Unless you’re enjoying your donuts from Krispy Kreme, you know that deep-fried circles of dough taste their best when they come from a greasy cardboard box that’s a bright Pepto Bismol pink (a portent of things to come). But why do bakeries use pink boxes? Does the color make you hungrier? Happier? Does it somehow make you want to buy more donuts? The answer’s more fascinating than you might have thought, and thanks to the Los Angeles Times, we now have a deep dive into why so many of your favorite donut shops favor a box that looks like it’s perpetually blushing.
Here’s the deal: Pink boxes are a regional thing. You may see them all over, but they became famous on the West Coast (that’s how you know a show set in NYC is actually filmed in LA, The Times notes) where they rule over all other colors in the donut packaging game. And we almost wouldn’t have had them, because for a long time white boxes (classy, timeless) were considered the only choice for transporting delicious sugar treats from the bakery to the office (where your co-workers would fall upon them like ravenous dogs that had never been fed) (Two donuts, Judy? Wait until everyone’s had some!). But then, as donut shops run by Cambodian refugees (arriving on the west coast in the 1970s to escape the Khmer Rouge) began to overtake the market, the owners decided that they had to do something about the cost of the white boxes they were getting.
Well, actually, it’s a little more complicated than that because the reason that Cambodian donut shop owners needed to bring down the price of packaging was so they could continue not skimping on ingredients. And as anyone who enjoys donuts knows, when your ingredients aren’t fresh and high quality, your customers aren’t coming back.
From The LA Times:
According to company lore, a Cambodian doughnut shop owner asked Westco some four decades ago if there were any cheaper boxes available other than the standard white cardboard. So Westco found leftover pink cardboard stock and formed a 9-by-9-by-4-inch container with four semicircle flaps to fold together. To this day, people in the business refer to the box as the “9-9-4.”
More importantly to the thrifty refugees, it cost a few cents less than the standard white. That’s a big deal for shops that go through hundreds, if not thousands, of boxes a week. It didn’t hurt either that pink was a few shades short of red, a lucky color for the refugees, many of whom are ethnic Chinese. White, on the other hand, is the color of mourning.
The boxes have been popular ever since, with Voodoo Donuts making them even bigger by adopting the tagline “good things come in pink boxes.” Sadly, The Times reports, the boxes may not be for this world much longer. As consumer demands shift, more and more businesses are looking to get flashy logos and other graphics on the packaging. So head on over to The Times to read the entire story and then go out and get yourself a pink box full of carbs. You deserve it and you’ll be preserving a legacy.