Let’s Begin Where It All Started
Imagine it’s the 1950’s. Sleek, pastel-colored, yacht-sized cars rolling down the road with The Everly Brothers playing on the radio. T-shirts, originally issued by the US Navy as undergarments around WWI, are increasing in popularity all around America.
In Florida, a group of tour guides and resort owners came together to print their own t-shirts for their staff to advertise their services. The ink would improve, allowing for more intricate designs and limitless possibilities, with many more companies adopting the new technology. This is, in a nutshell, the beginning of custom apparel printed on demand in the USA.
From Then To Now
Jump forward to 2023. The internet has taken its place as a dominant force in retail purchasing, with the e-commerce market poised to make $6.3 Trillion in sales worldwide.
The demand for custom printing has increased exponentially, with products ranging from T-Shirts and jackets to cups and keychains and a plethora of Print on Demand (POD) companies to choose from. Some of you may be asking, what is POD? These companies will provide complete e-commerce fulfillment solutions — sourcing and storing product, printing product and packaging materials, and shipping the order to the customer.
Most of the big POD companies will have integrations with websites such as Etsy, Shopify, WooCommerce, and eBay. Some POD houses even have their own marketplaces where you can create eye-catching designs for your store, and the decoration facility will do the rest of the work after the end user makes their purchase.
One of the largest markets for POD is hard goods — pens, water bottles, notebooks and more. UV Printing technology has made it simple to produce any image on virtually any surface including glass, leather, wood, etc. and in any quantity from one or two pieces to hundreds!
A Huge Opportunity
The fastest rising demand for printable hard goods is drinkware. We’re seeing every type of cup you can fit in a rotary printer being embellished. Picture high-res photos for family events, company logos for corporate gifting, and the newer trend of fake sticker bombing — the process of creating a full wrap graphic with sticker-like logos haphazardly smattered over the artboard.
With the latest printing technology one can achieve amazing effects from a UV printer such as differing textures on a single print or a faux embossment on glass utilizing clear coat. Custom printed glassware is in huge demand, especially for bars, wineries, and nightclubs, with over 36,000 venues in the US alone with a market value closing in on $30 Billion, a healthy post-pandemic bounceback.
Drinkware is one of the most successful and still growing trends in the promo industry, offering many different styles (tumblers, bottles, mugs, can coolers) materials (ceramic, stainless steel, glass, polymer, etc.) and methods of decoration applicable. With sustainability initiatives intensifying, the ability to offset the carbon footprint of one’s own plastic waste has resonated with many Americans wishing to do their part to protect the planet from further harm. Studies show that 60% of US adults own a reusable water bottle — that is 155 million walking billboards promoting companies, sports teams, bands, and lifestyle brands.
Looking Into the Future
The global reusable bottle market is forecast to hit almost $13 Billion by 2030, and with governments beginning to legislate on sustainability it is all but guaranteed to continue to grow. When everyone has a reusable bottle, how does one stand out in the crowd? Well, with custom printed bottles on demand, of course.
Whether you’re a consumer looking for the best reusable bottle to use as a fashion statement or lifestyle accessory, a burgeoning entrepreneur looking to open their own Shopify site for integration with a POD company, or an established decorator looking at getting in on the Print on Demand model, hard good printing (and custom drinkware specifically) is an industry to pay close attention to. With a large US market and an undeniably huge global potential and growth forecast, we are likely to see customized drinkware rival apparel in the near future.