Notice to Pizza Box Purchasers

I — John Correll — designed pizza boxes from 1992 to 2008. To support that endeavor I posted on this website a large amount of material pertaining to my personal opinions and ideas about pizza box design, manufacture, and use. Subsequently, without my permission a pizza box manufacturer recently appropriated some of those opinions and ideas from this website and inserted it into its marketing material, in particular its product catalog. Further, it then stated at the bottom of this unauthorized material that it "comes from Correll Concepts LP." It causes me great sadness to have to publicly make known that this is a false statement. Correll Concepts LP, which stands for Correll Concepts Limited Partnership, never provided any such material to that box-maker, or to any box-maker.

Sadly, to prevent future unauthorized and inappropriate use of my personal opinions and ideas pertaining to pizza packaging, which I once posted on this site, I have herewith removed all of that material (except for this article on the History of Pizza Packaging). I have done this to forestall further unauthorized and inappropriate use of my personal name, and/or the name of any of my companies, by pizza box manufacturing corporations.

Finally, I close this message by noting that it's truly a sad day when executives of a large multi-million dollar corporation can't (and/or don't) create their own marketing ideas and material but, instead, find need to resort to appropriating — or, as some might say, "stealing" — the ideas and material of another person and then, worst of all, seek to bolster the credibility of their business by incorporating that person's name, or the name of one of his companies, into their marketing material.

Pizza Packaging
Overview & History

Pizza packaging History

INTRODUCTION: This article describes the often-ignored but high-potential world of pizza packaging. Virtually everyone has “experienced” hundreds of pizza boxes in their lifetime. Yet few know anything about the vessel that carries their favorite food. This article introduces you to the origins of the good ol' pizza box.

Although a pizza box can be made of most any material — ex., plastic and molded paper pulp — paper has generally been the material of choice for most pizza box concepts, for three reasons. First, it's economical. Second, it has substantial stacking strength, or crush-resistance. Third, it resists condensation build-up on the interior surfaces.

Paper-based pizza packaging comes in two forms: (1) paperboard and (2) corrugated board, often incorrectly referred to as “cardboard.” Paperboard — also known as boxboard, cartonboard, and cardboard — is basically a single sheet of very thick paper. Examples include chipboard and SBS (solid bleached sulfate) board.

NOTE: In this article we use the term “paperboard” to refer to a single sheet of paper. However, within the packaging industry this term also is sometimes used in a way that it encompasses all packaging materials made of paper, which would then include corrugated board, as well.

The most common form of corrugated board used for pizza boxes is single wall corrugated. It consists of two outer sheets of flat paper, called facings or liners, glued to a fluted, or corrugated, inner sheet, called medium. Corrugated board was invented in the 19th century and first used for making boxes as early as 1894. In basic concept it has remained unchanged for over a hundred years and, so, carries the distinction of being one of the most durable and versatile of modern inventions.

Pizza packaging probably began in the 1940s after World War II. With the advent of carry-out pizza, the first pizza package was most likely a combination of paper bag and a chipboard or corrugated square. With this, the pizza is placed on the square and the entire unit is slid into the bag which is taped or stapled shut. Subsequently, a circle replaced the square shape, making it easier to insert into the bag. This package was convenient (no pre-folding needed) and highly economical. But it lacked stacking strength, heat retention, and product protection capability — three requirements for good pizza packaging.

Soon the paperboard pizza box appeared. It resembled the structure of bakery cake cartons of the time, in that the four corners of the box were formed by inserting a tab projecting from one wall into a slot in an adjacent wall. Due to the thinness of the material, it requires a piece of aluminum foil or a chipboard or corrugated pad in the bottom. To impart rigidity and prevent accidental cover opening, the box is stapled or taped shut on all sides. This was slightly less convenient than the circle and bag package, but it imparted a measure of heat retention and product protection — two key factors to functional pizza packaging.

Circa 1960 the corrugated pizza box was introduced. Several individuals and companies claim to be the originator. The switch to corrugated board provided substantial stacking strength, improved heat retention, and greater product protection over the paperboard pizza box. Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino's Pizza, has stated that adopting the corrugated pizza box was one of the fundamental innovations responsible for the growth of the Domino's Pizza delivery system.

Two basic design variations of the corrugated pizza box have evolved. The first is a non-connected-corner carton in which the front wall and two side walls each have a flap appended to the top edge which is positioned parallel to the bottom panel. This structure formed the basis of the original Domino's Pizza box (used until 1988) and also of a carton that has become known as the “Chicago folder.” The box blank for the original Domino's Pizza folder box looked like this.

Blank for Domino's Folder Box


The box blank for the Chicago folder pizza box looks like this (taken from U.S. Pat. 4,265,393).

Blank for Chicago folder

The second type of corrugated pizza box design that has emerged is what's known today as the Traditional Pizza Box — a connected-corner carton that has a double-panel, or roll-over, front wall that encloses left and right front corner flaps between the two panels of the wall, thereby locking the two front corners of the box into upright position. Box manufacturers refer to this carton as the “roll-over box” and also as the “walker lock box.” (No one knows where the “walker lock” name came from.) This design is the most widely-used pizza box in the world — currently in use by Pizza Hut, Papa John's Pizza, and Little Caesars Pizza … among thousands of other pizza companies. In spite of its widespread use, this box possesses a number of drawbacks. The blank for the Traditional Pizza Box looks like this.

Blank for Traditional Box

In the 1970s Little Caesars Pizza introduced the 2-for-1 concept. With an eye on cost reduction, it invented the U-board and bag. With this particular package, two pizzas are placed side-by-side on an elongated corrugated board. Opposing lengthwise sides of the board are folded upward, creating a U-shaped board when viewed from the end. And the entire unit is slid into a paper bag that's stapled shut at the end. The advantages of this particular packaging design are large-looking package and low cost.

In 1988 the first major change in corrugated pizza box structure hit the market. It occurred when Domino's Pizza picked up on an eight-sided (octagon) box invented by Stone Container (now Smurfit-Stone Container). It was dubbed the Octabox. The blank for the Octabox looked like this — taken from U.S. Pat. 4,765,534.

Blank for Octabox

With the introduction of the Octabox a boom in pizza box innovation began. Since then, numerous variations of corrugated (and some non-corrugated) pizza box designs have emerged, both by box manufacturers and by independent inventors.

The advent of the non-square pizza box ushered in the opportunity for graphics-structure integration, or the creative merging of structure and graphics to produce pizza boxes of heightened marketing impact.

In addition, the non-square shape made it possible to design ultra-low-cost pizza box concepts that save up to 12 percent in material over the Traditional Pizza Box.