsh, writer for Vice

Why Are Solo Cups So Popular?

You can’t go wrong with Solo cups! They’re party favorites for a number of good reasons:

1) It’s easy to write a name on the outside with a Sharpie, which stops your guests from sipping out of the wrong cup.

2) The cups are durable and built to last for hours.

3) You can easily stack the cups without them falling over, which saves room on a snack or drink table.

4) They’re insanely affordable, and you can find them everywhere.

5) Cleaning up at the end of an event is always way easier with Solo cups.

Solo cups are so popular, over 7.4 billion are produced at their factory every year! It’s hard to beat their simple, affordable design.

Stats for Success

The Solo Cup Company is worth a staggering $1.6 billion.

60% of the cups sold by the Solo Cup Company are red.

Fans post over 400,000 photos of them using Solo cups on social media every year.

Between 30 million and 35 million Solo cups are made every single day.

The Bottom Line

The red Solo cup is associated with good vibes and fun times. While it may not always be as eco-friendly as reusable drinkware, Solo has been working hard on coming up with solutions. So go ahead and pour one out for this innovative company and their most famous product – the red Solo cup!

References

Billboard. Chart History: Toby Keith. Retrieved from,
https://www.billboard.com/music/toby-keith/chart-history/country-digital-song-sales

Whitaker, S. (2012, July 18). Toby Keith’s ‘Red Solo Cup’ Becomes Singer’s All-Time Best-Selling Single. Retrieved from,
https://tasteofcountry.com/toby-keith-red-solo-cup-double-platinum/

McCallister, D. (2016, December 30). Creator of Red Solo Cup, Robert Hulseman, Dies at 84. Retrieved from,
https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/12/30/507505728/creator-of-red-solo-cup-robert-hulseman-dies-at-84

Solo. About Us: Solo is the Original Sign of Good Times. Retrieved from,
https://www.solocup.com/about

Lorezel, R. (2018, May 17). The History of the Solo Cup, From the South Side to Star Wars. Retrieved from,
https://www.chicagomag.com/city-life/May-2018/The-History-of-the-Solo-Cup-From-the-South-Side-to-Star-Wars/

Fung, B. (2016, December 30). Two Reasons the Red Solo Cup is a Marvel of Modern Engineering. Retrieved from,
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2016/12/30/2-reasons-why-the-red-solo-cup-is-a-marvel-of-modern-engineering

Saggio, J. (2016, April 7). Solo Cup Promposal Puzzle Finally Solved. Retrieved from,
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/humankind/2016/04/07/solo-cup-promposal-puzzle-finally-solved/82737110

Reiter, A. 6 Things You Never Knew About the Red Solo Cup. Retrieved from,
https://www.foodnetwork.com/fn-dish/news/2017/01/6-things-you-never-knew-about-the-red-solo-cup

Shreeves, R. (2017, May 31). 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Red Solo Cups. Retrieved from,
https://www.treehugger.com/things-you-didnt-know-about-red-solo-cup-4868504

Business Wire. (2011, April 14). Solo Cup Company Launches New Recycling Program for Its Solo Squared® Cups. Retrieved from,
https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20110414005449/en/Solo-Cup-Company-Launches-New-Recycling-Program-for-its-Solo-Squared%C2%AE-Cups

Francis, K. (2014, March 21). Red Solo Cups – The Hottest American Souvenir? Retrieved from,
https://souvenirfinder.com/2014/03/21/red-solo-cups-beer-pong-souvenir-american-party-cups/

Cherry, K. (2020, September 13). The Color Psychology of Red. Retrieved from,
https://www.verywellmind.com/the-color-psychology-of-red-2795821

Harrington, R. (2015, September 30). Here’s Why All Fast-Food Signs Are Red. Retrieved from,
https://www.businessinsider.com/why-are-fast-food-signs-red-2015-9

Bhaba, L. (2013, December 27). The History of Beer Pong. Retrieved from,
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Warshaw, B. (2019, July 31). What’s the Difference Between Beer Pong and Beirut? Retrieved from,
https://www.eater.com/2019/7/31/20747064/whats-the-difference-beer-pong-beirut

About the author

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is a promo expert with over four years of experience in the industry. She is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products and has had work published for the Promotional Products Association International and the Advertising Specialty Institute.