How to Choose the Best Plastic Tumblers For High-Volume Foodservice?

Beverage Cups

Plastic tumblers are a go-to solution for drinks for several high-volume food servicers. However, do you have any idea why you always go for plastic tumblers? Maybe because this is how you have always seen things to be done. Or maybe you know that plastic tumblers are made from high-quality material, and it’s one of the best options.

Whereas, if your answer is this is how you have always seen things to be done, then this article is especially for you. This article mainly helps food service providers to choose one of the best plastic tumblers for their specific needs.

In this post, we will compare two highly popular drinkware plastics, SAN and PC, that food service providers popularly use for making their tumblers. In the end, you will have a complete understanding of whether your usual drinkware fits best or you need to change your Tumblr.

Plastic Tumblers

What Are PC & SAN Plastic?

SAN refers to styrene-acrylonitrile, and PC refers to polycarbonate. Both are two commonly used plastics used in food services. The abbreviated form of these plastics makes them easy to hear and understand.

Each polymer has its benefits and drawbacks concerning replacement rate, durability, and appearance. Let’s dive into the details.

What Do PC and SAN Plastic Tumblers Have in Common?

Both SAN and PC have more similarities things than differences, in which most of them fall under the class:

  • High clarity, clear as glass
  • Durable to some extent
  • Customizable
  • Dishwasher-safe
  • Does not work safely with a microwave; well, tumblers mostly don’t need to get microwaved as their main use is to serve coffee, tea, water, and soda.

However, you can hardly find a difference between a simple plastic tumbler design and a glass with just a glance. Operators often take advantage of plastics tumblers’ customizable ability, which both plastics can offer. These drinking tumblers will go among various types of people. However, this gives you a perfect opportunity to customize your brand image, design, color, or logo on these plastic tumblers.

How Do PC and SAN Tumblers Perform Differently in High-Volume Foodservice?

SAN and PC have the same qualities, but both share them in quite distinctive ways. Durability is the biggest instance of this.

Commercial Dishwasher Performance of SAN Vs. PC

Eastman-Kodak performed a study on SAN and PC and tested several qualities like chemical resistance, toughness, clarity, etc. However, one part of the testing involves washing both plastics 1000 times in the commercial dishwasher. They inspect the material after every 100, 250, 500, and 750 wash cycles which leads to the 1000th wash.

In a commercial kitchen, plastic tumblers go through washing many times in one day. Let’s suppose the plastic tumble undergoes three wash cycles per meal. However, it will reach 1000 wash cycles in less than one year.

PC tumblers start showing visible wear signs after just 100 washes. In the above instance of 3 washing times per day, it will crack the tumbler in just one month. At the same time, SAN tumblers do not show any signs of wear even after the 1000th wash. SAN tumblers will likely have more durability as compared to PC tumblers.

Drop Test Performance of PC Vs. SAN

If you have experience working in commercial kitchens, you may know how much these kitchens have rowdy and bustling environments, with greater chances of dropping dishes all the time. This is business demand. Therefore Eastman-Kodak also conducted a drop test in their scientific study.

In this case, the PC worked better as compared to SAN, which drops on the first attempt. SANs get chips, damage, or cracks when falling on hard floors, even just once. This does not imply that it gets damaged every time on the first fall. However, the possibility may exist.

The positive point is that none of these materials can shatter into pieces like glass which makes them a safe choice. However, chipped or cracked tumblers still may not be able to be used for service again as it may lead to leakage or risk of getting cut through it.

Moreover, the design of plastic tumblers also plays a vital role in the tendency to crack and chip. For instance, a well-interacted and highly designed base of a tumbler may bear the impact of falling more as compared to a poorly attached tumbler base. Therefore, make sure to look for popular manufacturers with experienced engineers when deciding to make a purchase.

Differences in Clarity Between PC and SAN

Overall, both SAN and PC have good clarity. While PCs have a little better clarity. Some SAN designs give a faint blue or yellow tint. However, tinting usually comes from SAN raw material and is actually a part of the creation process.

Moreover, the tint on SAN tumblers mainly relies on the process of manufacturing, the type of raw materials, considered tier level, and often material thickness. Whereas, if you opt for color tumblers other than transparent, like blue or red, then the material doesn’t matter. Because dyed or colored plastic will cover tinting anyways.

Though, the biggest difference that can change the whole game is that SAN does not contain any BPA, while PC does contain it. BPA and its impact on food and human health are considered the biggest concerns in the food service industry. However, FDA closely assesses and monitors the level of BPA that is allowable in food containers.

BPA is an undeniable integral aspect of PC plastic which is impossible to remove. However, if you opt for BPA-free plastic, then you have only one option to choose from, SAN plastic. You may think BPA doesn’t concern much, but let’s look into further details to know which and why one plastic material is considered better than another.

Why Choose One Material Over the Other for Your Plastic Tumblers?

Generally, plastic tumblers serve as the best drinkware option for commercial high-volume food service. As they don’t break or shatter like glass drinkware which makes them a safer choice for both staff and guests. Their high durability, as compared to glass, also reduces the replacement rate, which saves you a great deal of money over time.

SAN AND PC – Plastic Tumblers

If you are thinking of choosing between SAN and PC, you may tend to choose SAN if you look for commercial drinkware that goes through the dishwasher numerous times in one day. Whereas, if you tend to use drinkware in a hard floor environment like a bar, where the chances of dropping plastic tumblers are higher, then choose a PC.

PCs or SAN – Plastic Tumblers

On the contract, PCs have a little clearer appearance than SAN. So if you are looking for a clear option, then SAN doesn’t fulfill your needs as PC does.

Both plastic materials work perfectly well in commercial high-volume food service. No matter which type of plastic tumbler you use, it depends on your preference and the nature of your work. Well, if you consider changing the material of your plastic tumbler, then you have a full understanding of why and which plastic material suits your needs well. 

Some important key takeaways include:

  1. Both SAN and PC design functionality suits a variety of styles and formality levels.
  2. To keep the structural integrity intact and good clarity of your plastic tumbler, you may have to change a PC tumbler ten times more often than a SAN tumbler.
  3. SAN does have better durability in commercial dishwashers as compared to PCs. Whereas PCs have better resistant quality on dropping as compared to SAN.
  4. Both SAN and PC have good clarity. Whereas SAN sometimes can give a little tint with custom dye or color cover easily. 
  5. PC tumblers contain BPA, while SAN doesn’t.


Selecting the ideal plastic tumblers for high-volume food service operations is a pivotal decision that directly impacts customer satisfaction, operational efficiency, and overall success. Throughout this exploration, we’ve navigated the essential factors that should guide your choice, recognizing the delicate balance between durability, aesthetics, functionality, and cost-effectiveness. Ultimately, the art of choosing the best plastic tumblers transcends the ordinary and transforms a functional item into an emblem of your commitment to exceptional service. With each sip taken, patrons will experience not only the pleasure of a perfectly presented beverage but also the thoughtfulness that goes into every facet of their dining experience. So, raise a glass – or in this case, a tumbler – to a future of elevated high-volume food service, where every detail contributes to a remarkable journey for both you and your valued customers. Contact us for custom sports water bottles services.

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