Only In America . . . TM

Copyright © 2002 Frank G. Van Atta. All rights reserved.


When you put something in an insulated container, how does it know whether to keep it hot or cold?

According to Milton Freezewater, president of Milton's Hot 'N Cold Cup Company, it's a matter of how smart the container is.

"It's not easy for something as simple as a cup to always be able to keep hot things hot and cold things cold without ever making a mistake," Freezewater told the annual convention of Insulated Cup Breeders in Las Vegas yesterday.

"Baseball players are considered to be doing a good job if they hit the ball one third of the time, and an economist who manages to figure out the correct answer two-thirds of the time is called a genius--yet, we expect the poor insulated container to be right ALL of the time," he said. "That's what makes our job so difficult."

The job, as far as the ICB members are concerned, is to find a strain of insulated containers that not only has the intelligence to always make the correct hot/cold decision, but will also breed true.

"The only thing dumber than an insulated cup is a turkey," Freezewater told reporters, "and we had a difficult time in the early days finding a strain of cups that was smart enough to tell the difference between hot and cold. Most of them can recognize hot, or they can recognize cold, but it is an exceptional cup that can recognize both extremes and consistently differentiate between them."

Because of this, it has long been standard industry practice to give the cups IQ tests at every stage of their development so that the dumber ones can be identified as early as possible and trained into one of the less-demanding disciplines. Those that flunk the first IQ test are sold immediately as simple hot or cold containers for convenience markets and picnics. It is the sale of these cups--some 60 to 70 percent of the normal flock--that allows breeders to recover their initial investment and continue training the rest of the cups in the hope that at least some of them will be smart enough to become vacuum bottles.

The containers are given their second IQ test when they reach adolescence, with the failures at this point becoming beer can coolers or coffee travel mugs. The rest move into an accelerated training program that will last for as long as two years and account for the bulk of the breeder's expense. Midway through this program the final thermal IQ and aptitude tests are given. Those that are unable to consistently tell the difference between hot and cold at this point are sold off as carafes and inexpensive ice chests.

The final test, given when the containers reach maturity, concentrates on quality control: each cup is filled with a hot liquid and then checked three hours later to see if it is still hot--if it is, the test is repeated with a cold liquid, and the two tests are flip-flopped back and forth forty times to make sure that the container can consistently recognize the difference between hot and cold. If any of the 80 tests are failed, the container is sold to a discount broker as a second.

"About five percent of the flock can become top of the line vacuum bottles," Freezewater said, "the rest are only suitable for breeding stock."

Copyright © 2002 Frank G. Van Atta. All rights reserved.