Home > Contemplations > Tim Hortons Test Marketing A Bigger Size XL & Elimination Of The Current Small Cup Size, Canadians Think It’s “American Style”

Tim Hortons Test Marketing A Bigger Size XL & Elimination Of The Current Small Cup Size, Canadians Think It’s “American Style”

Since August 29th, some Tim Hortons locations in Kingston, Ontario and Sudbury, Ontario have changed up the sizing of their cups eliminating what is currently referred to as “Small” and re-dubbing all cup sizes down a notch. What is still a “Medium” at every other Tim Hortons in Canada is now a “Small” and so on. Because this change would otherwise also eliminate the size of Extra Large (XL), Tim Hortons has also introduced to these test locations a new, bigger extra large cup which comes in at 24 oz (which translates to 710 mL [millilitres] or, to be exact, 709.76471 mL). I was alerted to this change via my friend, Valerie @ValTorontoGal‘s blog post “Some Bits and Bites to Get You Through Hump Day.”

I found this article in the National Post which has this awesome graphic explaining the new sizes:

tim hortons new x-large via national post at http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/08/29/tim-hortons-set-to-make-small-a-lot-bigger/

You may remember when I went to the Tim Hortons in Syracuse, NY in late July and I commented on the differences that were present vs their Canadian counterparts.I was, at the time, just commenting on differences and not making any judgments. One of the things I mentioned was different was

The coffee sizes they serve as Small, Medium, Large, and Extra Large are cup sizes Medium, Large, Extra Large, and “Bigger than anything which exists at Canadian Tim Hortons locations” or Extra Extra Large.

I got a number of comments from Canadian readers talking about how having bigger sizes is “so American.”

Examples of these comments include:

Good post! Also an example of everything being larger in the U.S.


…This one time, in Windsor, I was in line with a father with his family up from the States and he was refusing to believe the fact that the Subway didn’t have an 18″ sub like all the ones in the USA. He ended up getting a foot long and a six inch. The End.

Today, I called the Syracuse Tim Hortons I visited in late July just to check if my memory was correct. I asked the lady who picked up the phone, much to her bemusement, how many ounces were in their extra large coffee cups and she replied, as expected, 24 oz. That’s exactly the same size that the new extra large being introduced is in Kingston and Sudbury.

Tim Hortons Syracuse New York Map

Now with the launch of this “new size” in Canada of course there is the response from many Canadians that this is an “American style” change. Such as these two which were direct responses to me posting about the change.

Tim Hortons American Style Nadia_Issabella tweet https://twitter.com/#!/Nadia_Issabella/status/108962093218279425

Tweet from above can be found at twitter.com/#!/Nadia_Issabella/status/108962093218279425

Tim Hortons American Style tdot_eli tweet  https://twitter.com/#!/tdot_eli/status/108960753821814784

Tweet from above can be found at twitter.com/#!/tdot_eli/status/108960753821814784

My problem with this is that it is decidedly NOT an “American style” change. Canadians love to believe that they are so massively different from their American neighbors to the south but aside from the little differences the two countries are very, very similar. I think I will probably get hated on quite a bit for writing this but as a dual-citizen who has lived in both countries I think I am pretty well placed to say this. This change isn’t American style, it is Canadian style. It is Canadian style because I very highly doubt that Tim Hortons is testing these new cup sizes on the whim of head office. In fact, Nick Javor, a Tim Hortons spokesperson, is quoted in the National Post article linked above saying that “Customers have had a growing bigger-is-better appetite in recent years” As a result of this changing appetite IN CANADA, Tim Hortons has been selling fewer of the current Canadian small sized coffees. Javor goes on to comment that “[Tim Hortons has] been studying this consumer trend for a long time…and what [they’ve] found is that demand has dropped off for that particular size.”

Canada, I know that it is very important for many Canadians to differentiate themselves from the USA. I get it, the USA is way bigger and louder and Canada is often seen as the quiet, shy neighbor or roommate (continent-mate?). While Canada is the best of friends with their boisterous southern cousins and invited to all of their parties they still like to differentiate themselves so that they are always seen as distinct and not subsumed by the States. But stop trying to make fun of your best friend at every turn just to boost your own self-image and ego, it doesn’t become you.

As far as I know there hasn’t been some massive influx of American immigrants to Canada. In fact, tourism from the USA to Canada is down as evidenced by this article from USA Today. The stronger Canadian dollar is encouraging tourism to go the other way, Canadians going to the States more but not the other way around. Therefore, I find it ridiculous to say that this is an “American style” change, it isn’t. This is a Canadian style change because it is a Canadian company’s response to a change in the Canadian market populated by Canadians. You will notice that the two test markets for these changes, in Kingston and in Sudbury are not huge tourist attractions for American tourists. Sudbury is more than 4 hours away from any American border and Kingston, while under an hour’s drive from the American border, is 2.5 hours away from the closest American city of any serious significance; Syracuse – the 170th largest city in the USA according to the 2010 Census with a population of 145,170. In fact, according to a 2004 report (pdf link) only 15% of Kingston’s tourism was coming from the USA whereas 80% came from Canada and 98% of those Canadians came from within Ontario.

If Tim Hortons had run these tests in Niagara Falls, Ontario for example I would be way more willing to agree – but still very hesitant – that this is American influenced. The reason for this would be that Niagara Falls sees quite a bit of tourism from the USA. Same would go for Toronto as not only does it see quite a bit of American tourism but also quite a bit of American businessmen and women as it is Canada’s economic capital and one of the top financial centers in the world.

This is what people want in CANADA. They don’t want the smaller cups which is evidenced by the fact that it isn’t selling. If it isn’t selling, why not get rid of it?

Image of the “new cup sizes” being test marketed in Canada by Tim Hortons is via the National Post article found here.

A direct link to the NP image is here.

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