Starbucks is bringing back its red holiday cups -- but this year there's a twist

StarbucksStarbucks’ new cups

The holiday season has officially begun — at least at Starbucks.

Starbucks debuted not one but 13 new holiday red cup designs on Wednesday. The coffee chain will begin serving beverages in the new cups on Thursday morning.

Since Starbucks launched holiday cups in 1997, its red cups have become a holiday mainstay.

Last year, Starbucks faced backlash when the company debuted minimalist red cups that some complained weren’t “Christmas-y” enough. After evangelist and internet personality Joshua Feuerstein posted a video on Facebook protesting the cups, the outrage — and outrage at the outrage — quickly grew, with hundreds sharing their views on social media.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz referenced the controversy at an event in New York City on Wednesday where the new cups were unveiled.

“Should we just go back to last year and come out with a great red cup… and perhaps start another firestorm?” Schultz said. “We didn’t think that was such a good idea.”

So, the company turned to customers for inspiration. The 13 designs are inspired by customers’ photos of their decorated red cups, posted on Instagram last year.

The red cups are Starbucks’ second seasonal cups of 2016.

In the week or so leading up to the election, Starbucks debuted a green cup that featured an illustration showing the faces of more than 100 people, drawn with a single continuous line. The cup was intended to encourage unity during what Schultz called a “divisive time in our country.”

Instead, many customers were critical of the cups. While some people were simply confused about the colour, others accused the coffee chain of “political brainwashing” with the new cups.

Despite social media blowback, Starbucks has long maintained their cups are an apolitical holiday tradition. Some of the backlash may be due, not to the cups themselves, but CEO Schultz’s own political opinions.

Schultz has long been an outspoken figure when it comes to politics, known for his support of progressive causes. In September he endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton for president.

On Wednesday morning, Schultz sent a solemn note to his company’s more than 120,000 US employees, saying he was “stunned” by Donald Trump’s election and encouraging the chain’s workers to move “onward together.”

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