Home » I Live In The Only Place In The World That Needs Square Cupholders

I Live In The Only Place In The World That Needs Square Cupholders

Square Cupholder Ts2
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The cupholder is a key invention that keeps our economies moving. We don’t have time to sit down for meals anymore. We need to heft great chunks of industrially produced meat into our gaping maws as we tear down the highway at 70 mph. While we’re doing that, it’s nice to have somewhere to put a drink where it won’t tip over.

Now, most cups are round, and so it makes sense that the cupholders themselves would be round in turn. Indeed, that’s the case in the vast majority of cars. A round cupholder will happily accept travel mugs, fast food cups, bottles, and cans with no problem whatsoever.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

And yet, one place in the world cries out for a square cupholder instead. It’s my hometown of Adelaide, Australia, and it all comes down to one unique quirk in local beverage habits.

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Land of Milk And Coffees

Australia loves coffee. We take a great deal of pride in its quality and preparation. But it’s just one state that is obsessed with iced coffee, and that’s South Australia. The beverage known as Farmer’s Union Iced Coffee is a local legend. The cartons of flavored milk are a staple for the local tradies, and they’re stocked in every bakery, chip shop, and servo across the land.

Indeed, local folklore has it that South Australia was the only market in the world where a milk beverage outsold Coca-Cola. It’s said that FUIC, as it’s sometimes known, was outselling Coke by 3:1 in 2008, while figures of a 2:1 advantage were bandied around in 2017.

Soup
Somehow this stuff achieves a 4-star health rating, despite containing almost two ounces of sugar.

I’ve thrown those numbers into boring conversations at weddings more than most, perhaps out of a sense of pride in my hometown. Today, I don’t think they’re necessarily that grounded in reality, as nobody seems to have the raw numbers to confirm the fact. The reality is Coca-Cola is sold over the bar at every pub and restaurant, and Farmer’s Union simply isn’t. To say nothing of the fact that soft drinks take up far greater shelf space in virtually every servo [Short for service station. It’s an Australian thing. –PV] and supermarket in the city.

I suspect that Farmer’s Union managed to outsell Coke in one specific category of drink-it-now beverages in a given period, and that’s where the popular line came from. Regardless of the precise figures, Farmer’s Union Iced Coffee is insanely popular. Australians drink over 27 million liters of the stuff each year, and it’s popularity has begun to spread beyond its heartland in SA.

Redbullfine
Red Bull, that’s okay!
Icedcoffono
Farmer’s Union? Nup, mate! No chance!

Square Peg In A Round Hole

There’s just one problem. As a milk product, Farmer’s Union Iced Coffee is sold in rectangular cartons, not round bottles. The iconic 600 mL carton (20.2 fluid ounces) is beloved by the locals.

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This is a confounding problem for milk-thirsty motorists. The chunky cartons simply don’t fit in typical round cupholders.

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Most cupholders are designed to hold the common “12 oz” beverage can of roughly 2.6 inches in diameter. These days, many will also accept a larger round vessel with the aid of spring-loaded tabs for additional support.

Cartons of Iced Coffee are simply too large to fit in any but the biggest round cupholders. They measure 2.87 inches on a side, which doesn’t sound that much larger than a regular can of Coke. However, because they’re square, their largest dimension is actually the diagonal. Using Pythagoras’s theorem, we can actually calculate this length.

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You’d need a round cupholder over 4.1 inches in diameter to fit a carton of Farmer’s Union Iced Coffee, or any of the brand’s other delicious flavored milks. Even then, you’d suffer from a poor fit, particularly if you had to align the carton to avoid any plastic support tabs in the device.

Some Are Lucky

The proper solution is a square cupholder. Farmer’s Union realized this years ago, teaming up with a South Australian Audi dealership to work on this very concept. The result was a single prototype, and a hilarious April Fool’s Day ad. Volkswagen could learn a thing or two from this.

Despite being a joke, the ad struck a deep chord with the local population. In a city with just 1 million residents, the ad racked up 365,000 views, and had fans laughing and crying that it wasn’t a real thing.

Nevertheless, some cars over the years have come with square cupholders. The most notable is perhaps the Mitsubishi 380. It was the company’s last gasp at developing a car to keep its Australian manufacturing arm alive, and would you know it? It was designed by Mitsubishi Australia and built in Adelaide! As was the Magna before it.

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Processed By Ebay With Imagemagick, Z1.1.0. ||b2
The locally-built Mitsubishi 380 got a set of square cupholders that suited the Farmer’s Union cartons just fine. Via eBay
Processed By Ebay With Imagemagick, Z1.1.0. ||b2
The earlier Mitsubishi Magna had this interesting hybrid design, with a ledge for a Farmer’s Union carton to sit on. via eBay

The Holden Cruze is also known for having a square cubby for drinks. It’s often said that this was a result of the Adelaide influence, given that it was manufactured in Holden’s Elizabeth plant for several years before its demise. However, the J300 Cruze was very much a global design so it’s difficult to say whether there was a real engineering decision to ensure Farmer’s Union compatibility for the model.

Toyota, too, offers a model that suits the Farmer’s Union drinker perfectly. The second-generation Toyota Yaris has pop-out cupholders on either side of the dash. The deep bins hold a can rather nicely, but they’ll also snugly accept a carton of Iced Coffee without complaint.

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I waited all day for my girlfriend to get home so I could take these shots in her Yaris. Would you believe the carton is a perfectly snug fit?!
Peryaris
Perfection.

Aftermarket Solutions

Despite some outliers, most cars still come with round cupholders. Thankfully, Farmer’s Union was able to come up with a solution of its own in this regard. It developed an adapter to fit a square carton in a round hole.

The company releases these “car caddies” as promotional items now and then. They have a round base that slots into a regular cupholder, and a square tub to hold the carton.

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They’re not a perfect solution, as the resulting contraption ends up being quite top-heavy. You wouldn’t want to test one under heavy braking, particularly if you’ve left the spout of your carton open for easy sipping.

The company also came up with an alternative solution that was altogether more straightforward. They started selling the milky fluid in bottles in 500 mL and 750 mL sizes. They were specifically touted as “Cup Holder Compatible” for drivers on the road.

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However, these bottles aren’t always available. Plus, they don’t have the same appeal as the stock standard carton. Just as Coca-Cola is better out of a glass bottle, Farmer’s Union is best savored from a paper carton.

Thus, the dedicated Farmer’s Union drinker is best served by purchasing an automobile that can accept a square carton from the factory. Alternatively, handy individuals could consider 3D-printing their own square cupholder inserts; Jason and I have talked about doing as much ourselves.

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As it stands, though, it seems the round cupholder will remain supreme. It’s unlikely that flavored milk drinks will ever take over the world. Energy drinks and traditional soft drinks have superior market share in almost every market the world over. They’re also less perishable and cheaper to transport to boot.

Today, Farmer’s Union remains a local favorite, rather than a global one. My country no longer has much sway in the automotive design world, either. Where once we had multiple car factories in Adelaide, now we have none. We no longer have the political means to shape cup holders to our will.

Aussie cows will keep pumping out the good stuff, and Farmer’s Union will keep stirring in the beans, that much is true. We’ll just have to make to with driving one-handed as we tilt the famous white carton to our lips. Stay milky out there, friends. Stay milky.

Image credits: Lewin Day, Farmer’s Union, eBay

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Mike B
Mike B
16 days ago

I drove around a borrowed 80 series Landcruiser for a week before I noticed it had a square cupholder, positioned oddly far back on the console.

Rod Millington
Rod Millington
26 days ago

I once saw someone drinking a lactose free Oak through the straw hole, but without a straw and I assumed that they must be a sociopath.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
28 days ago

I’m just stunned by the 16 units of insulin I would need to I ject to drink one Farmer’s Union. Here in the PNW there are a lot of similar iced coffee drinks from various sources, but all in cans or bottles that fit cup holders. Sales wise I expect sodas and energy drinks do more volume but there’s always several flavors of Starbucks and competitors wherever I gas up.
Enjoy your distinctive regional beverage, it makes the world more interesting.

Morgan Thomas
Morgan Thomas
29 days ago

Farmers Union is available in Melbourne, but is not as common as other brands of iced coffee, that almost all come in plastic bottles. And the larger sizes of bottles don’t fit any of my cupholders as well (except the bottle holders in the door panels of the Hiace). Our local iced coffee in cartons is Big M, which is an oddity because it was a successful consumer product launched by a government department (the Victorian Dairy Industry Authority). Although it was not just coffee, flavours included (many of these were limited edtion flavours)

  • Banana Split
  • Blue Heaven
  • Caramel
  • Choc Berry
  • Chocanana
  • Choc Mint
  • Choc-Orange Jaffa
  • Egg Flip
  • Fruity Mix
  • Hokey Pokey
  • Honeycomb
  • Mocha
  • Pine Lime Splice
  • Toffee Whip
  • Vanilla
  • Strawberry
  • Chocolate
  • Banana
  • Iced Coffee
  • Double Choc
PajeroPilot
PajeroPilot
29 days ago

Never tried squeezing a Farmers Union carton into my (dear departed) Holden Cruze’s cup holders as I don’t drink it. However, I found they do comfortably hold a wine bottle or a Coopers long neck – another possible South Australian connection (but more likely coincidence in that globally assembled car).

PS – the long neck and wine bottle holders are to stop the beer and wine bottle(s) from rolling around in the seat on the way home from the drive-thru bottle-o. Do not sip Coopers Ale or South Australian wine while you are driving! Stick with FUIC for that!

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
29 days ago

Valuable information, Lewin!

I’m not an iced coffee (or any coffee) drinker, but definitely a consumer of milk in square cartons (Oak, and some local NSW stuff like Little Big Dairy) so I am keen for a solution!

I’ve only got one car with cupholders (2006 WRX), so I’ll probably make my own out of fencing wire for Project Cactus.

I have drinks in Cactus quite often, which is usually not a big deal since I live a good distance from town.

In town, however, with three-on-the tree and manual steering it’s a bit of a shuffle between hands to retain said drink and operate the old spider-carrier!

FlavouredMilk
FlavouredMilk
29 days ago
Reply to  Lewin Day

Oh God, I have been in this situation far too many times.

Rod Millington
Rod Millington
26 days ago

Little Big Dairy is definitely better than the classic Oak for flavour now, though it’s hard to beat the nostalgia value of a good choccy Oak.

Nedd’s Milk is also pretty good but can be tricky to find. Haven’t tried his iced coffee yet, mostly because I’m a long black person.

Highland Green Miata
Highland Green Miata
29 days ago

My 2024 Honda Odyssey has more-square-than-round cupholders in the driver and passenger doors that are roughly 80mm x 75mm. You’re just driving the wrong car, mate.

PresterJohn
PresterJohn
29 days ago

Is this coffee mixed with milk, or coffee-flavored milk with caffeine added?

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
29 days ago

ATTN: FLAVOURED MILK
FWD: FLAVOURED MILK
CC: FLAVOURED MILK
BCC: FLAVOURED GOSH DARN MILK

IT IS FLAVOURED MILK DAY

THIS IS NOT A DRILL

WORLD’S MOST APPROPRIATE SCREENNAME TO THE COPY DESK, PLEASE

(Typed while drinking coffee-flavored milk, believe it or not, because that’s a thing Texas dairies are starting to do now, too. All the more reason y’all should bring Supercars back to COTA. I’m just saying.)

FlavouredMilk
FlavouredMilk
29 days ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

Stef! Just the person I actually need to get the attention of. I need answers.

Does your US Lancer have squared off drink recepticals in the door pockets or nah?

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
28 days ago
Reply to  FlavouredMilk

I don’t think so. I mostly use it for the biggest round sparkling water bottle I can find, haha.

Rod Millington
Rod Millington
26 days ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

Supercars back to Newcastle first, COTA second.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
29 days ago

Someone should have come up with this sooner, would have saved Rosenberger’s from having to switch their iced tea from cartons to plastic bottles

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
29 days ago

Nearly 400 calories? Damn.

The van has big round cupholders, with compressible rubber… bladders? They sort of hug whatever sized drink in place. They allow anything as small as a can and as large as a Nalgene.

Those seem like the solution. Lower carton into cupholder with edges lined up with gaps between the rubber holdy things and you’re good to go.

Stacks
Stacks
29 days ago

I am shocked and outraged– shocked! outraged!– that I can’t find anywhere to order this stuff online. It’s 2024! How dare people still have local culture.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
29 days ago
Reply to  Stacks

It’s not the same exact thing (different cows, different beans), but 1836 Farms in TX made the coffee-milk I bought yesterday. Hopefully other dairies are doing the same? I simply can’t have food anymore unless it’s caffeinated. Just feels wrong.

Stacks
Stacks
29 days ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

Hmmmm their products seem to be more of a squircle… I’m not sure that’s really going to capture the giddy magic of a milk so square it requires new automotive hardware.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
28 days ago
Reply to  Stacks

Haha, yeah: old-school milk bottles. I even get $2 back from the grocer when I take them back in!

Stacks
Stacks
29 days ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

But I do appreciate any dairy that [apparently] sells eggnog year round. Especially in Texas! I can just imagine August in Houston, 105° and 300% humidity, air thick with a heady melange of raw sewage and dead fish, cracking open a nice, thick ‘nog and guzzling it like cold gravy. Mm mm mm!

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
28 days ago
Reply to  Stacks

hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

Stacks
Stacks
29 days ago
Reply to  Lewin Day

Hey, nothing wrong with adding a little culture to the culture? Eh? Eh??

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
29 days ago

Good stuff Lewin. Thanks.

So here’s my take away from your piece.

We just marked 54 years since the first Earth Day.
Your coffee drink appears to be in a biodegradable container. Cool.
These have almost become non existent here in the stupid US.
Thanks to our plastics industry. And the recycling game here means that most plastics here end up in landfills, or China. It’s a god damned joke.
We are drowning in plastic shit now, and it’s actually now part of our biology at this point. Our blood, brains, and turds now all contain plastic.

Wondering why we can’t just do this shit right here.
And does your country allow refugees from the US to live there?
Asking for a friend here.
Thanks again.

Last edited 29 days ago by Col Lingus
Martin English
Martin English
25 days ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

When the Oz immigration people ask if you have any criminal convictions, do NOT reply “I didn’t know it was still mandatory”.

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