Pizza Boxes at the International Pizza Expo

The International Pizza Expo is a massive trade show with everything from canned tomatoes to mozzarella-making demos to dough acrobatics and anything else you could possibly imagine relating to the pizza industry. I’ve been attending the Expo since 2006 and always find myself overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the room and the number of exhibitors it holds. Since I’m always researching multiple angles of the pizzaverse, entering the Expo floor feels like walking into a pastry shop and wanting to eat one of everything. It is truly amazing… and filling.

This year, I decided to limit my scope to just a few pieces of the pizza puzzle. Numero uno on my list was a tool we often take for granted but couldn’t live without: THE PIZZA BOX. I’ve been collecting pizza boxes from around the world ever since last year’s Slice Out Hunger fundraiser (we raised $1600 for City Harvest in just 2 hours with the help of an International Pizza Box Gallery) and my collection has grown exponentially since the event. I’ve learned a ton about the art, architecture and history of the pizza box, which all came together earlier this month at the pizza industry’s oldest and largest trade show.

First thing’s first, I saw the WORLD’S LARGEST PIZZA BOX! That’s right, this 54’ box is used by Big Mama’s and Papa’s Pizzeria to deliver gargantuan party pizzas to folks in the Los Angeles area. It’s manufactured by Whalen Packaging and requires direct shipping via flatbead truck to get to the pizzeria. The artwork is applied as a decal rather than printing directly on the box, so it’s extra clean and bright.

After a quick call to Big Mama’s and Papa’s on Hollywood Blvd in Los Angeles, I found out that the pie serves up to 60 people and costs $199.99 + tax as well as an additional delivery fee of $60. YIKES!

The megabox seemed to be the only over-sized piece on the show floor, with most manufacturers heading down the eco-friendly path of minimizing paper usage. New box designs are reducing paper consumption by 10-15% after eliminating unnecessary chunks of cardboard on the box flaps. Smurfit-Stone is the largest pizza box manufacturer in the US and their designers literally cut corners to reduce paper consumption and save their customers some cash.

As far as the eco-friendly pizza box is concerned, the undisputed leader is Ecovention, who showcased their GreenBox at the show. The lid breaks apart into four serving plates and the base folds into itself to become a storage unit for leftover slices. It’s a brilliant way to instantly reuse a pizza box and the visual design is super classy. GreenBox’s distributor, Roma Foods, even has their own branded GreenBox for nation-wide distribution, as does gourmet supermarket Whole Foods. My brother Jon is really excited about it.

         

Other innovative ideas came from Smurfit-Stone, who makes a box with a mylar heat-retention sheet under the hood. I’ve never seen one in action but I’d love to run some tests to see how it compares to the amazing iPack & Trade box I love so much. It looks like this one might trap a bunch of steam since there’s only one visible notch vent at the front of the box but I’ll try to get a sample and test it myself!

   

Pizza Box fever was on a real rampage this year. The show even had a Best of the Best Pizza Box Challenge, which awarded a cash prize for the best pizza box design. Voting was open to all show attendees but entries were limited to custom prints (no submissions from box manufacturers). Farrelli’s took home the prize (bottom row) but I thought there were quite a few decent submissions.

Sadly, the best boxes weren’t even in the contest. I’ll leave you with two of my favorites from the show floor. First up is an awesome ad-oriented box from Papa John’s (manufactured by Smurfit-Stone). PJ’s has lots of these limited edition boxes and I want all of them. Send me one and I’ll give you a prize!

And finally, the most talked-about box of Pizza Expo ‘11 hails from Milan and was used by reps from Via Tribunali in Seattle. I proudly present the pizza box you don’t take home to Mama:

I’m so confused by this scene because these four guys are just hanging out while there’s a babe holding a beautiful pizza Margherita just a few feet away. What a bunch of bozos!