Other Lessons in This Course
- History of Koozies
- History of Promotional Products
- History of Fidget Spinners
- History of Tote Bags
- History of Pens
- History of Modern Trade Shows
- History of Stress Balls
- History of Lunch Boxes
- History of T-Shirts
- History of Koozies
- History of the Frisbee
- History of Coffee Mugs
- History of Pencils
- History of Reusable Water Bottles
- History of Logo Design
- History of Keychains
The custom koozie has origins all over the world, starting in 19th century Britain, moving to Australia, and eventually ending up in a patent war in the United States. Today, the can cooler has become one of the best selling promotional items in the world.
The custom koozie is perhaps one of the least acknowledged, but most popular promotional products in the universe, and it’s time to give these insulated beverage sleeves a bit more respect! We bet you’re thankful to have a personalized can cooler when you’re cheering on your favorite football team or hanging around the bonfire on a summer night. After all, you have the koozie to thank for your dry hands and cool beverage.
Where did koozies come from? What are some of the first drink sleeves in history? Let’s give promo can holders their moment in the spotlight!
David and Russell Duncan filed a patent for “a cozy for portable gas generators.” Eventually, these “huggies” made the transition from their original industrial use to our favorite beverages.
William Waggoner from Kansas City introduced his wrapping jacket for packing and shipping linoleum. This jacket served as a protective covering to use instead of heavy crates or boxes.
Stanley R. Moore of Dallas, Texas filed a patent for his refrigerated beverage holder. This cylindrical sleeve can be frozen in any refrigerator, keeping a beverage cold while it’s consumed outdoors.
Australia kicked off the koozie craze with their Stubby Holders. These short, stout sleeves are named after the popular bottle sizes found down under.
Bonnie McGough of Caldwell, Idaho filed a patent for a “cozy,” an insulated sleeve with endless branding opportunities. Her design inspired many other companies to create their own versions of these insulated koozies.
Whitey’s Ice Cream Manufacturers, a small shop in Moline, IL, filed a patent for their own custom insulator. This was a paper sleeve used around their delicious malts and shakes so the candy would stay inside.
Scott Henderson of Can Handlers in Plano, Texas filed a patent for a fold-up insulated beverage container. This was the first collapsible koozie design, adding stability while the koozie rested on a flat surface.
Joel Carlson filed a patent for his own insulated beverage cup sleeve. In the patent, the felt sleeve is said to be “simple to use, inexpensive, and reusable.” Just like the best promo products!
Michael E. Hicks of Numo Manufacturing filed a patent for an insulated beverage jacket. This koozie works well with single-serving containers like aluminum soda cans.
Kyle Brandon Jones is credited with the invention of the Krazy Koozie. This insulated container easily expands and contracts around a variety of bottles, cans, and cups.
Koozie makers started getting creative with their designs and imprints. This boot-shaped koozie makes for a great giveaway at a country-themed dive bar or rodeo.
Bevometer is a digital upgrade to the traditional foam or neoprene can cooler. This koozie tracks the number of drinks you’ve consumed when it’s in use.
Tea Time: The History of Tea Cozies
The idea of custom koozies may have never come to fruition without the birth of tea cozies in the 19th century. As the story goes, the Duchess of Bedford, Anna Russel, introduced tea parties to entertain guests before mealtime. The tea would often get cold during these social gatherings due to the lively conversations. The solution was a custom knit tea cosy, designed to keep the kettle and cups nice and warm. Often, these tea cosies were hand embroidered and became a fashionable addition to afternoon tea.
Where Did Koozies Come From?
If you’ve ever gotten into a heated discussion about the origins of your favorite koozie, you’re in luck! Read on for a full history of why we started printing these drink sleeves with team and company logos.
Who Invented the Koozie?
Of course, the art of having afternoon tea eventually faded away. Keeping up with the times, the koozie craze kicked off in Texas during the 1980s. The original koozie is rumored to have been inspired by construction workers who used pipe insulation to keep their beer cans cold. A variation of these drink sleeves was flying off the shelves at popular retailers and convenience stores across the country. The only downfall was they weren’t very good at keeping drinks cold. Still, they were a huge hit with customers.
Patents started flying left and right for different versions of these insulated drink sleeves. The goal was to improve on the quality and offer something new to customers. It all started with Bonnie McGough of Idaho, who created her own cozy design from scratch. This set the momentum for the future, with Whitey’s Ice Cream Manufactuerers creating a paper sleeve for their malts in 1985, and Joel Carlson developing his own insulated beverage jacket a few years later. These are only two of the many companies and individuals who patented their own versions of the koozie. Bottom line, these innovators created even more competition among koozie manufacturers.
The First Custom Koozies
Promotional products companies like the Radio Cap Corporation (RCC), a promo supplier in Texas, got caught up in the kooziemania! In the early 1980s, they became the first to offer promotional koozies. Founder Frank Krasovec thought they were perfect items to include in RCC’s product selection, which at the time included primarily custom baseball hats and drinkware.
To have full rights to the koozie name, RCC bought out the original trademark and imprinted their own version in house, complete with company logos and advertising messages. They also improved on the original design by using neoprene, which was more water-resistant and worked as a better insulator.
This brought koozies from a novelty item sold at your corner store to a fully-fledged advertising tool. In fact, after RCC started printing company names and logos, the sales for koozies skyrocketed from $200,000 to well over $40 million dollars. Major companies like IBM and AT&T were among some of the first companies to order custom koozies as advertising materials. These early koozies were also used to promote welders’ unions, US states, pop culture characters, the Olympics, car dealerships, weddings, and even funeral homes!
Put it in Writing: The Battle for Custom Koozies
Custom koozies were a huge hit with customers all around the world and major distributors wanted rights to the koozie name. In 1991, RCC evolved to become Norwood Promotional Products. With this new company, the KOOZIE® line grew to include drinkware, accessories, and cooler bags. These items were very popular and many companies wanted their hands on them. In fact, this led to a major legal battle over the koozie name between Norwood and Kustom Koozies in 2001.
After Norwood was sold, BIC Graphic, one of the largest suppliers in the promotional products industry, ended up with rights to the koozie name. Today, their KOOZIE® line is still going strong!
Getting A Hold on Custom Koozies
The koozie was proving to be an extra popular, well-loved item, and with so much competition, manufacturers had to set themselves apart. By the late 80s, Canhandlers International, an early beverage sleeve pioneer, followed RCC into the promotional products industry and introduced the very first collapsible koozie.
Scott Henderson invented his collapsible drink sleeve with the goal of reducing labor and keeping costs down at Canhandlers. The portable design made it easy for the koozie to be stored in a pocket, bag, or cooler without taking up too much space. Plus, the built-in bottom covered the entire soda can, which helped reduce the condensation that would often end up on tables with early foam koozies. Whether you set the can down on a table or let it balance on your knee, Canhandlers’s koozie kept everything nice and dry.
The collapsible koozies at Canhandlers were extremely popular with the NFL and state colleges. Fans loved using koozies decorated with their favorite mascot, team logo, or school name. Eventually, the collapsible koozies became popular with other industries, such as banks, realtors, and most notably, KERA channel 13 news in Dallas who gave away custom koozies in exchange for donations to their station.
Unfortunately, Canhandlers eventually went out of business. Their can holders were heat-sealed and looked smooth, but the foam on the inside didn’t hold up very well due to moisture. Still, though, they contributed enormously to the future of advertising on koozies.
Koozies Down Under
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world in Australia, Shane Walsh introduced his own solid black model of the koozie. Down under, they know this koozie as a Stubby Holder due to its short, squat design. These insulated sleeves were an instant success, becoming popular with surfers who used them as they hit the waves. Stubby Holders were also valuable promotional products and were used to advertise sports teams, weddings, startups, and major companies. This essentially changed the koozie from a strictly American product to one enjoyed by the entire world!
Today, the Stubby Holder remains a popular advertising item in Australia. They come in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes, keeping them fresh and always exciting as marketing materials.
Tipping the Scale: Introducing the Bevometer!
Custom koozies have an interesting history, and even today, there are new, innovative products coming onto the scene. Perhaps no company is more at the forefront of the koozie’s future than Bevometer. This innovative drink counter works as a novelty item, tracking the number of drinks you’ve consumed in a lifetime. It works like an automatic scoreboard, tallying each new can as it slides into the sleeve. If you’re interested in monitoring your soda intake or just want to make sure you won’t need an Uber at the end of the night, the Bevometer has your back!
Justin Richmond, creator of the Bevometer, was inspired to create this fun item after seeing his dad’s beat-up Budweiser koozie. Believing fully in the value of a good koozie, Justin’s dad held on to his favorite drink holder for over 35 years. It started as a family joke and eventually turned into a full-blown enterprise.To date, Justin’s startup has sold around 20,000 digital koozies and has no plans of slowing down. In fact, he’d like to try his hand in customizing his Bevometers and using them as promotional materials. Just like his dad’s favorite Budweiser koozie, Justin knows a good can cooler never goes out of style!
A Koozie by Any Other Name
Over the years, koozies have been made from cowhide, crochet, foam, neoprene, and a variety of other materials. In their unusual origin story, they’ve also acquired many different names from Britain to Australia to the United States. A lot of this confusion is attributed to the many patents that exist for these can coolers. Luckily, we’re here to help the custom koozie avoid having an identity crisis.
Take a look at all the names for your favorite foam drink sleeves:
- Beer Hugger
- Beer Huggie
- Can Cooler
- Beer Sleeve
- Beer Jacket
- Stubby Holder
The Value of Promotional Koozies
No question, custom koozies are among the most popular promo items on the planet. Why should you choose these drink holders instead of any other giveaway?
Promote with a Koozie
Any promotional event can benefit from having custom koozies on hand. At the end of the day, customers are looking for a product they can use time and time again. Whether it’s on a soda can at a birthday party or in hand while watching the big game, a good can cooler adds a personal touch to your favorite drink.
The Bottom Line
While it may not be the most glamorous item, the custom koozie has a special place in the world of promotional products. Whether you’re using a polyurethane coldy-holdy, a rubber stubby holder, or a stainless steel coastie, your next promotional event will be that much cooler thanks to these insulated beverage holders.
Alyssa is the super cool Copywriter at Quality Logo Products. She’s a fan of diving into the history of some of the earliest promos on the planet. If you need her, you’ll find her buried in research, in the middle of a phone interview, or singing way off-tune in her office.
Carranza, Kevin, Birchbox Man, “Koozie: The Complete History;”
Baird, Sarah, Eater, “A Brief History of America’s Favorite Beer Companion, the Koozie"
Steinmetz, Katy, Time Magazine, “Why F. Scott Fitzgerald Is All Over the Dictionary”
Radical Tea Towel Blog, “History of the Tea Cosy – From Duchesses to WW2 Soldiers”
Country Shore, “5 Things We Bet You Didn’t Know About Koozies”
Online Beer Coolers, “Invention of Beer Koozies”
Eaton, Scott, ImagePak, “A Brief History of Stubby Holders”
Davarni, “A History of Stubby Holders or Stubby Coolers.”