New extra-large option provides coffee drinkers with a shift in sizing

When Tim Hortons changed the names of their cup sizes in late January, they did more than just include a new size, they shifted the perceptions of Canadian coffee drinkers who believed the old sizes were too small.

The new 710 mL extra-large cup, which costs $1.90, created a chain reaction for the rest of the sizes on the coffee chain’s roster; the prices didn’t change, but the names did. The old extra-large became the new large for $1.70, the old large became the new medium for $1.56, the old medium is now a small for $1.32, and the old small is now the extra small for $1.18.

“I always felt kind of ripped off when I ordered a medium coffee from Tim Hortons and the size of the cup was so small,” Jo-Anne Baillie, a marketing professor at Mount Royal University said.

“To me, it was perceived that the medium was the equivalent of a small at other coffee competitors.”

The other competitors that Baillie is referring are American coffee companies, companies that Tim Hortons now has a leg up on thanks to the new extra-large size that is 119 mL larger than current Canadian Starbucks “Venti” size.

Produced by: Pol Nikulin.

“It has been very-well received by our guests,” said Dave McKay, brand director for Tim Hortons beverages. “What we are hearing is that it is more of the coffee that they love. They have really embraced the notion of having the bigger coffee.”

While the extra-large is now being offered, Blain Shackleton, a University of Calgary student and avid coffee drinker is not buying into the new size.

“The general trend right now is that everything gets bigger in the food industry,” he said.

“So there is going to be the market for the bigger drink. But in terms of an extra-large, it never seemed like too little coffee. I never had an extra-large and was like ‘Oh, I wish I had some more coffee right now.’”

But, Shackleton believes that the new cup will have a market and McKay confirms that notion.

“We talked to our guests about it, did research groups, did a few test markets in Ontario of the larger size and the name changes to understand how it would be received overall,” he said.

How will the new size affect our health

With all the commotion regarding the 710 mL cup, one wonders if their health will be affected.

Kristin Wiens, nutrition instructor at Mount Royal University, says that one extra-large Tim Hortons coffee is the “absolute limit” on any given day.

Coffee has been linked to reducing risk of diabetes and contains lots of antioxidants, but it is moderation that lets you benefit from it as opposed to having it hinder your body.

Caffeine has a 12-hour half-life, Wiens said, which means that after 12 hours it is still in the drinker’s system but to a lesser extent.

She suggests limiting your caffeine intake after noon. Wiens also offered up some tips to get that needed jolt, while limiting the detrimental effects to the body; “I always suggest you limit the amount the sugar you add, choose a two per cent milk instead of an 18 per cent coffee cream for saturated fat, tea can be an awesome option as well because it is much lower in caffeine traditionally, green tea is very rich in antioxidants as well.”

“People appreciated the choice. It told us that introducing the extra-large size that the right name for it would be the extra-large. It motivated us to make adjustments to the other sizes.”

While the new size is not enticing either Baillie or Shackleton, both agreed that the changes in the names are going to be what drives the consumer, because of their perceived ideas about the renamed sizes.

“I think it is more important that when you order a medium coffee that you receive what you perceive, what a customer perceives, as a medium coffee,” Baillie said. “And whether it costs 30 cents or 50 cents more, I think it is irrelevant in the grand scheme.”

While both Baillie and Shackleton are coffee fans, neither one is planning on drinking the new size regularly.

“I can’t imagine myself even wanting to try to tackle that much coffee,” Shackelton said.

For Mount Royal University students, the new extra-large cup is going to be available once the construction is finished on the full-sized Tim Hortons that will feature the entire menu instead of just drinks and baked goods.

pnikulin@cjournal.ca