The Evolution of the Humble Pizza Box
There’s nothing quite like eating a hot fresh pizza straight from the oven, unless it’s eating a fresh hot pizza from the comfort of your own bed. The advent of large-scale pizza delivery in the 1950s was a revolution for the way we consume food, and it would not have happened without the humble pizza box. But how did the pizza box come to be? Who invented it and what did people do before it became the norm for transporting pizza? Let’s take a look.
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The Original Pizza Box
Containers for transporting freshly baked pizzas have been around since at least the 1800s. But before there was a pizza shop on every corner of every street in every city, bakers would put their pizzas multi-layered copper containers known as ‘stufe’ to be taken to street vendors. These stufe were aerated so steam could escape, which would stop the pizzas getting soggy. But they also kept the pizzas quite warm, as copper retains heat very well.
A Base and a Bag
Despite the relative efficiency of these crude pizza containers, stufe weren’t the most portable of things. As pizza really began to boom following WWII, more and more pizzerias started offering a takeaway option. How were these pizzas served? In a bag of course.
The pizza would sit on a piece of corrugated cardboard, which would act as an insulator to keep the base warm, and the whole thing would sit snugly in a paper bag, which still allowed steam to escape. This classic technique is still used today in some traditional pizzerias. And you will still find lots of pizza places around the world using corrugated cardboard in their pizza boxes.
A Step In The Right Direction
In the 50s, the popularity of pizza was reaching unprecedented heights — and bags don’t stack very well. Pizza makers began using thin paperboard bakery boxes to transport their pizzas, which were flimsy, but still offered more support than bags, and meant that multiple pizzas could be stacked and carried without the contents getting ruined.
Nonetheless, paperboard didn’t quite cut it when a pizza was left in for too long. The moisture would impact on the box’s structure, causing them to collapse too easily. So a new solution was sought.
The Father of the Modern Pizza Box
The development of the modern pizza box can be attributed to none other than Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino’s pizza. Monaghan needed a way to efficiently transport pizza for his new pizza delivery chain, so he sought out a company to develop a corrugated cardboard box in the mid 1960s.
According to Monaghan’s autobiography Pizza Tiger it was more difficult than anticipated to make a container that was scored properly for folding yet strong enough to hold its form. After a long development process with Detroit-based corrugated box company Triad Containers, they finally achieved success.
And so, the industry standard for the humble pizza box was born.
The pizza has remained much the same since the 1960s — why try and fix what isn’t broken? However, there have been some developments. Recently, Apple patented as design for their own pizza box, which is slated to be the ultimate in pizza transport technology. You can read all about it here.
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